Mindful Eating while Travelling

Eating well while travelling can seem like a huge challenge. Here's how I do it.

Breakfast: Fruit platter, coffee, juice
Flaxseed toast, almond buter

Years ago, long before I knew that eating consistently is a feature of both non-disordered eating and successful long-term maintenance after weight loss, I noticed a very obvious difference between fellow travellers with food or weight concerns and those without

Specifically, I noticed that my food-normal travel companions did not eat much differently, particularly quantity-wise, than when at home. Faced with an exciting all-you-can-eat buffet, my sister selected two slices of toast, just like any other day, and tea. What? ‘Do you not see the chocolate croissant?’ ‘Yes, but, maybe later, maybe tomorrow, if I feel like it.’

That ‘if I feel like it’ is the whole point of this post. It means that someone is operating from internal cues (‘what do I feel like eating?’ ‘how will this make me feel later?’ ‘how hungry am I really?’) rather than external (‘I should eat *this*’, ‘it’s a cheat day’, ‘I already paid for it’, ‘I can’t eat that’, ‘but it’s a buffet! OMG, look at all things!’). In a practical sense, internally driven, ‘mindful’ eating leads to a more stable food intake across the year and there is less weight cycling related to holidays or seasonal events.

Pineapple/ginger juice, espresso, tempeh bowl
Mint tea

As I write this, I’m on holiday in Bali, and noticed that without really trying, I’ve evolved into one of those people that is more-or-less immune to the breakfast buffet. It’s not willpower, it’s a natural effect of never ‘dieting’ and of practicing mindful eating. My usual way of eating is not something that I need a break from these days. That’s not to say that I don’t think about what’s healthy when making food decisions, or that I don’t eat something just because I want to try it, but there’s no stress associated with either of those scenarios.

It’s so far removed from about 10 years ago when my holiday modus was either splurge and feel awful, or deprive myself and feel.. deprived but ‘good’, then probably binge later anyway.. I’m sure this state of affairs is depressingly familiar to some! It can really suck the joy out of your holiday, can’t it?

So, yesterday I took pics of everything I ate and thought I’d take you through my day. A sort of insight into how I think about food these days. It might be interesting.. or not, but it’s a good exercise for me to do now and then to make sure I’m paying attention.

Breakfast (top pic) was late, about 10am. It’s really hot, so I’m making the most of the ripe tropical fruit and juices. I’ve fallen off the caffeine wagon somewhat since getting a cold, so there’s my first espresso. I saw flax bread and almond butter on the menu and wanted to try it (plus omega 3’s). I ate about half of that before it began to bore me. It wasn’t super delicious.

Then we starting exploring Seminyak. About 1pm I started feeling hungry and considered getting a snack, but decided to wait as lunch wouldn’t be far off. In the past, when recovering from binge eating, I would have eaten then, but I’m now comfortable with being hungry. I’ve also noticed that hunger ebbs and flows. I can feel quite hungry, then it fades and comes back later. It took a bit of searching to find a lunch spot and by the time we sat down I was definitely ready to eat.

For lunch I ordered a juice with ginger in it (to try and dispel the lurgy a bit more), another espresso and a tempeh bowl. I’m always looking for new ways to prepare tempeh. It was all ok. It was also nice to get some veges after all the pizza we ate in Europe. The post-lunch mint tea was an excuse to hang out for longer, as the rainy season was pounding down outside.

Once the deluge passed we did some more nosing around and headed back to the hotel to literally chill (the air con feels like a polar blast, though it’s set at 21C).

About 4.30, I had the munchies, slight hunger, but definite interest in food. Remembering the massive bag of chocolate that was gifted to us when we left Switzerland, I reached across the bed to say hello. I pretty much always snack late afternoon. It’s just my natural body rhythm to eat something at that time. I thought about going to the bar for fruit, but was too lazy.

Swiss milk chocolate with nuts

I followed that up with a herbal tea (no caffeine after lunch or insomnia), started this blog post then wandered back into Seminyak to find a dinner spot, preferably somewhere doing local food dishes. I mean… if I’m going to eat pizza, I want to be in Italy being served by a multi-lingual, plate-balancing Italian career-waiter with a slightly superior air, not a smiley Indonesian.

Basically, the Balinese are the nicest people in the world. Can you think of any nicer people? If so, let me know in the comments.


Hibiscus tea

We found a place, and ordered drinks. I do drink alcohol, but not every night, and not when I’ve got a cold, so ordered the ‘coconut water’ for hydration, electrolytes and because I like it. This came in an amusing coconut shell that was bigger than my face (on the right in the picture below). Then we both ordered curries, which were heavy with coconut cream, and a very spicy papaya salad. My appetite was pretty low on this night so I left about half the curry behind. I used to feel so rude doing that, but .. . it’s my body. Why overstuff myself just in case the chef feels unappreciated?

Coconut water, green curry (vegetarian), papaya salad, steamed rice

Dinner was a lengthy process, there was a fire-dancing show on across the road, and in their breaks, a cover band with an Indonesian singer that sounded exactly like Kenny Rogers.

We then took the long way back to our Bali home, crashed for the night and woke up for another late breakfast. There were no thoughts about what I’d eaten the night before, no checking if my pants were tighter, just some hard-hitting realisations that in a few days I’m going to have to cope without a spread of tropical fruit waiting for me when I get up. Noooooo.

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