I distinctly remember a vacation I took in college with some friends to Colorado. We rented a cottage, hiked through gorgeous mountains, huddled up around a campfire and marveled at the wildlife. Or at least…my friends did. My brain was often elsewhere, consumed with worries about how much I’d eaten, calculating whether the trails were long enough to constitute a “workout,” and finding myself constantly frustrated with my bloated stomach, which made me feel full and fat. While the mountain getaway was supposed to make me feel rested and relaxed, I ended up more stressed out than before I had left.
The problem wasn’t the vacation, though. The problem was me. From the minute we arrived at the airport, I felt like the group constantly wanted to eat — because, well, humans need to eat to survive. But being already a little out of my comfort zone, the thought or airport restaurants and dinners out made me wig out.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how eating out can help us to learn to eat intuitively. The same principles can be applied to eating while on vacation because most vacations involve food situations that are out of the ordinary. While I know today how much of a blessing it is to enjoy meals prepared by others, I sometimes find myself mourning the many vacations of my past that were ruined by my preoccupation with food.
In conversation, I often hear stories of how vacations totally derail them. Being outside of our normal routine can be challenging, even if it’s for the purpose of relaxation, and when out-of-the-norm eating situations are added to the mix, it can be easy to feel out of control.
The beauty of intuitive eating, however, is that it allows us to tune into our bodies and honor them no matter whether we are at home, on the go, or traveling. Here are a few reasons why:
We don’t have to wait for vacation to enjoy our favorite foods
When we practice tuning into our body signals and observing our cravings without judgement, most people find that they regularly desire to eat both treats as well as nutrient-dense foods like vegetables. The human body was designed to self-regulate nourishment, and it’s not biologically advantageous to never crave the vitamins and minerals we need to survive. At the same time, it’s not helpful for survival to crave foods that will kill us. Knowing this, it makes sense that since we’re wired not only to survive but the thrive that we can trust what our bodies tell us about the types of foods to eat and when.
When we are comfortable with eating a wide variety of foods including those prepared by others, it feels normal and natural to try new dishes, visit new restaurants, or even just eat boring food like turkey sandwiches. Intuitive eating in practice provides us with the tools we need to be flexible when we are in situations outside of the norm, like vacation.
Intuitive eating draws our attention to the positive aspects of the eating experience
Eating should be pleasurable. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t ever do it…and then we would die. When we learn to focus on and appreciate the positive aspects of our food, we enjoy the experience. This means we can learn to enjoy both cookies and kale, and we can also learn to enjoy cooking at home as well as eating out. Extended even further, this means we can be comfortable enough with our bodies to enjoy eating when we are in unfamiliar situations too, because eating with flexibility and freedom is a familiar practice.
We don’t need to follow rules about when or how much to eat
On some of my vacations or traveling endeavors, I’d find myself afraid that I wouldn’t be able to eat when I was hungry. I sometimes would fear hunger itself because I felt I was powerless over it. I consequently had strict rules about how much to eat, and when.
However, when we eat intuitively, the only “rule” is that there are no rules. We are allowed to eat when we are hungry and to choose foods that sound satisfying. Sometimes vacations can create difficulty in this because they often involve other people with their own stomachs and schedules. Intuitive eating gives us the freedom to bring snacks even if others aren’t eating them. Pack accordingly for vacation success.
When we give ourselves freedom in eating, the rest of our lives are freed up, too
When we are honoring our bodies, we don’t need to fear them. When we don’t need to fear our bodies, we can trust them, and when we can trust them, we don’t need to devote extensive amounts of time and energy trying to control them.