There are so many posts going around about ‘how to be be healthy on the road‘ or ‘stay healthy while traveling.’
My problem isn’t that I don’t know how to be healthy, or stay healthy. My problem is that I can’t seem to make healthy choices.
Have you ever known that what’s best for you is to eat a salad, but order a burger? To know that you should order a fruit salad but instead end up with a flaky, buttery croissant and a cappuccino?
I know I’m not alone in this. The problem is that it can’t continue. I can’t continue to ignore my body and the strong signals it’s sending me. My body needs help.
It’s not enough anymore to say ‘well, it’s a Holiday so I can eat this,’ or ‘it’s a Saturday so I can eat this,’ or more often ‘today is a day so I can eat this.’ I’m done justifying my eating choices to myself.
I’m such a strong person in so many areas. I left everything I knew to travel indefinitely. Why does food have such power over me?
Food is my safe space. Food is my comfort. Food is my addiction.
I come from a family of addicts. I spent most of my childhood (and adolescence and young adulthood) being terrified of addiction. I heard the stories growing up. I knew exactly what drugs and alcohol could do to a person to ruin their life.
I didn’t expect food to be my drug of choice. I didn’t guard against food and tell my friends ‘Oh, I don’t do food.’ Because that’s ridiculous. We have to do food.
God, why couldn’t I just have been an alcoholic like the rest of my family? Then at least I could just go cold turkey! (Please note that I am joking…mostly.)
If I could get by eating what I want and not have health problems or gain weight, I would TOTALLY eat that for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, already at 26 I can feel my body’s discomfort with what I’m putting in it.
And, let’s be honest, it’s mostly about gaining weight. I’m a 26 year old woman living in an inherently image based society. It certainly doesn’t help that for most of my life so far I’ve been pursuing a career as an actress. What I see in the mirror matters to me in a way I wish it didn’t.
Also, I’m glad it does, because what I see in the mirror is my biggest motivational factor in changing my health. I don’t recognize the person in the mirror. I know that’s a cliche that’s used a lot, but it’s true for me. My friends and family tell me they don’t see it. I appreciate that they say that, and that it may in fact be true. But I can see it. And I spend the most time with myself.
I’ve always struggled with my weight and self image. It’s just that, up until the past few years, I could just do a quick crash diet, or work out a bit more and I would drop weight. I’m not old by any means, but my body is not bouncing back the way it used to.
So I’m making a commitment to myself and my body. I won’t ignore it any longer. I won’t dismiss it’s pleading with me to make healthier choices. I will have to learn other ways to cope with my emotions.
Food is so easy. It’s truly the easiest drug. It’s much cheaper than drugs and alcohol. I can run to my pantry in a second and get a fix. But do I really want my life to be easy?
If I wanted my life to be easy, I wouldn’t have chosen the life of a perpetual nomad (and before that, an artist). I want my life to be challenging, purposeful, meaningful. I want to live a full life.
Right now, I’m not.
Yes, I recently traveled to Central America by myself. But I held myself back from doing certain things. I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I couldn’t hike and do the active things most of my fellow travelers were doing. Rather, I could have, but I was so out of shape that the prospect frightened me. Do you call that living a full life? I saved a lot of money to travel, why did I waste it not being able to do everything I wanted?
In the spirit of the Summer Solstice, and new beginnings, I want to let you know what I will be doing to re-commit myself to my body and health.
1. Learn About Optimal Health
I already know what to eat to be healthy. More vegetables and fruits, less sugar and processed foods. The problem isn’t knowing what to eat, but being able to choose the best foods for me.
Two books that I have recently read have been helping tremendously in that department. The first book is called Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. In it, she talks about the female endocrine system and hormones. It’s truly fascinating what the female body can do, and how little I really know about it. Before reading this book, I was mostly confused by the signs that my body was showing me at various times every month. Through reading this book, I am learning how to decipher my body’s signals and give it what it’s truly craving.
The other book is called Healthy Happy Sexy by Katie Silcox. This is, as the book states, ‘Ayurveda wisdom for modern women.’ What is Ayurveda? It’s an ancient Indian healing science. I’ve been fascinated by Ayurveda since first learning about it back in college in an, otherwise quite unfortunate, course about caring for our bodies as singers. What fascinated me was how Ayurveda divides everything into three categories (called doshas), Vata (Ether + Air), Pitta (Fire + Water), and Kapha (Earth + Water).
By figuring out which dosha (or two doshas, in my case) is most present in your body, you can balance these elements within yourself. It’s all a bit complicated to explain, but read this article from Banyan Botanicals to learn more and even take a quiz to see what your dominant dosha is. This book has taught me that by switching up your diet and lifestyle depending on the season and your doshic imbalance, you can re-balance yourself.
For example, I am mostly Pitta (the fire element), so when it’s summertime I get easily irritated if I stay out in the heat. I also suffer from acid reflux and acne (what fun!) which are both Pitta imbalances (AKA too much fire!) Therefore, I have to take special care to eat cooling foods and cool my fiery impulses during this season.
2. Get Support From Those Who’ve Been There
A major key for me in overcoming my emotional eating has been (and will continue to be) getting support from friends and family.
On the Women’s Wellness Retreat I went on this past November in San Juanillo, Costa Rica, I had a profound experience of support. So often in this age of social media and technology, we don’t take the time to truly support our fellow human beings in person. I had forgotten how important it was to have a group of people around me who I could talk to, get advice from, and of course get and give hugs to!
The interesting thing about this week-long retreat was that I didn’t have any emotional eating impulses. We ate a 100% raw vegan diet that week, and I was nervous going into it that I would have strong cravings. Whenever I try to eliminate food groups normally I go a bit crazy and get insane cravings. On this retreat, however, I felt totally satisfied. The only conclusion I could draw was that, because I felt so supported by this group of women, I was able to satisfy my emotional needs in other ways than food.
It’s difficult, while traveling, to always have that support system around you. In fact, traveling solo can get downright lonely. Sometimes, I just miss my people.
The good news about this age of technology is that the people I love are only a mouse click away!
My friend Desi Stock has been on this journey herself. She’s lost over 20 pounds and overcome the same emotional eating and poor self image hurdles that I’m currently facing. With her help and support, I’m hoping to follow in her path towards becoming healthier.
3. Explore How It Feels To Love My Body
This is the core of everything I’m trying to do. If I don’t love my body, I won’t make the decisions that are best for it. If I don’t love my body, it’s easy to stuff myself so full of food that I can’t feel anything. If I don’t love my body, who else will?
I have another friend, Ashley Williams, a Health Coach who has a podcast called Green is the New Black. I binge listen to her Podcast on road trips, and all of the episodes feature someone knowledgable in the health and wellness field. One episode, Silence Your Inner Shit Talker, is an interview with Ashley’s coach, Amy E. Smith.
In it, she talks about things you can do to have a more positive view of yourself. One tip she gave was, instead of using affirmations that feel phony, to find something positive to say that feels authentic. You might feel totally wrong saying “My body is amazing!” but something like “I am learning how to love my body again” affirms the direction you’re trying to go in without the disconnect. I decided on the phrase “I am exploring how it feels to love my body,” in the same vein of exploration I’ve used to travel the world.
4. Reach Out
I am nowhere near an expert on these things, but I feel certain that I’m not the only traveler who struggles with being healthy while traveling and loving to eat (maybe a little too much). I know I’m not the only female traveler to cover up at the beach instead of flaunting the body I have.
I hope that you’ll join me in my journey towards health. I would love to know some things that you do to stay healthy while traveling. If you feel comfortable, leave me a comment below sharing your own journey towards health and body acceptance. If you’d rather talk privately, you can always send me an e-mail. As I said above, supporting each other (whether online or in person) is so important.