How I eat while I travel – Part 2

I didn’t think a travel post would be complete without seeing some real, concrete examples of what I eat along with the thought processes that accompany them. You’ll see below that the main difference between how I used to eat and how I eat now comes with the mindset I use. Before, I placed little importance on how I felt while I ate the food. The food controlled me. Now, I am the main source of inspiration for WHAT I eat and HOW MUCH of it I eat. I hope that comes across in this post. 

Here’s an old type of travel eating day in New York City in 2012 (unbeknownst to my food intolerances, still eating everything, blissfully unaware):

Breakfast:

  • Cappuccino from Starbucks with tons of sugar
  • Kind bar

A little walking, then

  • Sampler platter from Momofuku milk bar: ice cream, cinnamon bun cheesecake pie, cake truffles. Feel like crap, but give zero cares for my fullness level or sugar high because this is vacation, and I eat whatever and however much I want with no regard for my body.

Lunch:

  • Sandwich, fries, and brisket at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. I eat all of it and am overly full and still feeling like crap from all the sugar but still eat:
  • Sugary lemonade
  • 2 macarons

Snack:

  • More bites from Momofuku, mainly the cheesecake pie. I finish it and a cake truffle.

Dinner:

  • Later, at Gotham Steak, have a dirty martini, glass of wine, and lots of bread with butter.
  • Cauliflower salad with raisins, almonds, and capers as an appetizer. Eat all of it.
  • Another glass of wine, steak, risotto. Eat it all and drink more wine.
  • We order a couple desserts, and I take several bites of them all. I am overly full, still, but again, it’s vacation and I’m bingeing and eating it all. I order an after dinner port and drink that, too.
  • Finish momofuku cake truffles when we get back to the hotel and a bite of a Sprinkle’s cupcake even though I’m stuffed because it’s vacation and the diet starts tomorrow.

Granted, this is a day on vacation that hardly EVER HAPPENS. You’re probably like, whatever, it’s ONE day. But the thing is, eating “whatever I want” should mean that the food that encompasses “whatever I want” should make me feel good. But reality, it doesn’t make me feel good, so therefore, I don’t REALLY want it. The above outlines my mentality around the food, which is “I’m on vacation, I get to do whatever I want, and I get to eat and drink it ALL (regardless and ignorant of whether I actually want it or not), because this isn’t reality.” Well, it is reality. And the reality is that the next day I felt terrible, and came home vowing to eat nothing but vegetables for a week.

Many people would say that’s balance, but not in my world. There shouldn’t be such grand oscillations of “good” and “bad” and “everything” or “nothing”. I strived for years to find the in-between, and I feel like I finally found it. What I wrote in Part 1 of this post outlines most of it, but it really comes down to checking in with myself NONSTOP. Mainly, my hunger and fullness level. I no longer plan to have treats, I have them when I feel like it (and because I allow them, I am 100% cool with small portions or a couple bites). I no longer say I can eat it all, I stop when I am full. I no longer eat because it’s there or because I said I could, I eat because I am hungry and because I REALLY want the thing I’m eating.

So, here’s a run-down of how my trip in California went, now that I evaluate my worth-it foods on a moment-to-moment basis, and usually save my splurges for things that won’t make me feel good. This is KEY! I do plan to an extent, but my planning motivation comes with knowing how I eat, and sticking to it by bringing my habits with me wherever I go. There is not a “vacation mode” and “home mode”, there is LIFE. And there is NOW. That’s it.

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Any sort of variation from my normal eating comes with a MOMENT BY MOMENT evaluation of what is worth it based on how I am feeling RIGHT THEN. I make the decisions in that exact moment. I check in with how I’m feeling, I ask myself what my hunger level is, and I ask myself how this thing is going to make me feel after I eat it, and I ask if it’s worth it. That’s it. No planning on eating four scoops of ice cream at a place that’s in a magazine just because I told myself I could. Because what if I get there and don’t want it anymore? I won’t eat it. In the past, I would have eaten it regardless and then felt like crap. I can’t emphasize how in-the-moment my decisions are (of whether I choose to eat it at all, of whether I am hungry, and when I will stop), and how they are influenced by that specific time and how I’m feeling.

If I do eat something that does not make me feel optimal (like I did on this trip to California with dairy), I DO NOT beat myself up and tell myself I’m a horrible person with no self control. I do not say “what the hell” and continue to binge. Eating something that doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean you need to open the floodgates and resume with non-stop debauchery. You can move on with your life in the next instant. You really can.

I also spend time making sure that I feel good, satisfied, and NOT deprived/restricted whatsoever, because that’s the key to not overeating. Four years ago, going to wine country and eating delicious food several times per day would have sent me into terror about how I would feel upon returning. But things are different now, better now, and I do my best to navigate when faced with these situations.

Thursday (flying to California):

  • Normal day of eating until lunch, brought dinner for the plane which was turkey meatballs, roasted vegetables, lots of berries which got crushed inside of some of my snacks and all over Derek’s Cuban sandwich from the airport and created a huge red mess, #worthit.
  • Before the flight, shared a very sugary Cuban coffee with Derek and had a couple sips.
  • Ate my dinner on the plane, then snacked on some jerky, then chocolate & dried fruit for my dessert and felt awesome.
  • When we arrived at our friend’s home, she had a lovely spread of appetizers and wine to greet us, but I wasn’t super hungry, so I just snacked on some olives, Mary’s crackers, pickled vegetables, and carrots. My friend poured me a full glass of wine, and I probably took two sips, just because I wanted to feel refreshed the next day.

Friday (day in SF):

  • Coffee (always), a couple bites of protein bars just to keep me full
  • Our friends had fruit, gluten-free bread, and bacon for us, and I ate plenty of it. I added butter and jam to my gluten free bread because I wanted it and it was delicious.
  • Lunch was at Burma Superstar, a highly recommended Burmese restaurant on Clement Street in SF. I knew this was the first meal that would include things that are outside of what I normally eat, so I made sure to eat SUPER mindfully, savoring every bite, eating only enough to satisfy me, and moving on with my life. Overindulging just doesn’t do it for me anymore, so I know that I must be mindful, because it’s a slippery slope.

We ordered a tea leaf salad with toasted lentils, pumpkin seeds, fermented tea leaf, tomatoes, lettuce, and other vegetables. It was SO GOOD. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted before, with so many different and weird textures and flavors. I ate most of this salad. We also ordered chicken curry, pork & kabocha squash stew with ginger, and a chicken & vegetable noodle dish. Each dish came with coconut rice and a cabbage slaw with mint. I took about 3 bites of each of the pork and chicken which were so delicious, one bite of the noodles, a couple bites of rice, and loaded up on the cabbage slaw as much as my eating companions let me. I felt nice & satisfied but never overly full.

  • Hours later, we stopped for a coffee at Dandelion Chocolate, and I got an almond milk cappuccino. I wanted a thick hot chocolate, but I knew I’d be having a big dinner later with wine, and I didn’t want a bloated stomach. We also had a bite or two of the free chocolate while we were ordering. Last minute, I realized I wanted something to eat with the cappuccino, so I ordered a gluten-free chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. I love the combo of coffee with a baked good, and knew that eating just a couple bites would satisfy me and put my cravings in check, as opposed to feeling my gremlin not shut up about wanting something sweet. We sat down, I took apart the cookie, ate the gooey center, and took a sip of the cappuccino with each bite. Those three or four bites were perfect.
  • For dinner, we went to Perbacco, an Italian restaurant in downtown SF. Our friends brought a beautiful bottle of red wine that we would share, so I ordered one glass of white to start off because I ordered a raw tuna appetizer with avocado and hearts of palm to begin. I ate all of it. I also took a couple bites of my friend’s appetizer, which was a melon/prosciutto salad, and a couple bites of a blue cheese poached pear mixed green salad. I didn’t know it had blue cheese, but once I took one bite, I knew it did, and stopped eating. I had wanted to avoid dairy, and I could have thrown in the towel right there, but I know better.

I finished my glass of white because it was delicious. I ordered seared scallops with almonds, capers, and raisins in a red wine sauce for my main, and I LOVED that dish. I ate ¾ of the dish, took a couple sips of the red wine, and felt satisfied. But because it was my birthday, they brought out a couple desserts, some of which had dairy, and I took just two bites, to taste it. I left most of my red wine, Derek drank the rest. I could have had more wine, and more dessert, because it was my birthday and I deserve it and what the hell and fuck it, but I wanted to feel good, to sleep well, to digest my food, more than I wanted any of those things. That’s the whole point of my moment-by-moment, is it worth it decision process. That my choices now will have an impact on me in the future.

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Saturday (day in Napa – my 31st birthday):

  • For breakfast, COFFEE. Then, I ate an epic bar and a dried apricot while Derek & I were waking up. I had more coffee during breakfast, which was more gluten free toast with butter & jam, and more berries.
  • On the drive up to Napa, I had another jerky stick before we began wine tasting so I wouldn’t get shitfaced at 11am. We arrived at a private tasting and were greeted with Sauvignon blanc. Here we go, I thought. I had a couple sips of the crisp white while we settled into the tasting.

We were poured four different boozy reds, all blends with merlot, cabernet, and malbec, with varying intensity and drinkability. We were there for almost two hours, and I probably had less than a glass of wine total. In the past, I would have mindlessly drank everything that was poured to me while my mind screamed moremoremore. But now, I know that I can have the SAME EXPERIENCE if I just taste it. Hell, an even better experience, because I’m fully present to enjoy it. We had several different pourings and refills, but I just gave my extra to Derek. By giving myself permission to drink as much as I want to, I end up drinking less. The mind is a strange thing.

  • After this, we went to lunch at Angele in downtown Napa. I ordered a nicoise salad with tuna, green beans, tomatoes, olives, avocado, and boiled potatoes. I ate the whole thing but just a few bites of the potatoes, but we did order fries for the table, which I probably ate less than 10 of. I had a glass of white wine at lunch, and just ended up taking a couple sips. I started feeling a little buzzed, so I decided to slow my roll.
  • After lunch, we got some caramel chocolates and I had one, and we took home some fudge. It was worth it.
  • We visited another vineyard, and I probably had ¼ glass of wine total. There were lots of little things to eat but I wasn’t hungry so I stuck with wine and tons of water.
  • We ended up staying at our friend’s house in Napa (with their own vineyard!), and they had tons of wine, food, and fresh appetizers. I decided that some dairy was worth it to me now. Not only was it worth it, but I wanted it. When we arrived, we were eagerly given champagne and I had a couple sips, then switched to a white Viognier which I NURSED like crazy. I had two figs wrapped with prosciutto and goat cheese, some olives, and grapes.

For dinner, several friends brought wine from their own neighboring vineyards, and we had wine from the vineyard we were staying on, so I tried several pours of different reds. We ate pulled pork, sausages, tomato & burrata salad, coleslaw, boiled yukon gold potatoes, and corn. I ate a sample platter of everything, just a couple bites of each, and then ended up putting the corn away because I didn’t want it. We had an after dinner drink, and then peaches with vanilla ice cream, and I took maybe two bites. I had told myself I could have the fudge later when I went to bed if I wanted it, but I was full and super satisfied. I definitely ate more than normal, but it felt so special to eat from the land, to drink from the land, and to be in the company of people I love and have known my whole life. In the past, I would have overeaten everything and gone to bed uncomfortable and eaten the fudge because I told myself I could, but things are no longer like this.

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Sunday (Napa & drive down to Carmel):

  • Since I paced my drinking throughout the day the night before, I didn’t wake up with a huge hangover but I definitely felt OFF.
  • COFFEE, then we had brunch at Bouchon. I REALLY wanted steak frites, but I knew it would make me feel like shit considering the alcohol I consumed the day before, and we were going to spend the entire day in the car driving and soaking in the California coast so I wanted something lighter. We ordered a goat cheese salad that was just okay, and then I had a perfect seared salmon filet in a crab consomme with vegetables from the French Laundry garden. It was SO GOOD. I made consomme in cooking school, but I’ve never tasted something like that before, ever. It was rich and sweet and I literally was drinking the broth with my coffee spoon, looking like a neanderthal, while Derek pretended he didn’t know me.
  • We picked up some goodies at Bouchon bakery, like 8 macarons, some caramel almond toffee, and Derek got a cookie. We shared a macaron (SO worth it) and started driving.
  • On the drive, I nibbled on the sugary treats including the fudge.
  • We stopped in Santa Cruz to get some incredible fish tacos. My plate had three corn tortillas, and was piled high with fish, so I ate most of the fish, one tortilla, some salsa and guacamole, and some diet coke. We shared another macaron afterwards.
  • We arrived in Carmel and went straight to the grocery store. We wanted to get stuff for breakfast and perhaps some snacks. We settled into our AirBnB, and then went straight to downtown Carmel to visit a wine shop. We had a small tasting and I probably had half a glass of wine total, no appetizers.
  • We weren’t too hungry, and all I was in the mood for was a cheese & charcuterie plate, so we stopped at a super cute restaurant called La Bicyclette. We each had one glass of wine, and ordered the cheese board, charcuterie board, and a side of roasted mushrooms. I had about half of my glass of wine, several bites of cheese with jam & honey, several slices of charcuterie, and a couple mushrooms. I’m beginning to feel tired & sluggish.

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Monday (Carmel & Big Sur):

  • We woke up, and I made us a breakfast of sauteed vegetables, breakfast sausage, and fruit. We snacked on another macaron.
  • We headed out to do a hike at Point Lobos state reserve, and shared a jerky stick and some dried fruit. We hiked for a couple hours, got our souls filled, and drove the twenty or so minutes down to Big Sur, my spiritual haven.
  • There’s currently a lot of fires in Big Sur, so unfortunately we couldn’t hike like we had planned. We went to eat and enjoy the view at Nepenthe, which doesn’t have the BEST food, but the views are incomparable. We ordered a basket of fries, and I had the chicken chipotle sandwich on a lettuce wrap with a side salad. I ate a handful of fries, all of the chicken and all the vegetables. Then we shared a macaron and a little toffee because those come with me.
  • When we headed home, we stopped at safeway to get a nice wine, some cheese, and some meat. I also got some crackers and cherry jam.
  • On our final night, we enjoyed our cheese plate, nibbling on maybe 3-4 crackers with a couple bites of cheese, some chorizo, and probably ½ glass of wine. Then we had a little fudge and the last macaron.

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What I’ve learned mainly is that the priority of eating while traveling becomes feeling well rather than experiencing food FOMO and feeling like I need to eat everything in sight. You don’t. Your experience will not change.

If you are still struggling with this, I encourage you to, first and foremost, give yourself lots of grace. Coming to the place where I’m at now took a lot of work, and it was not a linear road. There were ups and downs. But that’s the only way to learn.

It takes a long time. But remember that we always have a choice. We can always check in with ourselves. Remember that you know best.

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