Today as I sat here planning a four-day trip for myself and my daughter in April, I started thinking about a couple of things I've been mulling over. These thoughts were precipitated by 1) a comment someone made on a recent post about my trips/travel possibly sparking the desire to indulge or the trips being about the food, and 2) a comment on a forum I read, where the individual is travelling to Paris and is taking Medifast meals to eat there because the trip is not about the food. Well, I'll admit it. When I read that someone is going to Paris, but "not for the food", I thought, um... it IS about the food! You can bet 9 million dollars that if I ever went to Paris is would definitely be about the food! No, the food would not be the highlight of my trip... there are so many places to go and things to see and experience in a new place! But to me, the once-in-a-lifetime chance to eat French food in Paris, to enjoy the food as part of the culture, to taste French pastries... would definitely be a highlight.
And then I thought, hey. I tend to think of every food that way. When we go to a new city, I always look up the best restaurants online and go over the menu ahead of time, whether I am on a certain weight loss plan or not. I enjoy eating at different, new places and trying unique cuisines. When I was a child, my father took us out to eat every week... sometimes several times per week. While my mother hauled me around between McDonald's and Hardee's, my father took me to fancy, expensive restaurants as well as diners where the home cooking was amazing. I grew up eating at restaurants frequently, and when I was divorced and single with small kids, that all came to a screeching halt. For years I ate the cheapest stuff we could find and prepare at home, and while some of it was delicious, I still missed the restaurant experience. Now, I really enjoy stopping at the deli with my child for homemade soup and conversation. I look forward to eating at new places when we travel. And for me, pretty much every trip has the possibility of becoming *about the food.*
I have 'fixed' this in the past. I've learned to travel with a little cooler, to bring healthy meals and snacks with us and that has been successful at times. I have gone on long trips where 80% of what I ate was Medifast meals. And I know how to eat well when we *do* go to a restaurant; I've become adept at choosing lean protein, having the cook omit the fat, and asking for double veggies and no starch. And that works, and tastes good, and gives me the experience I want without blowing it.
But yeah, if I went back east it would be about the pizza, bagels, and cheese steaks. If I went south it would be about the barbecue, beans, cornbread, and chili. And if I went to Paris, it would be about the food. Most definitely. It would be about other things, too, but how do you make it not about the food? You have to make it about something else... a substitute.
In home life, I make it not about the food by staying busy. I keep my focus on other projects, people, things I enjoy, things that I am getting accomplished.
In my travel, I make it not about the food by making it about the people I am travelling with or who I am going to visit, and about the the activities I am going to do.
But you know what? What I have found most helpful is to sort of 'fence off' or set aside a specific time when it IS about the food, and that time is when I am cooking, or ordering, or eating. I make that the time I enjoy my food. Not a month beforehand, reading menus online and imagining all the things I could eat. Not 3 hours before mealtime, when I am obsessing about what I will have. Not the night before, when I am thinking about all the yummy stuff that might be on the breakfast buffet. I make it about the food when the food is in front of me, and once it is eaten, that is it.
That might sound SO lame and elementary to some people. But when you have struggled with disordered eating, such a simple thing becomes a life raft. Such a simple shift in thought patterns can be the difference between a built-up, obsessive, crazed binge and a calm, regular, enjoyable meal. Such a change is so, so important to getting away from the binge mindset.
So I practice this, by NOT looking for restaurants and menus and what is going to be on the buffet a month ahead of time. I practice it by letting go of those food thoughts and, in their place, thinking of the important things when I travel: the relationships, the experiences, the emotions. And if I ever go to Paris, I will eat some things I wouldn't normally eat here. But the food will stay in its place as food, and not as a companion or a cure or an obsession. That is my wish for myself and for everyone struggling with food obsession. Because it's never really about the food.
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