There is an enormous difference between travelling with disordered eating/exercise behaviors and travelling as someone who eats and moves intuitively.
First, let’s start with a brief description of what disordered eating/exercise is because it is different than having an eating disorder or a severe exercise addiction. Disordered eating is eating in any way that contradicts what your body is telling you, or, eating according to external cues rather than your internal cues. This could be things like calorie counting, whole30, paleo, keto, low carb, etc. And disordered exercise is, again, exercising according to external cues like having a regimented plan of having to exercise a certain way/amount of time x times per week regardless of what your body telling you and feeling anxiety/guilt over not doing it.
From this, you can gather that travelling would be very anxiety-inducing for anyone who has disordered behaviors. You’re out of your comfort zone/environment, you have much less control over your food and exercising to meet your disordered thoughts requirements can be challenging.
My experience with travelling while having disordered eating and exercise behaviors was extremely stressful – the exact opposite of what a vacation is supposed to be. On long days of travel, either on a long flight or in a car all day, I would white knuckle through my hunger, constantly engaged in an inner battle with my mind and body trying not to eat over a minuscule amount of calories in an attempt to compensate for the lack of movement I was doing that day. I would stress over the restaurant food we were eating, the kind of food, the amount of food, the lack of structured movement, etc. I would spend the majority of the trip scared I had gained an enormous amount of weight (which, even if it had been true, doesn’t matter and shouldn’t matter) and I would count down the days until I could go home. Home to my disordered behaviors and routines. Home to the safety of the illusion of control I felt I had over my life and my body.
Fast forward to travel and vacationing now, as someone who practices intuitive eating/movement and body neutrality, I’ve been able to experience my trips in ways I haven’t ever before.
Our most recent road trip to New Brunswick (which sparked this post) was the most relaxing, soul refreshing trip I have ever taken. Instead of spending everyday spent in the car fighting myself and trying to not allow myself to eat like I would have in the past, I gave food and movement little to no thought. Instead, I was 100% focused on the breath taking beauty of the mountains we were driving through, laughing at the comedians we had playing on Mark’s phone (thank you Netflix downloads), eating whatever snacks sounded good whenever we felt like it, shutting my brain off of work and life at home and relaxing.
When we weren’t driving, we spent our time exploring whatever city we were in, whether that was hiking their trails or walking through their downtown, eating at whatever restaurant sounded good at the time and we connected with each other.
When it came time for all of the events for our friend’s wedding (the actual reason we went out there), we spent that time celebrating. Connecting with people. Laughing. Dancing. Eating. Drinking. Having fun. When I’d had enough time being social #introvertproblems I gave myself the time to retreat to our room and have some downtime with netflix on my laptop, snacks on hand and naps to recharge. I never once thought about the size or shape of my body, how much movement I’d done that day or how many calories I had eaten.
There truly was not a single time during the whole trip where I thought about anything to do with my appearance and I cannot think of any time where I’ve ever been happier.
As Mark and I sat on the pier, people watching and watching the water, I thought about how deeply grateful I was for this experience. I thought about how even last year I couldn’t have imagined being so content with myself and with my life, regardless of the size of my body, with no desire to control it in any way.
I spent the trip in awe of the beauty we were constantly surrounded by, whether we were walking about a city or driving through the Appalachain mountains – something I never could have appreciated in the past. I day dreamed about us buying a cottage out East to retreat to in the summers with our future kids, we planned future road trips across Canada so that our kids could experience all that Canada has to offer, and I found a new appreciation for this beautiful country I get to call home.
In all of the years I spent wrapped up in my own head running a constant stream of food/body/exercise thoughts, I never once stopped to notice or appreciate the incredible beauty around me. I was blind to it. Blind to how amazing it feels to truly relax, blind to the peace that comes with not fighting your body, blind the joy that life really can offer.
I remember reading a quote somewhere, that I can’t for the life of me find or remember with 100% accuracy, but went along the lines of,
Experiences shape your brain. Once your brain has experienced something, it cannot go back to it’s old way of doing things.
After having experienced life without disordered eating/exercise, without body hatred/body abuse (because I firmly believe that restriction, overexercise and overall being a bully to your body is abusing it) and the intense peace that comes with acceptance, I cannot ever go back.
I wish that for you. For all of you. Regardless of the shape or size of your body.
We’re headed to Whistler, B.C. in 3 weeks and I’m PUMPED. I cannot wait to be made speechless by the beauty that awaits us there.