Things have changed for me lately.
Since going to Thailand (and even before that), I’ve had a nagging desire to travel and see the world. In all honesty, I’ve had my eyes set on traveling abroad for about five years. It all began when I was in college looking to study abroad in London for six months to expand my English degree, and everything was set and ready to go but sadly, plans fell through and I didn’t end up getting to make the move.
Now that I’m on my own and really embodying my personal responsibility to be the master of my own life (after God, of course) I feel this sense of responsibility to actually go out there and see the world. It can be scary as an inexperienced traveler, especially when not everyone else around you “gets it” but you must do what is true to yourself.
If you feel a calling to travel and see the world, there will never be a perfect moment handed to you on a silver platter. Whatever time you choose to make it happen, that is the perfect moment.
But with traveling comes a few fears that I believe may be stirring up within you.
What if I have to put my fitness goals on the back burner?
What if I can’t eat healthy?
What if there isn’t a good gym around?
How do I branch out and eat new foods when I can’t even go to a restaurant at home without freaking out about the calories and macronutrient break-down?
If these are some of the thoughts swirling around in your head, I totally get it. In fact, three years ago I put off all of my plans to travel because the thought of putting my “perfect body” goals on the back burner just wasn’t acceptable. I had to have my gym, my special foods, and my photo shoots to keep my body in check. Without those things, I really didn’t know what to do.
I have broken free from those chains which is why traveling has been coming up to the surface in my life. I think about it every single day. But that’s not to say that somebody still in the throes of disordered eating cannot travel. In fact, it may be just the thing you need!
On my recent trip to Thailand, I met a 23-year-old girl that was traveling around Asia as a way to overcome some of her severe anxiety issues. I thought it was such a brave and strong thing for her to do since she had spent the past several years shying away from cameras, conversations and being true to herself. Dealing with every day problems and finding out that life doesn’t always play out according to plan can be tough enough at home, but traveling to a completely foreign place solo takes it to the next level.
For her, and for many others, traveling is a wonderful way to break through those boundaries and expedite growth.
With all of that said, I want to address some of the troubling concerns I have a feeling my followers in particular struggle with when planning a trip or even thinking about going abroad.
How to Handle Food Anxiety Traveling Abroad
Here’s the thing. You really can’t expect to be able to follow a strict meal plan while you travel and enjoy everything that the culture has to offer. If you have an allergy to something, that’s one thing. I am sure you will be able to find options that are safe for you to eat. But if you are worried you won’t be able to follow the meal plan your trainer gave you while you are in Paris, girlfriend I have got some wonderful news for you. When you get there, you are not going to want to follow that pointless thing!
When I went on my first trip abroad to Thailand last month, I experienced this whole “eat the food” phenomenon on an entirely new level. I expected Thailand to be a very health-conscious country filled with nothing but fresh fruits and veggies (thanks, Instagram), but when I arrived, I quickly discovered that they rely on oils and fried foods for the bulk of their meals. Sure, I could find some incredible sticky rice and mango snacks, or feast on a pile of white rice and veggies, but it was rare to find veggies that weren’t stir fried in lots of vegetable oil first. (Side note: there is absolutely nothing wrong with oil, or vegetable oil. They should not be demonized. That’s just not normally how I prepare my veggies, as I am a roast-em-up kind of girl.)
The good news is, they also had tons of curries, which I absolutely love, rich with flavor and spice, as well as fresh fruit bowls, smoothies, yogurt bowls, and other wonderful options.
With that said, the most readily available option was normally either a plate of fried meat, pad thai, fried rice or something similar. And guess what? There was always a time and place to eat exactly that.
The thing is, if you are so consumed with eating healthy or eating perfectly, you are going to miss out on your opportunity to try out those delicious and authentic curry dishes, and yes, even a big ole’ plate of fried rice with veggies. Just because you have a meal outside of your comfort zone for dinner, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find something a little more “safe” for breakfast.
Wherever you go, there will be culture to experience. There will be food to be enjoyed. There will be sights to be seen.
You may think you will be too obsessed with your food fears to actually enjoy the trip, but I am going to guess that once you actually arrive to your destination, you will be able to let loose much more than you think you will.
I have heard countless stories of women and men going on trips and finding out that they enjoyed every single bite of the country’s cuisine without sparing a moment on guilt.
Honestly, there’s just no time for that.
So in a sense, traveling is a great way to practice getting out of your comfort zone with food. On the other hand, if you actually do experience disordered eating on a trip and it’s ruining your time there, there are other practices you can learn to implement and guess what, they are the same things you should be practicing at home right now!
1. Pray for the ability to surrender.
2. Remind yourself daily: you are not your body.
3. Give gratitude and thanks for the food you are given.
4. Approach every bite with equality. No food is good or bad…it’s just food! The connotations you have towards certain foods were learned through society and fortunately, you could unlearn them too.
5. Have an accountability partner or a coach.
6. Read body positive books and listen to recovery podcasts. Instead of fighting the fear and anxiety food brings you, accept and observe it. This is the only way it will be able to pass through you.
Traveling is a wonderful way to expand your food horizons and test yourself to eat new things. Sure, you can take snacks with you when you travel but don’t take the snacks to serve as a substitution for a real meal when your food fears arise. Surrender to the process, take a deep breath and have a bite. I promise, your body will not freak out.
Your body will thank you.
And I guess I should mention: worried about trip weight gain?
Don’t be. Simple as that.
Our weight will always fluctuate, but the body is incredible at using calories for energy and metabolizing it well. If you gain a bit of weight from a trip, it’s because you were enjoying the trip too much to consume your mind with calorie counting and obsessing over food. How awesome! Don’t weigh yourself before, during or after the trip (you should throw out your scale, anyways) and don’t concentrate on “how your clothing fits.” Just be present.
Seriously, weight shmeight. I fluctuate with my weight and I’ve come to peace with it. If I’m not supposed to carry the five pounds I gained from a trip, my body will shed itself of it naturally when the time is right without me having to do a single thing.
Same goes for you.
Ask yourself this: at the end of your life, will you be thinking about how bummed you are you didn’t spend every waking hour maintaining a six pack, or will you be thanking yourself for seeing the world, enjoying good food, serving humanity, and being true to yourself?
I know I will certainly look back and think about my experiences in life, not my external appearances.