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Strategies from Clients on Vacationing with an Eating Disorder

It’s almost summer!  This means events such as vacations, camps and other outdoor activities going on during the warm months. For someone with an eating disorder,  this can also be a time of stress and anxiety. Going on vacation with an eating disorder can present many challenges. These struggles may be unknown to someone not struggling. The truth-of-the-matter is being in a different environment is daunting to someone in recovery. You are surrounded by people with limited alone time. There are often body image triggers present. Beach-ware is an intimidating factor. In addition, those struggling are exposed to different foods that may not be currently in their daily routines. These are all real concerns for those who are working to gain peace with the mind and body from eating disorder thoughts.

A primary focus during sessions with clients in the weeks leading up to summer are surrounded by conversation about vacation preparation.

Many times with clients, we discuss strategies on how to combat potential triggers. I would like to share some of these on the blog!
1. Plan ahead.
While this seems to be a common theme for many clients, I believe it is particularly important when going on vacation! Talk to your family and friends about what is on the agenda. Especially consider activities and meals.
  • Will you be renting a house? Will you be cooking some dinners at home or going out to eat for most/all meals?
  • What type of cuisine will be available? Will it be mostly “safe” foods or “challenge” foods?
  • How active will you be on this trip? Is it important to pack extra snacks?
    eating on vacation

    Dinner for the whole family

    2. Food Challenge. 

    Depending on where you are in recovery, this also may be a good opportunity to set a goal to complete a food challenge. Perhaps trying a food you have not tried in a while. Go to a restaurant. Even considering letting someone else prepare a meal for you could be a challenge to accept while on vacation. Talk to your dietitian to see what makes sense for you and your recovery. This change in routine may be a good time to try something new.

    eating on vacation

    Complete a food challenge

    3. Prepare Fun Activities. 

    Before going on the trip, talk to others involved about some things you want to do while there. Plan some activities that you would enjoy doing. Plan events that will allow you to have some fun outside of what may be stressful meals. For example, if it’s a beach vacation, you may not enjoy laying on the beach everyday. Research the area and see if there is a day where you can find an activity everyone may enjoy. There are always other ways to enjoy time with family. Play games! Go putt putt golfing. Drive go-karts. Shop. Go on a hot-air balloon ride. Go parasailing. These fun activities will help to reinforce the reason we are here- and that is to enjoy time away spent with the ones we love!
    eating on vacation

    Fun activities for the family

    4. Pack comfortable clothing.

    Make sure to pack clothes and bathing suites that feel good, make you smile and fit comfortably. This is a time to relax! Use the time to focus on the ones we love who are around us.

    eating on vacation

    Pack plenty of comfortable clothes

    4. Bring projects to work on and books to read.

    Make sure to block off some time to decompress by yourself, if this is something you enjoy. Time alone is always a good time to process. Take a little time to breathe and prepare for more time with the family. This is especially important if you are sharing a house or hotel with other people. If you thrive on having time alone and down-time have a few options you can do. Read a good book. Use a coloring book. Listen to some music.  Work on any sort of project that makes you happy.

    6. Set an intention for the trip.

    Setting an intention for a trip provides purpose and focus to what there is to appreciate and receive from the time away. Perhaps an intention might be to spend time with a family member you are not able to see often. Practice meditation. Try something new.  Create lasting memories. Focus on thankfulness during this time. Whatever the goal of the trip may be, discuss with your treatment team ahead of time and create a visual list that you can bring with you. Read it each morning to help set focus for the day. Journaling may also help to refocus and jot down thoughts about how each day has been during the trip.

    eating on vacation

    Set an intention for the trip


    7. Reach out for support.

Let your treatment team, friends and family know how they can help you while you take a vacation. Have a conversation with your spouse, mom or dad about how they can best help you if you run into any challenges during the time away. Having a strategy in place ahead of time can help tremendously if you struggle while you are there. By putting these practical tips into place, it makes for difficult situations to be so much more enjoyable while away!

If you desire any additional support and encouragement while preparing for vacation, please click here or call (240)-670-4675 to schedule an appointment today! 

Blog originally written by Kait Fortunao Greenberg, CEDRD, RDN, LDN. Edits by Alex Raymond, RDN, LDN and Kara Meyer, Student intern

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