Vacation eating vs. non-vacation eating.

This week we’re out of town and it’s reminded me how good it feels for my eating patterns to never have to change.  Whether I’m on vacation or in a normal workday, my days include:

  • all foods
  • 3 meals & as many snacks as needed
  • awareness of hunger, fullness & cravings cues
  • acknowledgment of when I need food for emotional reasons and if that’s the best option to care for myself (sometimes it is!)

I remember vacations in the past that felt like a giant cheat day spread out over the entire vacation.  When the vacation ended I was uncomfortably stuffed and there was this gloom of having to go back to restricting or eliminating certain foods.

One thing I hated about being in my eating disorder (that I couldn’t see when I was in it, but can see now that I’m out of it) was how I can still remember exactly what I ate on vacations and how I felt (i.e. bad) about eating it. I remember meals eaten more than I remember time spent with family or adventures we went on.  And that useless meal information from 8 years in an ED is still stored in my brain. While I couldn’t tell you the food we ate on a vacation a year ago, I could still tell you the food I ate on a vacation 6 years ago when living in my ED. My brain was so fixated on food and my exercise routine that I remember pretty much nothing else from those trips.

These days whether I’m on vacation or not, I eat whatever I want, but it’s not eaten in this chaotic, food-is-about-to-be-taken-away-so-eat-everything-now kind of way.  I just feed myself regularly. If there ever is a time I feel myself overthinking if I should go eat a certain thing, I just go eat it.  Sometimes figuring out how to take care of yourself is hard. I like to remember that I have options for how I’d like to care for myself and sometimes if I’m feeling like I’m stuck in a season where I feel myself relying on food more than usual (i.e. when Jo was first born and I had no clue how to take care of myself anymore or when we’ve been living in an AirBnb for over a month and everything just feel unsettled) I like to write out the options I have to care for myself on paper so I can be making the choice that helps me the best.

To wrap up, vacations I go on now I remember food less and less.  I remember especially excellent meals and desserts, but food doesn’t overpower my thoughts and memories from trips. I’m grateful for all the work I’ve put into becoming a competent
. I’d be sad to still be missing out on so much.

p.s. eating on vacations can be hard if you are surrounded by friends or family that skip meals/snacks or eliminate food groups.  This doesn’t mean you have to stop taking care of yourself (i.e. stop eating regularly) if surrounded by others who don’t eat similar to you. However, you may need to speak up for yourself to make sure your needs are getting met, which I know can be tough for those who have personalities or genetic predispositions that make you more inclined to have an eating disorder or disordered eating.


  1. Yes, yes, YES!!! I love this about intuitive eating, it goes with you no matter where you are or what you’re doing!

    • Such a good way to word it! YES! Intuitive eating goes with you no matter where you go or what you’re do. It’s not a meal plan you can only follow sometimes or filled with unrealistic rules.

  2. I could relate so much to this! Just got back from 2 weeks in Italy with my husband and I know I would have been miserable on a trip like this several years ago (restricting pre travel and being anxious about what I was eating while there, making myself feel “guilty”for eating badly, etc).  But now, I am at the place where I can eat whatever I want without guilt and am much more appreciative of all types of food. I have also let go of the mentality that “everything I eat needs to be perfect, even if it inconveniences the others I’m traveling with”. A great example: we did a half day tour of Pompeii that ended in the mid afternoon. Sweaty and with little time before we needed to return to our tour bus, we each got a  lemon slush and ate some cheese crackers I had packed alongside it. I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate a lemon slush or the next time I will crave one, but it was refreshing and tided us over till we had time to get more food.  

  3. TRUTH. to add to this, when I was traveling in Europe for three weeks this past summer, so many meals were on the go (in train stations while traveling between countries, etc.) and not necessarily a “gourmet experience” as you’ve discussed earlier. But there were SO MANY exciting and fun experiences and things I did, and I knew the most important memories didn’t need to revolve around food.

  4. This is such an important message!! Even though I’ve grown even since my honeymoon almost two years ago (I don’t know how it’s almost been that long), even then I was able to really enjoy without worrying about my food choices. When I went on my twin sister’s bachelorette weekend last year, I ate freely and enjoyed myself fully! For the first time, I didn’t plan or know what restaurants we’d dine at nor did I know what I planned to eat until in the moment. It was amazing! Getting home didn’t change how I ate, and I didn’t “detox” or any of that bologna.

  5. Love all of this, but the part I really needed to hear today was: If there ever is a time I feel myself overthinking if I should go eat a certain thing, I just go eat it.

    Such a simple way to deal with the “do I want it, do I not” anxiety I sometimes still go through because of past ED behaviors.

  6. How true! I can remember the food I ate and exercise I did when on vacation way more than the people I was with or stuff I did. Isn’t that sad :(
    I did find that a Europe vacation my husband and I planned was a big incentive in getting over my ED. I was at the end of my rope by that point and didn’t want to ruin our trip by waking up early to go running or worrying about food. It was so incredibly freeing to go on a food tour in Rome and not be stressing and what I are!

    Although I should add that took 9 months between my decision to let the ED go and the holiday. It certainly wasn’t a quick or easy journey and I don’t want people to think recovery is that simple :)

  7. I am so grateful for your blog and posts. Gives me hope that recovery and freedom is possible 😊

  8. Yes! I always say if you make your everyday eating mindful(ish), enjoyable, satisfying, and flexible then the holidays (or vacations) won’t be any different!

  9. Thank you so much for this post. I am struggling hard through recovery and am terrified at going away with my family because they often skip meals and have disordered eating/ exercise behaviors as well. Your blog has been a life saver and has really been an inspiration to keep seeking help with recovery when things were not going well. I really appreciate the p.s. at the end! :) Thank you thank you thank you for all of your writing, honesty, and advice.

  10. Thank you for this post!! I echo so many of the comments here. Another thing I found myself doing in my ED was “saving up” for a vacation, i.e. restricting heavily beforehand so I could “go crazy” on vaca. Of course this backfired– my body wasn’t used to eating enough so I’d feel out of control and sick a lot of the trip. In my ED brain, I blamed the food, thinking I just couldn’t eat that stuff and still feel good. In reality, if I fed my body enough/a variety ALL the time, I’d feel perfectly fine! (ED really knows how to twist things into counterproductive excuses!)

    Anyway, now that I eat a variety/enough on vacation or at home, I feel great. And it’s so much less stress before, during, and after trips :)

  11. I even had (have, actually) a therapist who told me it was ok to lose a few pounds before i would go on a holiday because all women act like this so she wanted to normalize it. I don’t want to blame her but instead of a few pounds i off course lost a whole lot more (like 5 times the “few pounds” we discussed). It confused me at the time as in my head i knew this wasn’t the advice i needed. I already felt my ED creeping in (like wanting to lose the pounds were ED thoughts). When I read your blogpost i understand it really makes no sense at all wanting to lose weight to go on a holiday (side note: it was a yoga retreat “all in” with a lot of healthy and good food – we knew i would have access to 3 meals everyday). Anyway, thank you for posting this. I believe intuitive eating might be what i need in the end. Only i don’t know how to go from completely disorderd eating (like now) to this intuitive eating..

  12. I’m not sure you’ll see this but I’m in need of some guidance. Right after I had my son 18 months ago, I found your blog and it took a while for me to actually put to practice everything you did that I knew I needed and wanted to do. For a little while, I felt like I was doing good. Of course I’d have moments or days where i began to restrict again but I told my husband and he helped me get out of it. Early this year I got myself on anti depressants which overall have helped with my ED but recently I feel I’ve been going back down into the hole of my ED. I feel like I HAVE to exercise and it’s not that I don’t enjoy the exercise I do but it’s the have to feeling because I am afraid to gain weight and be judged by myself and also others. I feel like if I stop exercising when it’s somewhat enjoyable, then I’m just being lazy. I just have this huge stressful weight on my chest on days I feel I have to exercise. I am also restricting myself again. Not as bad as before but I made brownies last night and I really want one but I’m afraid to feel crappy about myself and really feel the need to exercise.
    I remember when you said you took a whole month off exercise (which I’m completely terrified to do) but I wonder if maybe I need to take a break too. I’m sorry if asking for advice like this isnt appropriate. I just feel like I’ve hit a brick wall and really need some of your words of wisdom. (Also my husband joined the airforce 6 months ago so things have been stressful so I think maybe my fear of gaining weight and exercise has come up again due to the fact that he is very stressed which stresses me and he doesnt have as much time for me as he used to)

    • It sounds like there is a lot of stress in your life and you nailed it…that is likely why the exercise compulsion and restrictive behaviors have popped up again. The eating disorder takes hard to manage feelings and puts them on our bodies, so we have a tangible thing to fix instead of having to be in the mess of those stressors. Unfortunately an eating disorder isn’t a sustainable solution to our problems and many times creates more problems (and dangerous problems).

      Is it an option for you to work with an eating disorder therapist to process all of this? The credential you’d be looking for the therapist to have is CEDS (certified eating disorder specialist).

      For specific steps I’d refer you to this post so you can move your movement away from mindless movement more towards mindful movement…

      Hope that helps<3

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