Overcoming Body Image Issues Through Traveling - How I Beat Them
How I overcame my body image issues through traveling
Plus my favorite tricks to stay healthy on the road!
Overcoming body image issues through traveling + 8 secret healthy travel tips
Overcoming body image issues through traveling has made me not think: “Nah, I can’t eat this. Too many carbs. And I really need to watch out for my weight!”, all the time.
But how often did this sentence or a similar version of it cross your mind over the past few days? Let me guess, at least once! Not even 50% of the women in our society feel body confident. Almost every woman says she needs to lose weight or wants to change something about her looks. However, most of us don’t really know how much negative impact this thought has on our health. Having the desire to work on yourself and improve your bodies strength and functionality is great, though even having body image issues can become a serious threat to your overall health.
Hating your looks can result in serious body damage, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety - just to mention a few. However, we are all human and especially in the age of social media, it is totally normal to not feel body confident all the time and totally normal to have body image issues while traveling. We all have times of struggle and doubts – this is what makes us human. And no one says you shouldn’t want to work towards becoming a healthier and stronger you either. On the contrary, this should be your number one goal. Though, you should never hate your body for the way it looks.
But I guess you knew this already and the problem isn’t that you don’t want to overcome these issues, but it’s that you don’t know how to overcome body image issues.
I know exactly how you feel! Why, because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to find yourself in a never-ending vicious cycle of doubts and struggles.
Though, trust me when I say, there is a way out of it. There is a way you can become body confident and live your best and happiest life in a body that is totally beautiful in its uniqueness. Let me help you overcome your body image issues and gain body confidence by telling my story about how traveling saved me from having serious body damage and regain happiness. And if you read till the end, I’ll have some quick healthy travel tips for you too.
My journey of regaining body confidence
The path of overcoming body image issues is as individual and unique as every single one of us. There is no right or wrong way. And while there were numerus things that helped me during my journey, traveling certainly had the biggest impact of all of them. Traveling was the trigger that made me question my situation, then one thing lead to the other and finally got me out of that destructive habit of body shame.
Though let’s start from the beginning.
I never really had body issues in my teens, I felt confident the way I looked. Sure, there were certain parts I wanted to work on but I was never unhappy with how I looked.
At the age of 17, I got stomach flu and could barely eat anything without having pain. I decided to change my nutrition with the hope it would better. At the same time, I got really into fitness. I’ve always loved testing out my limits and pushing beyond them. That’s why I got to love weight training so much and started executing it quite excessively.
While my goal, at first, wasn’t to lose weight but to get healthy again, I still dropped a lot of weight because of my new diet and passion for fitness. By the time June came around, I had lost 10kg in 6 months.
The more weight I lost the more attention I got from friends and family. Everyone congratulated me on my achievements and the way I looked. Leaner and more toned. The more attention I got for my looks, the more I focused on getting fitter, leaner and more shredded. In July, I graduated high school and could, therefore, devote all my time and energy to eating clean and working out as much as possible.
Fitness was my life, my passion, my addiction.
Working out was all I did and all I had. And the best thing was, I received positive attention for it, attention I’d never had before. From that moment on, I defined myself through fitness, through the way I looked and through the attention I received for it.
Though what I didn’t know, this was the first step I took in direction of developing serious body image issues.
Don’t ever define yourself, or let others define you, by how you look.
At the time, I didn’t know it any better. I felt so good while working out, I was stronger, fitter and “healthier”. I thought I was living my passion and passion is what defines you, isn’t it? I now know that the real problem was that fitness was my ONLY passion. If I would have had something else, something more, I would have probably not defined myself entirely by how fit I was.
Mid October, I started traveling, I went on that world trip I had dreamed of since I was 15. I had the best time of my life!
I still tried to eat healthily and work out but I clearly couldn’t maintain the lifestyle I had at home. Because of less training and because my body was starved, I started to put on weight and after a few months of traveling, I was back up to the point from which I had started out. At the time, I didn’t really care, I had no mirror to control my looks anyway. Also, nothing really changed, I still got the same amount of attention, if not more and was completely happy with my life at that time.
Though once I got home, I realized how much my looks had changed. I felt some sort of dissatisfaction but I thought I’ll just work on it. I did it once so I can do it again, right? Wrong! Because what I didn’t know at that time was, that I was very close to metabolic damage and my body was in a sort of defense mode.
After weeks of crushing it at the gym and eating well I realized, nothing had really changed. I still looked the same way and I hated it. Every girl I saw was prettier and the worst, I knew I’d had those looks before. But somehow, I couldn’t get back to looking like this. My dissatisfaction grew. I got angry and sad and developed a serious lack of confidence.
I lost control over the one thing I felt I could control – the way I looked.
Back then it took me weeks to realize, it wasn’t only about body image anymore, it was more about losing control, which for me (as a scheduling addicted person) was even worse.
Don’t lose faith in yourself.
This was the point where I needed to be strong. I needed to have faith in myself and trust in my ability to get out of this negative mindset.
I needed to actively choose to end this vicious cycle and do something about the way I felt: Depressed and full of self-doubt.
I had to accept where I was, forgive myself and move on.
Overcoming body image issues through traveling starts with the willingness to change something.
Because I loved traveling so much, I booked another ticket which took me to Costa Rica. Traveling finally gave me the distance I needed to free my mind. I got out of that destructive environment in which I couldn’t make any impartial decisions.
Get out of that environment to look at your lifestyle from an outside point of view.
In Costa Rica I got into Yoga, its spirituality and way of seeing the world helped me a lot throughout this journey. In addition, I was forced to deal with my lifestyle. I needed to figure out a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle without working out 6 times a week and weighing my food. I had to try different things and surprisingly started leading a happy life again.
It reminded me of how happy I was when traveling the last time. It was an experiment and it was successful. I didn’t lose weight but I didn’t gain any either so my goal was kind of reached. In addition, I regained confidence and positivity.
Back home I applied the things I had learned. Worked out in a less, ate healthy but not with a caloric deficit and started looking for other passions to give my life purpose. However, there were still times where I was about to fall back into old habits. That’s why, …
You can’t do this alone and you need to listen to the people in your life.
This is something I should have done a lot earlier. I remember a girl in my gym once say to me: “You look great Tara, but please don’t lose any more weight!”. You need to be open to take GOOD advice, to actually listen to and not just hear what others say. What really helped me though was to see how other people ate and trained. It made me realize how much I had overdone it. Also, I listened to podcasts about body image issues and was thankful for realizing so early how wrong I had done my body and myself. Lastly, studying sport science really opened my eyes and helped me to get rid of this Mindset before anything serious could happen.
While I never had any real eating disorders, my addiction to fitness was what had drawn me into this mess in the first place. To be exact it was my wrong perception of what “fit” is that caused my body image issues. And trust me when I say, I wished a lot of times, I wouldn’t have started with fitness in the first place because it cost me my confidence.
See the body for what it is. Think of all the incredible things you couldn’t do without it.
Through my studies, I learned a better definition of what “fit” really means.
Being fit isn’t about being lean and toned, it is about having enough muscles and strength to do all the things you want and need to do. It is about being physically strong enough to succeed in all areas of your life.
While I was on the best way to overcome my body image issues, I needed to take one more step to finally heal. I needed to find other things to focus on. So, at the beginning of this year, I got deeper into self-development. It has always been a huge interest of mine but over the years I lost sight. However, now I’m back on track and my goal is no longer to just get physically strong, but mentally strong as well. Now my focus lies on becoming the best version of myself in all areas of life. I might not be as lean as before, but I am at least - if not even more - strong and fit and certainly a lot healthier than before. And I no longer define myself by how I look or how fit I am, more importantly, I focus on growth - the growth of me as a person.
So, what to learn from this journey?
Body image issues are holding you back from pursuing happiness and living the best life you can. For being successful and loved you don’t need to have six-pack abs or thigh gaps. You need to be strong, mentally and physically. You need a body that can work in its best form every day to make your dreams come true.
Do what you love and most importantly love life! Once you realize how great your body is serving you during pursuing your dreams, you can’t do other than love it.
Though from all I know, you can’t overcome your body image issues just by thinking you must act. So, I urge you to actively do something against having body image issues and help others overcome it too. We need each other not to put ourselves down but to lift us up!
Here are my favorite quick healthy travel tips to make sure you stay on track during your travels
- Set out a plan before you start traveling. Plan a workout routine you can do everywhere. Running is a great way to stay fit. You can also do water activity or bodyweight workouts at the beach or in your apartment.
- Don’t schedule too many workouts, you might not want/can’t do them all. By aiming for less the chances of sticking to it and therefore being satisfied is greater.
- Set out different options for workouts just in case. Think of all possibilities and what you need for each workout. For example, if you want to do an ab exercise but can’t lay down anywhere, go running instead. If you can’t go running, maybe go for a hike/walk. Just get creative with your workouts.
- Buy your food at local markets and cook in the hostel/apartment kitchen.
- Have the commitment to stick to your plans. If it’s too hot during the day, get up earlier or do it in the evening.
- Take time off, if you feel like it, vacation is for relaxation.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stick to your plans. Traveling is hard to predict. Just do the best you can and as I said: Get creative and belief in yourself and you’ll find a way.
- Get back on it right after you get home!
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Guest Author Tara is on a mission to spread the stoke of life and traveling and inspire you to grow. She blogs about travel, fitness and personal growth and loves to help and inspire everyone to find confidence and happiness in life. She also loves adventures, creating and learning new things and eats banana with almond butter all day long.
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