Going on holiday when you are in recovery from an eating disorder, living with an eating disorder or an eating disorder survivor can be hard work at times.
Nine years ago I was discharged from a mental health hospital and I never thought I would ever be able to enjoy food whilst abroad. Eat foods without knowing what was in them and not exercise for days.
Nine years on I have managed it - I have travelled all round Europe, lived in Thailand, travelled around South East Asia, the Middle East and gone weeks without exercising. But this isn’t me showing off about how far I have come or waving a flag saying “look at me, I have travelled so much” no this is me telling you what got me through it and how I managed it.
I won’t ever forget the fear that hungover me had when I was on my way to Heathrow airport with a year ahead living in Asia with no real plan, and no idea what the food would be like. That first day in Long, where I lived for a year volunteering and where I ate cornflakes out of a glass, and ate fake ham, I had no idea what the calorie content was of anything! But it was refreshing and I survived it. Sometimes I fear I hang on to my anorexia as a sort of control. I don’t want to completely let myself go and I fear that if she isn’t nagging me at the back of mine I will put on weight. But 9 years on I am healthy and I can switch off on holiday from exercise and relax so much more about food!
It hasn’t been easy. And the reality is there are still times when she kicks up a fuss in my head. In Thailand the people are lovely and so welcoming. One Sunday morning we had breakfast and headed off for a wander around Long. The tiny village where we were living. We often got a lot of attention being the only white people, and foreigners in the village. That morning we were invited into someone’s house. And at 11AM served up a curry (I am still not entirely sure what was in it!) I had no choice but to eat it. The panic flooded through me. I had planned out my meals for the day and this wasn’t one of them. I stared at my plate frantically trying to add up the calories. But that was impossible. I remember finishing my plate and whilst I was in panic I had done it. I knew I had to keep eating through the day and I reassured myself that it would be fine. That I had to keep eating normally. And it was!
My 5 top holiday tips
- Don’t feel the pressure to eat more than you normally do like those around you
- Eat regularly
- Have a meal every other day that you’re familiar or comfortable with
- Know that one week of eating more won’t change your shape and it is good to vary up you eating and not exercise as much