Enjoy a Summer Vacation Without Your Eating Disorder

July 24, 2019 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Eating disorders and vacation: Do you find it difficult—maybe even impossible—to enjoy a summer vacation without the influence of your eating disorder at the forefront of your mind? I can relate, and it's a continuous process for me to release those obsessions and insecurities around exercise or food anytime I travel outside my normal routine. Recovery from eating disorders and vacation plans can, however, come together. 

I just returned from a trip to Austin, Texas, with my husband and this was the first vacation I have taken in years that did not feature the stubborn, relentless presence of my eating disorder. I adore traveling and my explorations have whisked me to incredible destinations, but until recently, I could not outdistance the fear that I would come back home much heavier by an irrational number of pounds. On this vacation though, I made a promise to myself—I would be immersed in the whole experience and grounded in each moment. I would savor the food, relax my pace, embark on new activities, and focus on the thrills instead of fixating on my body. It was a breath of fresh air, and it's how I choose to travel from now on. So if you also want to enjoy a summer vacation without your eating disorder influencing you, here are strategies that worked for me.  

How to Banish Eating Disorder Urges While on Vacation

  1. Keep your expectations both realistic and flexible. The point of a vacation is to escape the confines of daily life and invite in relaxation of the body, mind, and spirit. In other words, there is no place for rigidity which is something I constantly remind myself when I travel. In my normal routine, I follow a workout schedule and cook nutrient-dense meals, but it's unrealistic to assume I can still do that if I am thousands of miles outside my comfort zone. So whenever I board a plane, I visualize myself unpacking those strict expectations from my suitcase and leaving them all behind on the tarmac. 
  2. Integrate some movement into your trip itinerary. I am a naturally active person, so when I don't get a chance to move my body for a long period of time, my obsessive thoughts of exercise kick into gear. But since I know this about myself, I have learned to make physical activity a part of the vacation. Whether I hike a volcanic island in Portugal, tour a museum in London, explore the desert in Phoenix, or walk around Central Park in New York City, I find opportunities to stretch my legs in both a mindful and pleasurable activity. 
  3. Bring healthy food to add structure to your meals. When it comes to travel, food is integral—what an area of the world eats gives you a sense of its culture. On vacation, I indulge in the local cuisine and taste flavors I might not be able to experience anywhere else. But I also tune into what my body needs, and sometimes it maxes out on indulgence. So I plan ahead for this with nutritious snacks I can keep on hand. For instance, after landing in Austin, I stopped at Whole Foods and bought almonds, carrots, wheat crackers, fruits, granola bars, and avocados in case I wanted healthier options. 
  4. Communicate whenever you need extra support. My husband is aware of the behaviors to look for that clue him into when I am triggered, so he creates safety for me to verbalize the thoughts or emotions I feel bombarded with. We discuss what might have caused the anxiety, and he helps me confront the lies my eating disorder wants me to believe at that moment. This secure and honest communication pulls me out of the negative headspace and enables me to refocus on the beauty and adventure that surrounds me. 

How do you manage the triggers of your eating disorder on vacation?

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2019, July 24). Enjoy a Summer Vacation Without Your Eating Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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