This blog was originally posted on Project HEAL’s website. I have the fabulous opportunity to blog for them each month as well as being a member of their HEALers Circle. By doing this, I will help them provide free treatment to those that would otherwise not be able to access services. For more information about what they do, please visit their website at this link.
Enjoying Vacation While In Recovery
Many years ago, I spent the Fourth of July in a treatment center for eating disorders. I spent that Fourth of July worried about my upcoming discharge and how I would be able to navigate the world without an eating disorder. This week was spent celebrating the Holiday with my family, my son’s birthday, and taking home the blue ribbon in the dog parade. We ended the week at a large family reunion surrounded by love, hugs, and stories of old and new, and of course food.
This not only provided me with a chance to be grateful for living in a recovered world with FREEDOM from an eating disorder but also prompted me to think of the challenges in obtaining this kind of freedom. When you are in treatment or in early recovery, it is important to be prepared for vacations so that you are not ill-equipped for struggles that you may face.
You have probably heard this before; however, this step can often be lost in the midst of other packing and vacation planning. Just like any other day, make sure that you pack snacks for the road and other times that food may not be available when you get hungry.
Additionally, if you are following a meal plan, have something prepared to eat so you stay on track. If your vacation will require additional walking or other activity, discuss this with your dietitian. Your meal plan may need adjusting to account for the activity or you may need to discuss how this will affect your hunger cues.
USE VACATIONS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF
As a dietitian and therapist, I listen to clients discuss the stress and anxiety they feel as the summer approaches. To them, summer means the uncontrolled food environment, eating out and with other people, and eating at another home. Let’s say that you eat three meals and a couple of snacks during the day. This means that eating differently on vacation, holidays, or special occasions will vary your intake by less than 10% over the course of one year.
This is the flexible part of recovery and the flexible part of life. Vacation can be the perfect opportunity to try something you have not had before or something you have been scared to try.
The challenge could be eating something that somebody has prepared in their home or eating at a new restaurant. Make sure you go into the challenge with a relaxed mind and body.
USE YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
Discuss any worries that you may have with your treatment team so that you can develop a roadmap for success. Additionally, talk to others in your support system about the best ways they can help you throughout the vacation. your recovery. Let them know what you are worried about and how they can best help you.
DEVELOP COPING SKILLS BEFORE YOU GO
Bring a few activities with you. Do you like to color or play games? Bring your favorite music, a journal, or explore other activities in the area. Make sure to have activities that you enjoy doing. If you have trouble thinking of things that you do enjoy, just explore! Part of recovery is about discovering things you enjoy doing without the eating disorder.
BE GRACIOUS WITH YOURSELF
Be gracious with yourself. Remember that vacation is a difficult part of the recovery process for many individuals with an eating disorder. If you have a slip, use it as a learning experience and pick up right where you left off. Do not wait until you get back or the following day. Vacation is an opportunity to have fun, relax, explore new things, and practice recovery strategies. It does not have to be perfect. After all, recovery is a process. Bring back anything that you have learned from your trip to your sessions with your therapist and dietitian.