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):
A little walking, then
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.
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):
Friday (day in SF):
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.
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.
Saturday (day in Napa – my 31st birthday):
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.
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.
Sunday (Napa & drive down to Carmel):
Monday (Carmel & Big Sur):
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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