Anxiety Regarding Eating While Traveling

Really long post ahead!  Prepare yourselves kiddies! :D

Earlier this week Kim (if you’re not reading her blog please start! She’s awesome!) about dealing with weight and eating while traveling.  Her question at the end of the post was this:

What are your tips for eating healthy when you are in a situation that normally triggers the opposite?

Great question!  Here is the second half of my response to her (If you want to read the first half, follow the link!):

When I’m away it’s really hard for me to feel like I have control over the food situation. I’m really specific on my needs and wants, and clearly when staying with someone else that is very hard. I try to eat as many fruits and veggies as I can at every opportunity. If it’s a special occasion or you really only see them once a year, splurging is totally allowed and necessary.  I may have to do a post on this so I can go more in depth.

When I said that it’s really hard for me to feel like I have control, what I really mean is that in my head I silently freak the hell out because I’m not in control.  I have an extremely hard time going off my schedule and going with the flow when it comes to food.  When I get off schedule, my bod feels like crap.  I don’t like that feeling at all.  Traveling and eating create a good bit of anxiety for me and I hate it.

This is really a two-fold issue for me.

The first issue stems from the fact that my body needs and requires a great deal of produce.  Like, can I just live on a farm already?  You guys that have been with me for a while, you’ve seen how much fruits and veggies I take in, it’s a lot.  Which causes me to thank the baby jeebus that I’ve got a husband who can provide the dough necessary to keep us in produce because if our food was based on what I make?  Pfftttt canned peas anyone?  But for those that are new to OHC here’s a brief rundown:

Breakfast: Fresh fruit at breakfast, usually a banana in oats or oatbran.  Or an apple with yogurt.  Sometimes even more fruit is added to the oats or oatbran for extra volume.

Lunch: Salad, Smoothie (consisting of juice, fresh greens, and frozen fruit), along with fresh fruit.

Dinner: Veggie based something or other.  Occasionally there is protein on the side.

All day long I am stuffing my face with veggies and produce.  When traveling it can be really hard to fit this all in.  To make things more complicated, I need raw fruits and veggies during the day.  My body runs best when I have at least one raw meal.  I can go a day without but that’s about it.  If I start going longer without raw produce I start feeling like crap.  My skin turns icky gray, I feel bloated and run down.  I feel like a big pile of yuck.  If my produce intake gets even more limited then I really turn into a mess.

Recently I took a trip to San Fran for a foodie festival (Foodbuzz) and that was a really hard challenge to face.  When Lori and I were out and about, I ate salads with my meals as often as I could.  We were also lucky enough to stumble across a farmer’s market and we picked up some fresh fruit for the week which was really beneficial!  But when we were provided with “meals” during the festival this is when I got really frustrated and cranky.  The things that were given as our choices were pretty much meat-centric.  There was not  a lot of veggie love to be had and I was a little sad about that.  There were also a lot of sweets around, which I just don’t eat because it’s not my thing.  So while most people were stuffed, I actually was walking around starving the majority of the time because there was nothing for me to really eat.  I sampled some of the meat items to taste but that’s because I don’t really dig on having a huge portion of meat as a meal or snack.

There was one raw station that sadly not many people were interested in but I hovered around like crazy because finally some veggies! And they are raw! Score!  I loved that stuff!  But that was one day and one time.  The last meal was a farewell brunch that had two salads along with other stuff.  I don’t even remember the other stuff because I was busying stuffing my face with salad!  Two kinds! And I went back twice to fill my plate.

Looking back on the situation I think two things could have rectified this:

1. If the festival would have made it more clear that they were providing actual X number of sitdown meals, and everything else was going to be snacks and samples. Had I realized this I would have made other plans.  This was the first time this festival was held so it is a learning curve and I understand that.

2. Be more assertive and explain that I need something real to eat and then get it.  I was trying to be all go-with-the-flow to try and let go of my issues but it didn’t work out for me.  I need to realize that as it’s happening and take charge.  After all, this is me and my body, I’m responsible for it not anyone else.

This leads up to my second issue of feeling like I’m forced to eat something I don’t want to.  This happens when you are presented with food someone else has made.  How do you deal with the situation if it’s something you don’t eat?

This is a situation that causes me the most anxiety.  I have not had to deal with it all that much so far, thankfully.  I have been to potlucks and such where I’m able to skirt around not eating or find something as healthy as possible and eat that.  I hate being asked about the food though because how do you handle someone asking you if you ate such-n-such or how was such-n-such when you didn’t eat it because it’s not something you would eat?  Do you politely lie and say it was good?

I have a lot of beliefs and personal guidelines I follow and this obviously isn’t always the same as how others choose to live and eat.  This can get in the way of eating and I’ve been in situations where I made myself eat something even though I so did not want to, just so I wouldn’t offend the person offering it.


I’m at someone’s house/party/function whatever and it’s a sitdown meal with mashed potatoes, roast (it could be any meat type though), and corn.  Well now this is a huge dilemma for me.

1. I would rather not eat roast and this is because I have no idea where you purchased that roast.  Is it from a local farmer or was it on sale this week at the Kroger?  As a personal life rule, I don’t eat grocery store meat.  Factory farmed meats are a huge no-no in my book.  The last time I purchased grocery store meat was 2002 or thereabouts.  Yet I have been in situations like this where I felt like I was forced to eat the dish and so did.  I felt ill.  Not only for the fact that I just supported a practice I loath but also with myself for giving in and eating it.  UGH!

2. The mashed potatoes.  Chances are it’s not organic milk and it’s probably loaded with butter.  You may have even used cream or half and half.  I’ll eat a nibble but that’s about it.  Again, personal guidelines come into play.  I don’t really want a cream and butter laden dish.  I’ll eat it but only a small portion.

3. Corn I’ll just deal with and eat.

Man these types of situations are really hard for me to handle.   I don’t want to feel like I’m forced to eat something or compromise my beliefs just to make someone else feel better.  Yet I absolutely don’t want to offend someone either (to take it a step further, if someone is offended by your diet, that’s not something you can really help is it?) Keep in mind this is an example, there are lots of things I won’t eat either because of choice or because it doesn’t appeal to me.

Questions this type of situation raises:

How could one go about handling this type of situation?  Asking them where the purchased the meat from no matter how well phrased, will seem like an insult and rude.  When it’s a sitdown dinner like that, is it alright to pass on a dish?

If they are a close friend or family member, does one have the right to be frustrated that their food choices and preferences weren’t taken into consideration? Or is that a selfish reaction?  Not that I’m in anyway suggesting that someone alter their diet habits to fit your specific needs, but if there’s not even one dish you can feel good about eating, is it alright to feel a bit frustrated over that?

What to do? And this is again, two fold for me:

1. How do you politely decline food?

If I was just attending a dinner, I would at least make sure to eat before hand and have something ready for me at home for after.  However, if traveling and staying with another person, this isn’t always possible. Which brings us to the next issue:

2. Traveling and eating while staying with others:

How do you cope?

Is it alright to bring your own foods?

Is it alright to shop while there to pick up a few things?

Is it alright to tell someone that you just don’t eat that?

I told you, this stuff stresses me out!  Part of it too is that I don’t want to get made fun of or labeled as “picky” when I’m not picky.  I just have personal guidelines that I follow and personal food preferences that are perfect for me.  The reality is that it shouldn’t stress me out and it shouldn’t offend others but since this isn’t an ideal world, I face those things.

How do you handle these kinds of situations?  Does this stuff stress you out as well?  Do you even think about it?

6 thoughts on “Anxiety Regarding Eating While Traveling

  1. This stuff is SO stressful for me. It used to be with the ED issues, but now it’s about my personal preference for health. I pack as many nutritious eats as I can for myself when traveling. And luckily my family (even extended) has become much more accomodating to my preferences.

    However, this issue has caused me a lot of stress lately, when my friends want to go on crazy weekend trips that do not included built-in meal times. I still have trouble navigating what to do when I’m stuck in a situation where buying something to eat is simply not an option.

    • Jenny, the friend situation would indeed be a tough one to navigate. Is it possible to bring food to that too? Like PB sandwiches and things? Also though at the same time, it sounds like they aren’t taking everyone’s needs into consideration which isn’t very fair.

      Kilax, I’m so glad you liked the post! It is a long one. :p Admittedly I was surprised Foodbuzz didn’t have people’s diets in mind more and vegans for sure would have found very little to eat. Maybe I should just start telling people I’m a vegetarian? That gets me out of having to eat meat without explaining exactly why I’m not eating the meat. Although it would be a bit of a white lie since I’m not a vegetarian so I don’t know how comfortable I am with that. *sigh*

      Lori, Absolutely! International travel is a whole different ballgame and I hope that when I have that opportunity I will indeed try cultural dishes. I did try some stuff at the festival that I normally wouldn’t look twice at like a pork rind, because I wanted to try things since that’s part of the reason I was there. Now the pork rind was gross but hey, I tried it! When eating out, we do the same, we try and stay away from meats. Although I am starting to grow some balls and asking servers where the meat products come from because sometimes they are from local farmers. When that’s the case, then we have no issue supporting that!

      Krista, look at all your advice! Thank you! I agree, if the invite comes from someone who might not know me very well, indeed I would make some mention of not eating meat and that I would bring a dish. When it’s close family and friends, I sort of expect them to know that already without me having to remind them. However I probably should just stop expecting people to behave a certain way and roll with it a bit better.

      Thank you so much for the discussion guys! :D

  2. Thank you for the shout out and wonderfully kind words. You brought up so many topics I can relate to – I hope I can capture it all with my reponse!

    First of all, I would have been freaking out at that convention! Especially if most of the meals were meat-centric. That really surprises me. I figured Foodbuzz would be more with the times and feature more veggies. When I travel to things like that, I have the hardest time coordinating dinner locations with other people. They always want to eat things I don’t! And it is totally okay to eat whatever you want, but a steak house? Come on.

    We are meeting friends for lunch on Saturday and they offered to cook. I immediately told them I am vegan and will bring a dish. I hate not knowing what is in food, like in your roast and potatoes example. I just want to put the best stuff in my body, and save time for treats! Traveling should not mean all treats all the time! So many people look forward to that though, so they come to expect it.

    I think it is alright to bring food and tell someone you won’t eat something. But, let me share this. My family came to visit in Nov. (mom, dad and grandma) and my mom brought all of her own food to make even though I told her I had meals to make… it was strange. She just decided in her head what she wanted and couldn’t let it go. I understand that – thinking of something and wanting to do it, but she didn’t even discuss it with me! (And she is not on any special diet). I was a bit upset that she wanted to make her own food without talking to me. So, I would just advise on talking to the person about it!

    Oh. And it is totally all about control. I think that is why I have been doing well without binge eating lately is because I am in my own home. We will see how this weekend goes.

    I am sure I forgot to say something. Ugh.

    Great post!

  3. You know me, it’s all about what type of travel it is. If it’s international I put aside all my regular habits and get engrossed in the culture as much as possible. It’s just the way I like to be.

    I know what you mean about the sources of meat though. This is a big topic for us right now. We are developing some different beliefs that those around us don’t have. When we eat out at places that we would typically not choose we try to go vegetarian. But when you are with family, it’s a bit different. We haven’t had too much of an issue thus far. Personally I think being both open, yet kind and understanding is the best policy.

  4. Krista says:

    I’m not going to comment on all the questions but I’ll comment on a couple of things.

    With respect to having dinner at friends, if your eating requirements are quite specific and the invite comes from someone who has no ideas about your eating requirements then I’d tell the invitee that I’d bring a salad (or something I am willing to eat). I’d eat what I could but meat and dairy are two biggies that don’t shock many people.

    For eating out when I’m working, depending on where it is I either shop locally and get fresh things (sometimes tricky when you are in the downtown of a city). If it isn’t possible to do this, I do ask for specific things if I know they will be serving food at meetings. I haven’t had any problems with this. Some of my requirements come form allergies so that is a good “excuse” to eat a certain way.

  5. Great post.
    Let me give you a view from the otherside. I eat crap 24/7 but I am working on that. I totally respect anyone who is trying to eat better. When I invite people over to my house to eat if I don’t know them well I would ask specific questions about foods they will/won’t eat. I would never be offended is someone brought their own snacks or something they prefer to eat.
    If you were staying with me I would specifically purchase items I knew you would eat.
    If you are my friend I would understand and respect not only eating times (I MUST have food or my blood sugar bottoms out) and make accomidations and ensure it is user friendly to you my friend and guest.
    That being said, you are always welcome at my home, I would not want it to cause any anxiety. Speak up and tell me if you can’t/won’t eat it. I will still like you and I just might learn a few things and I would adjust and improve my diet – at least for the time!!

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