How to Relax about your Body on Vacation
For someone who struggles with serial dieting and poor body image, vacations aren’t relaxing.
When you are consumed with the fear of gaining weight, relaxing is actually impossible.
In the depths of my dieting days, I went to extremes prior to traveling in order to look good to see friends and family or to be in a photo in a bathing suit.
About a month before my trip I would be super strict with my eating, exercise very hard—sometimes twice per day—and fast for multiple days.
The thought of someone telling me that I looked slim or that I had lost weight pushed me harder in my workouts and helped me say no to indulgences.
Sometimes I would receive the compliment and it would feel good for a moment, but then I would become obsessed with finding the perfect outfits that would make me look thin and seeking the same compliment from multiple people to really be sure it was true.
And then on the trip I would inevitably get stuck in diet purgatory: I wanted to be able to relax on vacation and enjoy myself, but if I went off my plan not only was I afraid I would gain weight, but it would be so hard to get back on track.
No matter what I chose—to indulge or not to indulge—I was miserable. If I stuck to my plan, I felt deprived, resentful and defensive, interpreting anyone’s commentary on my eating as an accusation of being extreme.
If I indulged, I convinced myself that I was fat, that all of my hard work was for nothing, that I would never be able to get back to where I was.
The fear of gaining weight caused so much stress, so many rampant thoughts, that I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t enjoy my time off, my friends and family, or the culture of the place I was visiting.
No matter where my feet were planted geographically, I was trapped inside my head.
A crucial step in my recovery has been deciding that my mental health is more of a priority than my body image. That the moments with my friends and family were more precious than my waistline. That exploring the world was more fulfilling than the way that I looked in the photo.
Because what I really desired from the compliments and validation of others was a feeling of being beautiful, accepted, and worthy.
When I realized that neither the compliments nor having the "perfect" body ever actually gave me those feelings, I had to let go.
I had to take a stand for myself and how I want to feel, and let go of the way that my body looks.
There were a few things that helped me achieve this over the years. (And remember—it won’t happen overnight. There is no timeline on your recovery, but there are some things that you can start implementing consistently that will help you get there.)
1) Decide how you want to feel in your body and your life.
2) Get clear (make a list) on the things that make you feel that way and prioritize them—ESPECIALLY while traveling.
3) Practice joy and presence.
4) Resist the urge to explain yourself.
Numbers 1 and 2 are pretty self-explanatory, and I have even written a few posts about them already (read one of them here). But you have to practice ruthless commitment to them. Your core desired feelings have to become a priority and you have to be diligent about making habits out of the things that bring you those feelings… just as diligent as you were about your diet and exercise routines.
If you are not constantly cultivating you high-vibration emotional state, it will be all too easy to spiral into the old diet purgatory—because it has become habit.
Practicing joy and presence are crucial to cultivating your core desired feelings. Everything that we do is because in some way we think that it will make us feel good, but then we don’t allow ourselves to actually feel good. We fixate on what is wrong or what is missing and prevent ourselves from just feeling good.
When we prioritize joy and lean into it, we start looking for things to be grateful and joyful about all around us and it becomes a domino effect.
In the same vein, practicing presence for me means sucking the juice out of every moment. When thoughts of body anxiety start creeping in, ask yourself: how can this moment be 10% better, 10% more joyful? How can I get more deeply connected to myself or to others or to this place?
Finally, resist the urge to explain yourself.
You don’t have to walk around telling everyone why you have gained weight, or why you are making the choices you are making. When you do this, the only person you are really trying to convince is yourself, because it is no one else’s business.
Stand by your choice to prioritize your relaxation and your mental health.
Stand by your choice to feel good and to heal your relationship to food and your body.
Stand by YOURSELF and know that you are NEVER wrong to choose yourself and your mental and emotional health. It is a choice that will benefit not only you, but everyone around you.
And it is not one that you have to explain away or apologize for.
Enjoy your vacation. Enjoy your life. Don’t let food or the way you look in a photo have the power to steal your joy.
If you are ready to free your mind from the all-consuming thoughts about food and your body and actually be able to relax and enjoy yourself, schedule a free discovery call to see if coaching could be right for you.