Long Weekend in Portland & Boston + Intuitive Eating on Vacation

This past weekend, the hubs and I, along with our lovely group of friends from Columbia, went up to Portland, Maine to see two of our dear friends, Rich and Katrina, get married. Katrina is also a dietitian and my uncle, who works with her husband, actually introduced us when she moved down to Columbia a couple years ago. We like to giggle over the fact that my uncle totally forgot to mention that we were both RDs when he hooked us up! It was a beautiful and joy-filled wedding, and since they moved back up north last year, it was SO great to have the whole gang together again. 

Roasted pork sandwich with pickles, pickled red onions, cheddar and the yummiest sauce from Boston Public Market

Roasted pork sandwich with pickles, pickled red onions, cheddar and the yummiest sauce from Boston Public Market

I could drink this every day! Cold blended coffee drink with almond milk, spices and bitter dark chocolate from Taza Chocolate Bar at Boston Public Market. They whip it up right in front of you. 

I could drink this every day! Cold blended coffee drink with almond milk, spices and bitter dark chocolate from Taza Chocolate Bar at Boston Public Market. They whip it up right in front of you. 

The hubs and I woke up super early on Thursday to fly into Boston. We grabbed a quick lunch in the city, then spent the rest of the day driving the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountains of New Hampshire before getting to Portland dinner time. We spend the next few days eating our way through the city, beer tasting, and doing the wedding celebration thing, before heading back to Boston for a quick visit with my brother and sister-in-law. 

Instead of a usual vacation recap post, I wanted to talk a little bit about intuitive eating on vacation, because it's a topic that comes up a lot with my clients, especially during the summer. 

The start to my favorite meal of the trip at The Honey Paw in Portland: halibut crudo with sour coconut, mango, chilies and microgreens

The start to my favorite meal of the trip at The Honey Paw in Portland: halibut crudo with sour coconut, mango, chilies and microgreens

Scott's pork and crab mee goreng, a stir fried noodle dish with Maine crab and a chili crab sambal sauce. The restaurant is known for it's noodles and these were SO perfect! Full of flavor with a little bite and chew. 

Scott's pork and crab mee goreng, a stir fried noodle dish with Maine crab and a chili crab sambal sauce. The restaurant is known for it's noodles and these were SO perfect! Full of flavor with a little bite and chew. 

Lobster laksa. The broth was was good as any I've ever had, the fermented rice noodles were super thick and chewy (just how I like 'em!), and there were lots of chunks of lobster and cauliflower! 

Lobster laksa. The broth was was good as any I've ever had, the fermented rice noodles were super thick and chewy (just how I like 'em!), and there were lots of chunks of lobster and cauliflower! 

Even when I was my most restrictive, interestingly, I was my most intuitive around food when I traveled. I never felt the need to restrict on vacation, because I think for me, food FOMO and my desire to try new foods trumped any fear I had about food, health or weight gain. I do frequently remember eating well past the point of fullness to the point where I was very uncomfortable. But because I like a wide variety of foods and really value trying local specialties, the big picture of my eating was usually pretty balanced with lots of produce, and I don't remember feeling too stressed over my eating. 

Started our first morning with a donut picnic by the waterfront with the hubs, my friend Sandra and her husband. About 472 people messaged me to say GO TO HOLY DONUTS, so we obliged. They make the most incredible potato donuts (sounds crazy, tastes delish!). Pictured from top L: savory bacon and cheddar, chocolate and sea salt, sweet potato ginger, wild blueberry, pomegranate, and maple bacon, My favorite was the savory bacon and cheddar (because I'm a savory gal!) and the pomegranate. 

Started our first morning with a donut picnic by the waterfront with the hubs, my friend Sandra and her husband. About 472 people messaged me to say GO TO HOLY DONUTS, so we obliged. They make the most incredible potato donuts (sounds crazy, tastes delish!). Pictured from top L: savory bacon and cheddar, chocolate and sea salt, sweet potato ginger, wild blueberry, pomegranate, and maple bacon, My favorite was the savory bacon and cheddar (because I'm a savory gal!) and the pomegranate. 

When I started working with clients on intuitive eating, it made me sad to learn how many people actively restricted on vacation or spent the whole time feeling guilty over how they ate. Knowing people miss the pleasures of exploring new foods and better understanding the cultures they're visiting, all in the name of dieting, breaks my heart a bit. 

A lot of people go into vacation with the intention of being "good." They spend weeks leading up to the trip stressing out about food, making all sorts of intricate plans for staying "in control." For about 99.9% of people. those plans go about as well as expected, and after the inevitable slip, they feel so bad that they give up and spend the rest of their trip doing what I like to call "F-it Eating." When they come back from vacation either feeling bigger or having actually gained weight, it sets off the diet cycle all over again. 

The other thing I see is people going into vacation with the mentality that it's a "cheat" day. The intentional overeating/overconsuming does two things. One, they feel like crap the whole time. And two, they don't even end up eating the food they want because food decisions are based on what they're "not allowed" to eat at home vs. what they actually want to eat. Similarly, coming back home after a long period of overconsumption sets off the diet cycle all over again. 

Awesome tapas-style seafood lunch at Eventide. Ordered raw oysters with horseradish snow and their famous lobster roll. It comes with brown butter lobster and a bun that's reminiscent of a Chinese pork bun. 

Awesome tapas-style seafood lunch at Eventide. Ordered raw oysters with horseradish snow and their famous lobster roll. It comes with brown butter lobster and a bun that's reminiscent of a Chinese pork bun. 

Fried oysters with Thai apple slaw

Fried oysters with Thai apple slaw

Looks crazy, but this octopus terrine with olive puree, pineapple and mint was SO good. 

Looks crazy, but this octopus terrine with olive puree, pineapple and mint was SO good. 

Seafood bake for the table

Seafood bake for the table

IMO, the biggest problem with taking diet mentality along with you on vacation is that it distracts from actually being in the present moment. Whether your trip is a relaxing beach vacation or a on-the-go exploration, if you're stressing about food the whole time, you're missing out. 

Want to be a more intuitive eater on vacation? It starts with not dieting before vacation. Otherwise, you'll just end up backlash eating the whole time. So that's step one. 

Beer tasting at Allagash

Beer tasting at Allagash

I like to think of vacation as an exercise in intuitive eating. You're off your schedule and routine, so it forces you to pay more attention to what you want and how you feel. I've learned a lot about my food preferences from travel. I know I like big, spicy flavors. I gravitate towards noodles. I prefer sides and sauces to mains. I like seafood a lot more than meat. Rich food needs something fresh to balance it's flavor. 

Lobster roll #2 + fried clams. Didn't eat much of the fries because I'm not big into fries. 

Lobster roll #2 + fried clams. Didn't eat much of the fries because I'm not big into fries. 

Our vacations are pretty active. For many, vacation is all about relaxing, but I think most people tend to be more active when they travel than at home. If you're using more energy, it makes sense that you'll need more food. Also, I know for me personally, I don't want to feel miserably hungry between meals and miss out on doing something because I'm busy searching out a snack, so I usually eat to a higher point of fullness at meals. Personally, I've learned that when I travel, eating to the point where I'm a little uncomfortable means I won't be famished before our next stop, but also not so miserable that I want to snuggle up in bed with a tub of tums. So if you're feeling scared about eating more on vacation, know that it may be because you need it.

Huevos rancheros from Local Sprouts. Not as good as I remember from the last time I was in Portland (beans were kinda bland) 

Huevos rancheros from Local Sprouts. Not as good as I remember from the last time I was in Portland (beans were kinda bland) 

Traveling is a good time to practice self-compassion and forgiveness - essential skills in intuitive eating. Being out of your element, it's likely you'll make a few mistakes in eating. And knowing you're out of your element, it's probably a lot easier to forgive those mistakes and chalk it up to a learning experience.

For example, when we were at Boston Public Market, I ordered this really yummy roasted pork sandwich with pickles and pickled red onions. It was SO tasty, but I had already had a (gross) airport bagel for breakfast, and then we got cheese and bread for a picnic in the White Mountains later that day. So I was a little breaded out and just didn't feel so awesome. At the time, I was debating between this amazing looking seafood stand with a Korean barbecue flavored salmon sushi roll and seared ahi tuna salad, but deferred to my husband because I was being indecisive. I regret not getting the seafood - I was in Boston where they have really amazing seafood, and I think it would have been more satisfying for what I wanted at the time. But it's regret, not shame or guilt. Not beating myself up over it, just filing that information away for the next time to think about what I'm ordering in the context of the day. 

Took a break from lobster to get OTTO's famous pizza. Slice of caramelized pear with arugula and blue cheese and a slice of mashed potato with bacon and scallions. 

Took a break from lobster to get OTTO's famous pizza. Slice of caramelized pear with arugula and blue cheese and a slice of mashed potato with bacon and scallions. 

Spicy pulled pork and scallion for the hubs

Spicy pulled pork and scallion for the hubs

Another piece of advice I give to clients is to use travel and food as a way to learn about other cultures. Understanding traditional diets and how people relate to food in other countries can be good ammunition for challenging messages about food stemming from diet culture.  

Veggie and cheese omelet with bruleed bananas and yummy toast from Portland Pottery Cafe, the cutest little spot

Veggie and cheese omelet with bruleed bananas and yummy toast from Portland Pottery Cafe, the cutest little spot

Food is allowed to be part of the fun of traveling. Think back to some of your favorite food memories from past trips. If you could go back in time, would you take that memory away? Were there any lasting consequences? You may be stressing about having that ice cream cone in the present, but did it really matter when you've had ice cream cones on vacation in the past? My guess is probably not. 

Crab and corn fritters and buffalo cauliflower with my brother and SIL in Boston at Union Oyster House

Crab and corn fritters and buffalo cauliflower with my brother and SIL in Boston at Union Oyster House

Remember the big picture. Everything evens out over time. Overeating or eating richer food than normal for a temporary period of time, even if you come back home feeling pretty bleh, even if you come back home "feeling" bigger or actually bigger, you'll soon settle back to normal as you get back to your usual routine. It's normal for weight to fluctuate within a set point range, and barring any extreme eating/behavior (i.e. backlash eating from dieting the whole time), your weight is just going to be at the higher end of your individual range. I've experienced this quite a few times with travel - I don't weight myself but I would come back with clothes fitting a little tighter. At first, it was a bit uncomfortable and scary, especially when I was still stressing a lot about my size. But I know as I get settled back into my routines and health-promoting habits, my size will settle right where it's supposed to. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Does eating on vacation stress you out? How do you find food peace when you travel? 

Views from Kancamagus Highway

Views from Kancamagus Highway

Waterfall of Kancamagus Highway

Waterfall of Kancamagus Highway

Perfect spot for a picnic snack! 

Perfect spot for a picnic snack! 

Foggy day on Cape Elizabeth

Foggy day on Cape Elizabeth

Foggy day at the Portland Head Lighthouse

Foggy day at the Portland Head Lighthouse

Cola crew! 

Cola crew! 

Beautiful bride! Love you Katrina! 

Beautiful bride! Love you Katrina! 

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