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How to Navigate Your Next Vacation With Food and Body Image: 4 Lessons I Recently Learned

April 16, 2024

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Let’s set the scene…

It’s spring break, we’re coming out of our midwest winter, and we’re looking forward to going somewhere warm, so we chose Florida. We had actually planned this trip twice before and had to cancel it. The first time was a few years ago due to a hurricane, and the second time was during the thick of COVID. So here we are, FINALLY getting on a plane for this trip. 

We land in Destin, Florida and find our way to the condo we rented which is right on the beach and has a gorgeous view. This all sounds like sunshine and rainbows, right? Well not so fast…

Instead of sunshine and rainbows it was more like cloudiness and high winds, and chilly temperatures. 

It was a big huge bummer. I had waited so long for this trip, and had envisioned us enjoying the sand at the warm sunny beach, and floating around in the pool. That was not what ended up happening. We barely got to go to the beach on our beach vacation because it was crappy outside. At one point I’m pretty sure it was warmer back home in Kansas City than it was in Florida.

I was processing all of this with my therapist, and she asked me a question that completely changed how I look back at this experience. And this is the first lesson that I want to share with you that I know you’ll be able to apply in your own life too. 

Lesson #1: Savor What’s Good – Even When Things Feel Bad

She asked, “Was there anything good about the trip?” 

Of course, yes there was. I was immediately able to list off how cool it was to watch the boys experience their first airplane ride, and for them to see the ocean for the first time. Also, our condo truly was great, and the view was stunning, and we did enjoy the activities we did. 

But in the moment I was overcome with my negativity and my disappointment. And that was the lens through which I experienced the trip. 

My therapist said, “Can you savor the good things, even when you’re feeling frustrated and disappointed?”


The idea of “savoring” the good parts is so profound to me. It sounds kind of simple and maybe even trivial, but truly if we slow down and think about this – what would it be like to look for some of the positive things in life, even when things feel really bad or hard or stressful, and to still find and notice the good, and to savor it. Savoring it is like savoring a delicious piece of chocolate. It’s an experience, where you linger, and you notice and you soak in the pleasure. When I think back on the trip, this would have made such a big difference for me in the moment – if I could have accepted the frustrating parts, AND savored the good parts. 

Whether you’re taking a trip and you’re stressed about your body image and you feel really exposed and vulnerable in your shorts or swimsuit, or you’re going through a stressful time with one of your kids or in your marriage, we can still actively choose to notice and savor the good parts of life. 

Savoring the good parts doesn’t mean we are ignoring or negating the hard things. It means that we are choosing to hold two truths at once, which is something that I can so easily do for others and I have a REALLY hard time doing it for myself (most of us do). 

The next time you travel somewhere, I want you to put a reminder either on your calendar or in your journal if you take it with you, so you remember to savor the good parts. Because traveling means that sometimes your flight will get canceled, or your rental car will get a flat tire, or it will be cold, windy rainy weather on your beach vacation, or your family will be at each other’s throats the whole time. 

It’s great when trips go well and you have an amazing experience – but that’s rarely the reality of what it’s like to travel and having these skills and tools we can use is what will help us navigate these situations. 

Ok, let’s move onto the 2nd lesson I learned on this trip…

Lesson #2: Let Food Be Fun Without It Being THE Main Attraction 

It can be really tempting on a vacation to center it around the food. But when food becomes the main focus of a trip, it’s easy to end up not listening to your body because you’re so invested in trying all the restaurants you picked out, and getting the snacks, and having the fun drinks, and before you know it you’re walking around with a stomach ache. 

Now, I don’t want you to take this to the other extreme and be so rigid with food that you don’t cut loose and let yourself have fun on the trip either. 

There are so many other aspects of traveling to embrace and enjoy, and if you’re fixated on food you’re going to miss out on the opportunity to check out the local botanical garden, or museum, or live music, or (if you’re like us) the best mini golf course in town. 

Think of vacation entertainment and joy as a pie chart, and consider how much of that pie you want to dedicate to food, and how much you want to dedicate to other activities, as well as just focusing on the time spent together and the connection. Chances are you don’t want food to take up over 50% of this graph. Consider how you can put food into proportion and put it in its place as only ONE element of traveling. If this is challenging for you, the next time you travel I encourage you to stretch yourself and make a list of the other things you want to focus some of your time or energy on during the trip. 

Now, of course you still need to eat no matter what when you travel. And you can absolutely choose fun places to eat. I’m referring more to the mental energy spent focusing on the food, as well as having things beyond food to look forward to so that if you get to the restaurant you really wanted to go to and it’s randomly closed, or you had been intending to try that local ice cream place but the day you go there you’re actually not hungry in that moment, I want it to be ok if you don’t eat those particular foods, or if you just take a couple bites of your partner’s ice cream instead of ordering your own. When food doesn’t have a hold on you it’s not a big deal when these things happen. But if food does have a hold on you, it can really ruin the trip. 

The other thing that happens if you have all your eggs in the food basket so-to-speak is that you’re much more likely to go overboard and eat when you’re not hungry, eat things that don’t make you feel good, and to override or ignore your body’s signals because you’re so gung-ho about eating the special foods. This usually doesn’t feel good physically, and of course you end up bloated, sluggish and feeling overall like crap by the end of the trip. It’s easy to blame the food, and to judge ourselves for eating like crap, but the truth is it wasn’t the food per se – it was the fact that you weren’t listening to your body along the way. 

If you’re thinking, “Katy I don’t even know where to begin to try and find that balance and that middle ground with food on vacation.” I want you to go take my quiz called Discover Your Unique Path to Food Freedom

Based on your answers, I’ll send you an individualized report where I’ll give you insights into where you’re at, the things to focus on within your intuitive eating journey that are going to help you move forward, and tools and resources that are going to help you based on where you’re at. Click here to take the free 2-minute food freedom quiz!

Lesson #3: Be In The Pictures

We both know that vacation photos can be so triggering. Heck, the reason a lot of people diet leading up to a vacation is because they don’t want to have photos of themselves on the trip at a higher weight. Diet culture has normalized it so much that it’s almost expected or assumed that we’re going to try and lose weight before going on a trip, especially if it’s something like a cruise or a beach trip that involves swim suits or shorts and t-shirts where your legs and arms are showing. 

Ever since having kids it’s been REALLY important to me that I am in the pictures, capturing those memories, regardless of how I look. I’m not going to hide from the camera, or delete the family photo just because I don’t like the way my arms look or because I don’t have makeup on. Those are memories, and I am choosing to be present in them. I refuse to erase myself from my own life anymore. 

I want you to make a pledge with me right now: “I will be in the photos. I won’t zoom in on them to pick myself apart. I will use the photos to capture memories, not to scrutinize my body.”

Lesson #4: Have a Plan For Dinner On The Day You Return Home

We got home basically at dinner time, and we were tired, grumpy and ready to just be done. We were also tired of eating out, so I wasn’t about to order pizza or grab takeout at that point. And nothing in particular sounded good. We just needed to be fed and call it a day. 

So here’s a lesson that I learned: Have a game plan for dinner the night you arrive home before you even leave for the trip. Now, the plan for dinner might be eating at the airport or on the road if you’re getting home late. That’s still a plan. And if you’re going to need to eat dinner at home, have something already in your fridge or freezer that’s ready to go. This means that you’re going to want to have this already planned and available BEFORE you even leave on your trip. I know it’s a huge pain in the butt to do this, and you have no idea what you’re going to want to eat when you get home from a trip, and you’re already stressed out trying to plan and pack for the trip. AND TRUST ME you’ll be soooo glad you did this when you get home and dinner is there for you. 

Now there are some things to consider:

  • How long will you be gone? If it’s a short trip, you can have something in the fridge that’s defrosting and is ready to heat up when you get home, or something like deli meat for sandwiches. If it’s a longer trip, you’re going to want something that’s either in the freezer or something non-perishable like pasta and a jar of sauce that you can whip up quickly when you get home. 
  • What time do you anticipate getting home? (And consider what you’ll do if it’s later than expected too) If you’re getting home late, you’re not going to want to plan something that takes 30-60 minutes to cook. The game plan might need to be PBJ sandwiches. 
  • A few things that work well for us after travel:
    • Frozen pizza
    • Spaghetti w/ meat sauce using a can of marinara 
    • Deli meat sandwiches w/ chips
    • Soup with cheese and crackers or grilled cheese
    • Breakfast for dinner

Planning for dinner when you get home might sound unnecessary and trivial, but I can promise you that once you do it and you realize how life-changing it is.

Let’s recap those 4 lessons that I learned on our spring break trip to Florida:

  1. Savor what’s good – even when things feel bad
  2. Let food be fun without it being THE main attraction
  3. Be in the pictures
  4. Have a plan for dinner on the day you return home

Don’t forget to go take my free 2-minute quiz called Discover Your Unique Path to Food Freedom and you’ll receive a report with customized insights, tips and tools to help you move forward based on where you’re at right now.

Thank you so much for checking out this episode, that’s all for today. We’ll talk again next week!

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