1. It’s okay to enjoy yourself
I know a bunch of people who struggle to let themselves relax: they feel they don’t deserve it, they worry about other things, they overthink each excursion, etc. But let me tell you it is 100% okay to take a step back and enjoy yourself. You deserve it – you really, truly do. You work hard every day whether it be taking care of a family, going to school, working on your career, training at the gym – you deserve to treat yourself for the effort you put into your daily life. Even though it might feel strange based on the busy life you’re used to, relaxing and taking time for you is so important. Don’t spend your vacation worrying, give yourself a chance to be happy and enjoy every experience.
2. Eating out won’t kill you
Seriously, it won’t. During the depths of my eating disorder, eating out was a HUGE no-no and it’s still a challenge. It takes away a sense of control in regards to food and eating which leads to discomfort and anxiety. However, on a lot of vacations, like my trip to Vegas, all of my meals were eaten at restaurants of some description. And guess what? I lived to tell the tale!!! Not only that, but it did not make me gain fat and I was still able to fuel my body with relatively healthy and whole foods. It is more than possible to still eat healthy when eating out and if one or two of your meals aren’t “healthy” that’s okay too! It’s all about balance and whether you make each of your meals specifically tailored to you at home, or you order it from a restaurant, this is still the case. Going out to eat is not the enemy and it can be fun.
3. You can still be active outside of the gym
One thing that I’ve struggled with in the past about going on vacation is not having access to a gym or not being able to work out as often as I do at home. Going into this vacation I planned to work out a few times because it’s part of my lifestyle, and I enjoy it. However, I only worked out twice because a) it’s okay to relax on vacation, b) there were other fun things I wanted to do, and c) I was getting a lot of exercise from just my daily excursions. At home I don’t tend to do a lot of excess activity outside of the gym, however, on this trip my non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT was a lot higher than usual. I was walking around from hotel to hotel each day, I went hiking in a canyon in the heat, and so on. I realized that while maybe I didn’t formally go to the gym each day, I was still using a lot of energy and getting in activity. This really made me think about my life at home as well and how incorporating more NEAT activity into my days would be a great way to handle days where I can’t make it to the gym. Also, I was reminded of my love for hiking, so I can’t wait to get a bunch more hikes in this summer!
Take away here, though it may seem obvious to some, it can be hard for some of us to really admit: the gym isn’t the only place you can get exercise.
4. Listening to your body is just as important while traveling as it is any other day
One thing I love to remind people is to listen to their body! On vacation, this isn’t any different. Vegas has weather that’s quite different than Ontario, Canada and there’s also a 3 hour time difference. It can be easy to shrug off both of these things as minor changes, and for some people it may be, but personally it was an adjustment for my body. The heat and added activity led me to be more run down than I was used to and as someone who tends to just keep going, there was one moment where I had to confront myself and say “Jenn, you need a nap,” and believe me that nap made a big difference – I still felt iffy afterwards, but I felt a lot better. Also, the three hour time change didn’t feel like much at first but there was definitely an adjustment which I really noticed retrospectively. Even coming back home I was up until 3am the night we got back which left me pretty exhausted the rest of the following day, so I gave myself the extra time to recuperate before jumping full speed back into my daily routine.
When you’re away from home there are a number of different things that can affect your body and how you feel both physically and mentally. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and do your best to listen to them. If you’re tired, don’t be afraid to take a nap, I promise you’ll feel a lot more energized to take on the next part of your trip afterwards. If your digestion is a bit off don’t let it stress you out, just do your best to eat meals more slowly, drink lots of water and avoid foods you know might not help the situation. That being said, don’t be afraid to enjoy different foods on your vacation – that’s part of the fun!
Enjoy your get away the best you can and without burning out by staying in tune with your body!
5. There’s really nothing to be afraid of
If you dislike change and disruption of routine as much as I do then I’m sure vacations sometimes cause you a little bit of stress a long with excitement. Especially if you’re in recovery from an eating disorder or struggle with anxiety, travel can honestly be terrifying. What will each day look like? Will there be food I’m comfortable eating? What if I eat too much? What will happen if I abandon my daily routine even for just a couple days? These are all questions that I’ve had run through my mind going into a vacation. Depending on the state of my mental health at the given time of a vacation, these thoughts and worries have sometimes been stronger than others. For example, I wasn’t able to go on my trip to Europe this May because I was not mentally well enough to cope with such a vacation. However, two months later, heading to Vegas, I was able to manage in ways I never really expected I would be able to back in May. Yes, there were still difficult moments and fears still crept into my head, but I also kicked some butt. I realized that most restaurants will make accommodations to meals for you and if you’re really struggling with menu choices it’s almost guaranteed you can order a house salad with grilled chicken at a restaurant. Obviously this isn’t ideal, but it is a way to make the hard moments that sneak up on you during vacation a little bit easier. Some of my personal wins related to previous eating disorder fears included: eating enchiladas which I hadn’t had in at least 10 years, ordering a cocktail that was more than just a beer or a simple mixed drink which I usually avoid for fear of the “extra” calories, eating desserts like brownies that I would normally avoid because of unknown calorie content. Like I said, there were still struggles and I wasn’t always comfortable doing these things – the guilt afterwards was usually the hardest – but I did them. Now looking back, I realize that I really didn’t have anything to be afraid of; I didn’t magically gain 10 pounds, I didn’t balloon up after eating dessert, and not tracking calories or macros didn’t make me lose all my gains.
The overall thing I took away from this vacation is that it’s SO important to enjoy yourself in life. There will always be challenges, there will always be setbacks, there will always be surprises – but all you can do is your best. Keep moving forward, stay in tune with your mental and physical health and enjoy.