The smell of the ocean, taking in new sights and being embraced with different languages and cultures are some of the most exciting things about going on vacation and getting away. You get to experience new sights, sounds, tastes, and every sense in the body becomes heightened, especially when traveling abroad to a foreign country. Traveling while in eating disorder recovery can be a challenge because they may be many unfamiliar triggers that will come up such as being in a new environment, being around new foods, handling stressful situations such as navigating directions or even getting lost. Unpredictable triggers can potentially result in unhealthy thoughts followed by relapse if an individual is not careful. On the other hand, traveling and stepping out of your comfort zone can be a form of eating disorder self-help, if you have the right tools and coping skills.
Learning to adapt to different perspectives on body image while on vacation
Whether you are on a beach surrounded by individuals in bikinis or walking the streets admiring the latest fashions, body image can come into play when you are on vacation, at a local hotel or resort or traveling through a foreign country. It is not uncommon to come across nude beaches in Europe and for other cultures to have different views on body image. For example, many Eastern cultures such as India, embrace full-figured women, which is vastly different from the Western’s culture ideal thin individual. It is vital that before you escape to a new destination that you feel comfortable in your own body and you are prepared to encounter many different views regarding body image when traveling while in eating disorder recovery.
Food triggers while traveling abroad
One of the most exciting things about traveling to a new place is taking in all the different sights, smells and tastes of the many different cuisines. Although this can be adventurous for most, individuals in eating disorder recovery may find this may trigger unhealthy thoughts and obsession about food and weight. While in eating disorder recovery, it is important to prepare to be surrounded by these triggers and to have a plan of action. Maybe the plan consists of eating only at certain times of the day or only trying one sugary food once a day. It may be wise to set up a program with your dietitian and therapist to prevent as many triggers as possible. A rule of thumb when traveling while in eating disorder recovery is to avoid fast food restaurants, buffets or foods that may make you sick (uncooked meat, raw veggies or street food in developing countries).
Things to consider to be safe when traveling while in eating disorder recovery
This is a common question many individuals ask, and there is no black and white answer. It is important to be confident in your eating disorder recovery before going on vacation, especially traveling abroad. It also may be wise to speak with your therapist, nutritionist, friends, and family about what to expect, some of your fears, and whether or not you are ready to take on a new adventure. It is also important to set goals and boundaries and to make sure you are confident in your positive coping skills. A few questions to ask before taking the plunge are as follows:
• Are my symptoms under control?
• Is my physical and mental health stabilized?
• Have I been making progress in recovery for a sustained amount of time?
• Do I feel properly supported?
• Does the thought of travel bring joy and excitement (not fear or anxiety)?