Travel Tips For Your Eating Disorder Recovery
Eating disorders make for very poor travel companions on road trips. I found this one out the hard way. If you take an eating disorder out of its natural habitat, it is going to freak out. Usually, one of two things happens: (1) you throw caution to the wind for the duration of the trip and eat everything (been there) or, (2) you are so anxious about the changes that you restrict further (been there, too). Either way, it's not much fun. And vacations are supposed to be fun.
Part of the fun of traveling is getting out of the regular food routine and enjoying some new foods from the area. (Admittedly, someone else doing the dishes is a big draw, too.) Early in my recovery from anorexia, I wrote out a "food philosophy" at the advice of a friend (which I will share another time). But a major tenet of my philosophy surrounding food is that eating is an opportunity to connect and engage with other people and cultures.
There is something deep and sacred about the act of breaking bread together. There are many cultures around the world where refusing food is deeply hurtful to the person who made it, because they are offering to share with you some of who they are.
This isn't meant to be a debate over whether or not we place too much emphasis on food in social gatherings or American culture or whatever. My point is simply this: if you travel to a new country or new region of your own country and eat every night at the same chain restaurant and order the same "safe" meal - you are missing out on important part of the culture.
That said, (s)he who fails to plan, plans to fail.
Make an Eating Disorder Travel Plan
It is absolutely possible to maintain your eating disorder recovery on a trip and still feel safe while exploring new things. You just need to have a few things figured out ahead of time:
- Do your research - Where are you going? How are you getting there? Are you staying on an all-inclusive resort? Are there restaurants near where you are staying? Do you have to be in the airport all day? These are very important questions to ask. I was headed to a retreat center this week for a class and found out they serve three meals a day (and coffee and tea all day). Awesome! But I didn't find anything about snacks, so I was on my own with that. Good thing I checked!
- Know what you can and can't handle - I am not advocating full-on exposure therapy here. Talk to your therapist and your dietitian about what is realistic for you at this point in your recovery. Maybe one meal at a local restaurant is all you can handle over the course of a weekend and you need to stick to your safe options otherwise. That's okay. You have to start somewhere. And eventually, you get to the point where you become braver.
- Stick to routine - Make sure you continue to eat your meals and snacks at the same time as usual (or as close as possible). If you've been eating every three hours at home, you need to be eating every three hours on the road, too.
- Pack in food - That said, sometimes you aren't at a place where you can stop every three hours to find a store and get a snack. Keep them with you. This is also a great way to maintain some semblance of routine and safety: eat the snacks you do at home at the same times you would at home - you know that much is "safe" and you eat it everyday. I'm going to New York City at the end of the month with some friends and told them if they had any favorite snacks, to pack them. It's one less errand to run once you get to your destination and is guaranteed to be there. It's also reassuring to have something to fall back on in the event that you can't eat or don't like something being served.
- Have fun - I've had too many vacations where I look back on a weekend away and remember every meal and snack I ate. It's miserable. Be aware of what you need to maintain your recovery, but don't dwell on the food. Enjoy the time with family or friends. Enjoy the scenery. And, with time, you'll get to the point that you enjoy the food, too!
Do you guys have any tips for traveling while in ED recovery? Anybody headed somewhere fun this summer?
Hudgens, J. (2014, May 15). Travel Tips For Your Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2014/05/travel-tips-for-your-eating-disorder-recovery
Author: Jessica Hudgens
Hi Jess, this is exactly what I needed on my journey right now. Had a difficult vacation with my friend last week that ended in tears and a slip-up while dining on the beach. And need to travel for work next week. Great ideas on how to stay on track! Thanks so much!
Jess, you have a beautiful, exacting way of telling it like it is in eating disorder recovery and making the subject very understandable for family members of those suffering. Every one of your blogs that I have read have been spot on. Keep up your amazing work. I believe you are making a difference in many lives. You have in our family. I wish you the very best in your recovery, graduate work, and in life in general.
Thank you so much for your sweet comments!