I absolutely love the idea of loving travel. Yes, you read that right. I am a homebody through and through. I thrive on consistency and all things familiar. But, this is not to say that I allow myself to be tied down by this desire for stability. Some of the best memories I have to date were made far away from home. But having lived with an eating disorder and now living in recovery from one, traveling is one of the most stressful, yet rewarding, things I can do.
For as long as I can remember I was on the go. Weekends at the lake, trips to the city, annual vacations to Disney World… I did it all. And so even though as an adult I have become much more sensitive to my surroundings and my need to feel comfortable is at an all-time high, there is still that part of me that is fulfilled by exploring new places.
So how do I balance new food, new places, and new people, all while being painfully introverted and remaining in recovery? I wish I had a simple answer to that. But I don’t. I do though, have a few tips and tricks for enjoying your vacay, all while keeping your eating disorder at bay.
1. Get honest with yourself and stop comparing!
- I had to admit to myself a long time ago that there are certain aspects of my life (like traveling!) that will always be a little more difficult because of my eating disorder. It was hard for me to accept the fact that going on a weekend trip with my friends often requires weeks of mental preparation. It was also hard for me knowing that most of my friends don’t have to worry about some of the things I do. But once I accepted the fact that my past makes my present look different than others’, and each of theirs different from mine, I genuinely started to enjoy traveling. Comparison is truly the thief of joy!
2. Support, support, support!
- If you’re traveling and have some of the same concerns that I do (or any concerns for that matter!), it is vital that you have a support system in place. Anytime you are doing something new or venturing outside of your comfort zone, your eating disorder most likely wants to rear its ugly head. For me at least, a new environment equals the need for control and safety. And what better place than my eating disorder to get that. Right…? WRONG! Allow people to become your safety and fight those urges to isolate! Try opening up and let those you’re traveling with, know what worries you may have. Or if that seems a bit too vulnerable for you at this point, make sure to keep in contact with someone you trust back at home- a family member, close friend, therapist, significant other, roommate, etc. And if you’re still not sure how to or if you’re ready to open up to those around you, remember that you can always use ANAD’s free support hotline and email services- HELPLINE // 630.577.1330
3. Always have a snack handy and schedule time to eat and hydrate!
- Here’s another thing that you may have to worry about that others may not. I am years into my recovery and I still never leave my house without a Cliff Bar or some kind of snack. I push myself to try new food, especially while traveling, but it still can be hard for me to be in a new environment and eat new food. And so even though a snack is not a meal, it can help tide you over until you find food that you will enjoy! Also, if anyone is like me, my vacations are jam-packed with sightseeing and activities. So, if you’re constantly on the go, it can be tempting (especially early on in recovery) to start making excuses for yourself. “Oh well, I was too busy to eat.” “I didn’t want to miss out on this or that.” Sound familiar? Don’t set yourself back by listening to that eating disorder voice creeping up. Schedule meals and snacks into your itinerary. Dinner on the beach or with a view of a brand-new city?! Sign me up!
Long story short, be prepared! Know your triggers, have a support plan in place, and stick to your meal plan. Don’t let a vacation be a chance for you to slip back into old behaviors or exasperate existing ones. Allow traveling to be a chance to use your coping skills and challenge your eating disorder. But most importantly, allow yourself to have fun and relax. Go see all the world has to offer, you’ll be amazed to learn how much there is to enjoy outside of your eating disorder.