I’m lucky enough to be in the beautiful South of France at the moment for some sun, sea and vitamin D. After many months of exams and deadlines, I am loving breaking with my routine, not setting alarms and of course all the french food.

When it came to holidays, I used to be the girl that carried an aisle worth of wholefoods supplies in my suitcase. Everything from rye bread to raw snack bars, chia seeds and acai powder. It wasn’t necessarily wrong or bad, but it definitely made for a heavier suitcase and distracted me from the opportunity of trying different more local foods.

The last 3 years however, I haven’t brought anything. Actually, that’s a white lie, I brought some coffee capsules out for my mum and have asked my darling boyfriend to bring some Pip and Nut at the weekend because I have this vision buttery croissants drizzled with coconut almond butter. But other than that, I’ve just sought to enjoy whatever offerings are available here without worrying too much about the finer details, it’s a holiday after all.

I don’t need rye bread because I’ve learnt to appreciate that freshly baked baguette is unbelievably delicious and nothing to feel guilty about. I don’t need a whole load of extra superfoods because all food is super in its own right, and even though I’m eating far less vegetables than I would at home in place of ice cream, creamy burrata and pain au chocolat, I’m actually really at peace with that.

I thought it would be useful to share some coping mechanisms on food and eating for if you’re in recovery or struggling with disordered or anxious eating. These are things to try out but I also want to stress that you are allowed to go at your own pace. If it feels safer to travel with snacks or other safe foods in the place you’re in, then please do. There’s no right or wrong but I hope these tips will make you feel more at ease towards food on holiday and able to enjoy your time away.

Remember food is more than nutrition

That’s right! Contrary to Hippocrates food is more than medicine. Saying we should only eat food for fuel or for therapeutic purposes is like saying we should only have sex to procreate! It misses the whole other side of the coin. Food is about socialising, it’s about pleasure, adventure, discovery and coming together.

On holiday I feel like the pleasurable and social aspects of food are even more magnified. It makes me think of a family tradition we have our here with some friends of ours who own several restaurants out here. Every year they invite us to their beautiful home overlooking the hills for the most lovingly prepared dinner. Some years we start with drinks and slices of pizza straight from the pizza oven with shaved truffle. Others, socca chips with spicy tomato salsa made with homegrown chillis from the garden. Around the table there is are generations from the age of 1 right the way up to Grandparents and a mixture of English and French chatter. We tear chunks of bread from whole freshly baked loaves as we chat and sip our wine. The table is also filled with giant platters of all sorts of varieties of juicy tomatoes which we cut into and share between us with balls of creamy mozerella, ripe melon and Parma ham. For main, giant grilled shrimp appear from the open kitchen served with creamy polenta. My favourite is always dessert – obviously. Homegrown figs picked that day and transformed into the most delicious tart with homemade shortcrust pastry, and a scoop of carte d’Or straight from the plastic tub. The occasion is always a celebration of family and friendship centred around beautiful food. We eat beyond the point of fullness savoury eat mouthful as we clink glasses laughing santé.  It always reminds me that food is so much more important than nutrients and units of energy.

 

A picture from the dinner table.

 

Try something new

Holidays are a lovely opportunity to try foods you wouldn’t usually eat at home. Whilst I love my English supermarkets and frequent porridge breakfasts it’s also lovely to explore different cuisines. In France, I particularly love all the fresh fish that just tastes so different to back home as well as swapping my more traditional breakfasts for brioche, pain au chocolat and croissants.

Fresh fish in France served with baked potato and sour cream

Pastries in the market

Aside from France however, some of the best tasting food I’ve had in my life has been on holiday.  From Pad Thai in the streets of Bangkok, to Pho with locals in Vietnam and of course tagine in Morocco. Last year my boyfriend and I were in Sri Lanka and that was a definite favourite, dhal for breakfast with roti and string hoppers was something I could have got used to.

Dahl and Roti for breakfast in Sri Lanka

The most incredible curry in Sri Lanka

Sticky rice balls we were served in a rural village in Cambodia

I’ve learnt it’s ok to prioritise exploring a cuisine and trying a million and one different delicious dishes over worrying about my 5 a day or stupid food rules. It’s all part of the experience of being in a new place and getting to grips with a different culture. You have full permission to enjoy it.

Salted caramel popcorn sundae – one of the best desserts I’ve ever had on holiday.

 

 

You will survive a few days or weeks without the perfect diet

I’ve found this to be a great coping mechanism. Firstly, there’s no such thing as the perfect diet but secondly, you will survive a few days or weeks without broccoli or kale! Actually, I survived most of my childhood without kale and was totally fine. Don’t get bogged down in the guilt or what translates into “omg I feel like crap for eating shit”.

You haven’t eaten shit, you’ve eaten for pleasure, experience and adventure. Intuitively, after a while you may want some extra veggies on your plate and that’s totally ok. Being away also makes me realise how spoilt we are in the UK with access to quality fruits and veggies pretty much all year round. Abroad they can often be more difficult to get your hands on. Be grateful for how lucky we are rather than stress about a few days or weeks without Tesco and avocados. There will be plenty of opportunities to eat those greens in the future, a period of including a few more play foods and likely a few glasses of wine isn’t going to harm you, so do yourself a favour and just enjoy it free from guilt.

spaghetti vongole in Italia

Gelato in Roma

 

Holidays are about more than just food

Last but not least, holidays are about so much more than food. I know it can be difficult if you’re struggling to relax and embrace a new place,  but try and look for some good. Spend some quality time with people you love, take in the views and sunsets, the culture and architecture or just enjoy a good book. You deserve to enjoy your holiday!

Love Isabella xx

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