I got inspired walking on the beach yesterday thinking about how vacation is different since I've been able to receive the gift of recovery from my 12 step compulsive eating recovery program.
Basically, I'm a long-time food tourist. Ask me about Greece & I'll tell you about baklava and moussaka. Ask me about France, I'll tell you about pastry and Brie. Ask me about Texas & I'll talk about eating BBQ & potato salad. And so on and so forth.
For years, every time I traveled I thought about the food before, during and after the activity. I wish I could say that being in program and losing so much weight and gaining so much sanity has erased this dangerous habit--but that wouldn't be honest. Its SO much better than it used to be but it is still an ongoing problem.
That said, the exciting news is that I realized on this vacation that I'm actually really starting to become better at letting the food go! Maybe its because I've enjoyed the pleasure of getting in a bathing suit and not feeling enormously uncomfortable. The best thing is that there aren't any bulges escaping from the "slimming" panels of my swim suit. In fact, I don't even wear those "slimming" suits anymore! Yay plant-strong living!!! I'm not quite ready for bikini action but I'm comfortable in my plain, no frills tank suit. And that is a MIRACLE. It makes me very conscious of the gifts that program has brought me. And inspires me to change the way I operate with food on vacation.
I thought it might be helpful to share some of the techniques and tools I use to stay sane during vacation & lose/maintain weight during the trip. So here they are!
1) I pack my own plant-strong snacks for the airplane and car rides:
This is absolutely critical. No matter what, take the time to get those ziploc bags out and fill them with fruit, homemade trailmix (for me its raw oats, some raisins & a few nuts), oil-free kale chips, crunchy raw veggies etc. See my snacks post or my kale post for more details. At some point along the way you WILL want something around you that is not good for your body. For me, I always look at those airplane snack packs with longing. Yes I know those mini snack packs are not exactly the yummiest food when you actually eat them, but because I can't have them, my disease likes to throw a small tantrum in my airplane seat! Thus the homemade snack bags.
2) I check to make sure every hotel I stay at has a fridge so I can bring my own food:
Once again, very important if you are staying anywhere for an extended period of time. Pack some Nalgene bottles or other empty water bottles in your luggage so you can fill them up with water at the hotel (of course ignore this tip if you are in a foreign country with questionable water sources--splurge and buy the commercial bottled stuff). Its nice to have something to drink to tote along with you--whether its to the beach or to the slopes (I'd put the water in a mini-pack if you're on skiis!) or hiking or driving etc. Buy some of your favorite breakfast & snack foods at the grocery store--especially cereals and plant-based milks. If worst comes to worst, you can have cereal for a meal if necessary! Fruit is also an extra bonus to have on hand!
3) I grocery shop:
One of the first things that the Happy Nurse and I did when we got down here is shop for some fresh fruits and vegetables to stock our hotel fridge. I also got a few things I can fix for lunch or snack. This makes a huge difference financially AND unless you can find gems of restaurants then eating at the hotel is always better than eating out nutritionally speaking.
4) I spend time pre-selecting what I'm going to eat at restaurants & when I'm traveling with others, I stay flexible:
When someone suggests a restaurant on vacation I like to immediately go to the restaurant menu and check to make sure I can eat there. I even call the restaurant ahead of time to make sure they have some decent options for me. Depending on the restaurant I either say that I'm a vegan with a gluten allergy OR I say that I'm allergic to eggs, dairy, soy, gluten & I don't eat meat. I can tell pretty quick if it isn't going to work.
Vacation is a great time to demonstrate to those omnivores you love who travel with you that vegan food can be delicious!! This trip we've had a chance to take my brother and sister-in-law to two delicious vegan restaurants and they have actually LOVED some of the food at each!
When I'm out to eat on a special occasion at a restaurant location that is non-negotiable & there are very few or no vegan options, I'll be honest--I'll choose a piece of fish & go for rice & veggies if I don't think the rice & veggies alone will sustain me. I still think that being 100% vegan is the way to go and I'm vegan 99.9% of the time, but occasionally I like to reduce the number of ripples I make in social situations & maintaining my abstinence is more important than anything else. If I've consulted with the manager, the restaurant location is non-negotiable and I really don't have options (hello, remember soy-free and gluten-free and sugar-free too), then I opt for seafood. It is pretty rare that I find myself in that position but I did have to do it once this week. There really wasn't anything I could eat on the menu & we were in a huge group. I decided to just relax & go with the flow because sugar was a bigger temptation at the time and I needed something filling in my stomach to not eat dessert.
Guess what? That is ok. At least it is for me. I do the best I can, and that is good enough. I am 100% an imperfect vegan. Just like I'm 100% an imperfect person.
5) I try to be more active and exercise more often than I ever do at home:
I am usually exhausted by the time I make it to vacation. But I find that if I force myself to get up every morning (even if I sleep in) and go for at least one solid walk outside (no matter what the weather) than I really feel so much more energized. I've been walking on the beach for very prolonged periods of time this vacation and am finding it absolutely heavenly. I've added in a little upper body routine where I mimic the motions I would do while weight lifting except I'm walking without weight. I realize that many of my fellow beach walkers may look at me a bit funny doing chest presses in front of me as I walk but I love the result. My body feels strong and healthy by the time I'm done. Just feeling the sand beneath my toes is therapeutic by itself! Water relaxes me and I try to vacation near water as much as possible.
On top of the walking routine, I try to specifically look to get involved with high energy activities as much as possible. For example, this time I made a sand castle with my nephews (elementary school age) and then played in the water with them for over an hour. And let me tell you, that sand castle was no smoothing and piling sand operation--we were digging! We dug a huge hole in the sand all the way to water. My hamstrings and triceps were screaming the next day after leaning over and scooping sand for well over an hour but it was so worth it. I felt alive and so grateful because four years ago it would have been impossible to do it!
Wherever or however you vacation, you can always find something more active to do than what you are doing. Don't hurt yourself, but do look to push yourself with fun activities! Play with active kids and you won't even notice that you are doing a major workout until its over! Trust me!!:-)
6) I go to at least one of my 12 step compulsive eating meetings:
The Happy Nurse and I checked the program's meeting list in our vacation location before we came down & we really enjoyed going to a meeting down here. Its always fantastic for me to reconnect with program people who understand the struggles of being on vacation and wanting to "splurge" and reward myself for working hard! Going to meetings helps me remember that my disease is always present even if I like to pretend it isn't. And I remind myself that vacation is a great time to get to meetings--I don't have work or other demands to keep me from them!!
7) I use my downtime to catch up on step work and readings:
I haven't been doing as much of this on vacation this time because its been really socially active with my husband's family, but we do have some quiet time the next few days which will give me time for reflection. I like to find a quiet spot--I remember fondly doing my Step 7 work on a deck on the back of the cruise ship where very few people came. I was able to write and write and feel nature and just relax to let things flow. It was incredible and I highly recommend scheduling in some "down-time" to recharge and reflect.
8) I unplug:
I really try to stay off my phone, my email, facebook and now, the blog. I often turn my electronic devices off completely for the entire week (scary in this day and age eh!!:-))--I did do that on our vacation in October and it was wonderful. Oh! And as much as possible, I resist the temptation to turn the TV on in our hotel room. I find that once it is on, I get stuck in the room instead of out and about experiencing my vacation location. I like to take time to relax in the room yes, but its a totally different relaxation experience without the TV chattering in the background!!
A few specific tips for food-challenging vacations:
- Cruises--First, the basic thing: no snacking between meals, skip dessert & take advantage of the awesome exercise equipment on the ship. Second: talk to the maitre d and your waiter/waitress about your food restrictions. Call them "allergies." The chef can usually accommodate you without any fuss at all! We love cruises--particularly on Celebrity (they are awesome last minute vacations--fantastic price reductions when booked within a month before & you feel so pampered!). With their all-you-can-eat philosophy, they tend to be a real challenge for compulsive overeaters but I've managed to stay abstinent throughout two of them so far.
- Our first night on the ship on our honeymoon I let my waiter know about my dietary restrictions and from then on, he pointed out all the meals I could safely have on the menu each night.
- On another cruise the waiter called the maitre d over and each night before we left he brought the menu for the next night to the table and asked me what modifications I needed on the already planned dishes! It was wonderful--and there was no extra fee or negative reactions to my requests.
- Just ask what you need--if you ask politely and nicely, they tend to bend over backwards to accommodate you!
- Bed & Breakfasts--this is one of the trickiest by far. If you are staying at a place really remote than you need to call ahead and let them know about your restrictions. If they can't accommodate you--don't go. Really. It will be incredibly frustrating every morning to come down from your room to a delicious looking meal that you can't eat. Frankly, it can ruin a vacation for a food addict like me. So choose a place that will work with you.
Ok! I hope that is helpful!!
Like so many of us, I wish I could stay on vacation forever but at some point I'm heading home. And I can say confidently that I haven't gained a bit of weight during this vacation despite all the eating out! Using the above tips have made that completely possible and I feel so good!
What techniques do YOU use on vacation to stay healthy?!
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