Intuitive eating on vacation: taking a look at what it means to balance special occasions with intuitive eating and how that contributes to holistic health.
Back from a vacation at the coast!
I spent a lovely book-reading, beach-walking, sleep-catch-upping three days with my family in a beach house on the Oregon coast. It was the perfect start to the new year.
Being the routine-loving girl that I am, the spontaneity that accompanies vacations forces me to slow down and think more–about food and movement and life in general. At home, I know what works for me. When I have time to move my body and how that typically looks. What foods I usually eat, and when. There’s nothing wrong with a routine for food and movement; I enjoy it. But every so often, I feel the need for something different, and vacation is the perfect time for that.
But it can be oh so overwhelming.
Part of intuitive eating is giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, learning all foods can fit in a healthy lifestyle.
When you put that into practice, you’ll find that your “forbidden” or bad-listed foods become that much less alluring.
If you’ve been restricting food, whether it’s portion sizes or cutting out food groups, or even if you’ve just been thinking about restricting food, the power of those foods on your bad list heightens dramatically.
These are all things I remind myself occasionally when I find myself thinking too obsessively about food.
These last few days, while on vacation in Neskowin, I was thinking about this and marveling at how relaxed I felt about food. For years, vacations were stressful because they stomped on my carefully ordered routine, so this food freedom was pure joy.
If you’ve struggled with using food as a means of control, you get me.
Nevertheless, while contemplating this, I was faced with the following two seemingly conflicting thoughts about intuitive eating on vacation:
1. To put my survival-mode-brain at ease, I told myself I had permission to eat. Any of the foods. Whenever I wanted. If I didn’t feel like it while on vacation, I could make it or buy it at home.
2. I grappled a little with the fact that vacations typically involve foods I don’t eat on a day to day basis. Not because they’re “bad”, but just because they’re not usually on my radar for everyday. They’re special and celebratory. But while on vacation, suddenly, they were on my radar.
How do you balance treating all foods as morally equal (no “evil” or “sinful” foods), but also appreciate that certain foods are special like a vacation on the coast?
The answer, I found, is pretty simple.
We’re societal people. We don’t live in a vacuum. Biological factors aren’t the only things to influence our eating choices and behaviors; societal factors play a role too.
And that’s how it’s supposed to be. Health isn’t limited to kale salads, protein shakes and tricep pushup burpees. It includes our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It’s holistic.
That’s why it’s perfectly natural when on vacation to find yourself wanting foods you don’t normally crave. Special and celebratory occasions call for special and celebratory foods (or “play foods”, a term from Intuitive Eating which I love).
The same thing goes for intuitive eating on holidays as it does for intuitive eating on vacation. For example, I don’t usually (emphasis on usually) wake up on a hot summer morning craving pumpkin pie. But on Thanksgiving day, you bet I want a piece piled high with all the whipped cream.
If you have a history with restricting food and/or bingeing, if you’re still in the process of overcoming it, or if you still feel stuck in it, telling yourself you have unconditional permission to eat and making all foods “legal” can be a good first step to help you make peace with the foods you feel crazy around.
And if you’re craving something, eat it! Ignoring your cravings only makes them stronger, which can lead to habitual overeating or feeling out of control when you do eat something you want.
So, want to practice intuitive eating on vacation? Next time you take a trip and find yourself stressing out about food, remember that health is so much more than the “perfect diet.” If you find yourself eating a little differently than you do at home, embrace it! Have the cupcake with your friends and family! It adds to the experience.
Plus, it makes life so much more enjoyable. And a not-stressed you is the healthiest you.