Image via Unsplash

As the world slowly reopens after more than a year without travel – due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – I’ve been reminded of the ease that comes with traveling without the burden of food rules or an eating disorder. 

Having food freedom while traveling sometimes looks like….

  • Enjoying the in-flight snacks without needing to know every ingredient in it
  • Having chocolate for breakfast with friends because that’s all that’s in the kitchen
  • Taking a break from formal movement – this can look like beach walks instead of HIIT workout classes or simply lounging on the couch! 
  • Having ice cream even when you’re not necessarily hungry because the famous ice cream shop is down the street
  • Discovering new foods you didn’t have the opportunity to try before
  • Honoring local heritage, customs and traditions of your travel destinations

Each of these experiences reminded me of how open we can be to experiencing the new destinations around us when we’re not consumed with analyzing our bodies and what we put in them. I remember the years where I would skip out on trying things like the homemade pasta in Italy or soup dumplings in San Francisco’s ChinaTown because my eating disorder thoughts demonized these foods and told me they were not worth it. Not worth it!? Food isn’t simply calories. It’s the experiences we have while eating and the ability to share that with others. It can be delight, surprise, curiosity and just plain good. It’s worth it. 

For some, vacation is a time to be hyper-aware of everything you’re eating because you’re out of your comfort zone and food seems like one thing you can control. Even passing comments like “diet starts after this trip” are harmful in that they remove you from the present and your permission to fully experience the food and events around you. Instead of seeing this as a stressor, I wonder how this could be an opportunity? When we venture outside our comfort zone what does our anxiety tell us about ourselves? Where can discomfort be an invitation for growth? 

It may help to ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of your travels in the first place, and whether a rigid mentality around food and exercise aligns with that. Do you want to see the sweeping skies and beautiful scenery of where you traveled or the inside of a hotel gym? Do you want to know the taste of local delicacies or stick to your same “safe” protein bar for the rest of your life? Life is meant for living, so go live it in full color.  

By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image