Traveling While Recovering from an Eating Disorder
Traveling can make us feel connected with nature, expose us to new sounds, smells, and tastes, and revitalize relationships with friends or family. It can help us take a break from work or school and provide new and exciting experiences we wouldn't have on a normal day.
As exciting as traveling is, it can also be overwhelming. Packing, planning, making list after list, and the stress of the airport or driving process add up. There is a whole other realm of stressors that exist when traveling for those that suffer from eating disorders or body image issues that most people don't normally consider.
Traveling while recovering from an eating disorder can be difficult because unexpected triggers can arise. Being exposed to new foods, new environments, and stressful situations during the trip can make someone more likely to relapse if they are not prepared.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are traveling while in recovery, or if you are traveling with someone who is to help them have the best experience possible. Let's start by asking yourself:
Is it safe for me to travel at this point in my recovery?
This is an important question to consider before making the jump to travel, especially when traveling abroad. Are you confident with where you are in recovery? Talk with your support system such as your therapist, family, and friends for guidance. Ask them to help you come up with realistic expectations, goals, boundaries to set and coping tools to keep in your back pocket during your trip.
The Center for Discovery Eating Disorder Treatment website has questions you can focus on before you commit to traveling:
Are my symptoms under control?
Is my physical and mental health stable?
Have I been making progress in my recovery for an extended period of time?
Do I feel confident and supported?
When I think about traveling, does it bring me happiness and excitement or fear and anxiety?
Rely on your support system
Find someone in your support system that you can reach out to if you need help while traveling. Even better, bring that person along on the trip if possible. Whether your support person is with you on the trip or not, tell them what they can do to help you and stay in contact with them often.
More often than not, people want to help, but don't always know how. So tell them! Have someone in your contacts you can reach out to as an SOS if you become triggered or are in a stressful situation while on your trip.
Bad days happen, and that's okay
If you find yourself having a bad day while on your trip, allow yourself to have that bad day without guilt. Bad days happen. Rather than dwelling on it and telling yourself how you "should" be feeling, allow yourself to feel however you do on that bad day.
Dwelling on the fact that you're having a bad day and not letting yourself to go along with those feelings can end up making you feel worse and stretch out that bad day onto the next. If you need some alone time to sort yourself out, do that. Your feelings are valid, even on vacation.
Don't isolate yourself
If you need some alone time while traveling to center yourself, that is perfectly okay and a useful strategy to follow. However, do not get stuck isolating yourself for too long.
Isolating yourself for extended periods of time can cause unwanted thoughts and emotions to arise, which can lead to disordered eating behaviors that you have been working to avoid during your recovery. Pushing yourself to get out of the room your staying in can be daunting if you're not in the right head space, but putting yourself out there can be exactly what you need to reset and feel good.
Going for a walk, communicating with new people in the area you're visiting, and sightseeing are all good reasons you may be traveling in the first place, so go experience it! You don't want to feel like you missed out on your trip once it's over, so take advantage of the time you have the best you can while you're there.
Plan as much of your trip as you can. Talk with your therapist or support system about coping strategies to use if you find yourself in situations that could be triggering or stressful. Having a plan on how to cope will make it less likely for you to feel unsure of what to do during challenging parts of your trip. Plan fun things to do that you will enjoy!
Consider packing snacks or planning on what snacks you will buy when you get to your destination to keep on hand. Having them can be very helpful while you're traveling, but try to challenge yourself to practice some flexibility. Do your best not to only rely on the snacks you bring and practice saying yes to new foods.
Taking care of yourself
It's easy to get wrapped up in everything you have going on while traveling, so remember to prioritize taking care of yourself. Make sure you're eating and snacking, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. The more you take care of yourself, the better you will feel, and the more fun you will have on your trip!
If you're interested in hearing a personal experience of how to travel while recovering from an eating disorder, check out Chris Hernie's YouTube video where they share what they learned from traveling while in recovery.
This post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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Center for Discovery. (2021, May 28). Vacationing and traveling abroad while in Eating disorder
recovery - cfd. Center For Discovery. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from
Rollin, J. (2019, August 18). 5 tips for traveling in Eating disorder recovery. THE EATING
DISORDER CENTER. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from