Travel in the age of eating disorders & social media
Traveling in the age of Eating Disorders & Social Media
Travel in the age of eating disorders & social media
When you’ve spent several years writing a food blog, as well as two cookbooks, and you decide to take four months away from life to travel the world, the common response is “oh my god, that’s going to be amazing! Just think of all the great food you’ll get to eat!” When you’re doing the trip with depression and anxiety, too, it’s “going to be so good for you to get away from it all for a while – just think of how relaxed you’ll be when you’re chilling out with some cheese and wine in the middle of Spain!” When you’re traveling with all of that on your shoulders and a secret eating disorder, you just want to cry.
Representation on Social Media versus Reality
Where others see you happily skipping around the globe to sample croissants in Paris and sushi in Tokyo, you’re seeing yourself balancing precariously at the edge of a big, dark hole. They imagine you sipping on sangria in Barcelona; you feel the panic rising over the thought of those empty liquid calories. They lament over how nice it’ll be to sleep in and skip the routine early mornings; you wonder if you’ll get enough steps up to burn off the day’s food without hitting the gym first. All of these gut-tightening thoughts over the very time of your life you should be relaxing and enjoying yourself. And then comes the biggest hit; “we can’t wait to see all the photos on Instagram!” Shit.
The added pressure of Social Media
While eating disorders are nothing new, social media is. Where ladies of years past only had to battle themselves, we’re now up against all of society. It’s not just the women who live on our street who see if we’ve gained or lost a few kilos. No, now 16 years old hotgirlxx00xx living on the other side of the world can judge how I look walking the streets of London while I’m meant to be on my relaxing vacation. The pressure is always there, and it’s horrifying how one badly angled photo can reduce a full-grown woman to tears; these days, sucking in my stomach feels more normal to me than not, just in case.
Eating Disorders are not just a "young girls' problem"
There’s another side to this issue that is too frequently ignored and needs to be addressed. Despite what we may have been conditioned to believe, eating disorders are not strictly the domain of the teenage girl. We may see them more in younger women, but that’s only because older women feel too judged, labeled and stereotyped to speak up about it. I’m one of those women. While I no longer have any problems talking honestly about my experiences with depression and anxiety, I still find that I can’t own my eating disorder. I have a degree in exercise science, I represented my state in taekwondo, I coached basketball and worked as a personal trainer for a decade. I’m a 32-year-old woman; I don’t feel like I have the right to an eating disorder. I feel like I should ‘know better,’ like I should have known how to avoid falling victim to something like this.
Social Conditioning and its Effects
And I know I’m not the only one. While not every woman suffers from a medically defined eating disorder, more women than not at the very least have body image issues severe enough to impact their daily lives. We’re so conditioned to accept it that we don’t even notice it anymore. Have you ever been out to dinner with your girlfriends and heard one of them say they’d pass on dessert because they’re “being good” this week? We’ve been conditioned to see foods with less nutrient density as bad. Even if sharing a piece of chocolate cake with your best friends might make you happy, we assign it a moral value of being bad. No wonder we struggle when we travel! When you’re already feeling self-conscious and your breakfast options are fried eggs with bacon or a buttery croissant, you’re feeling bad about yourself (for absolutely no reason!) before you’ve even left your hotel to see this wonderful new city you’re in!
How we can help each other
Travel is already an intense experience for us girls. We’ve already been brave enough to leave home. We’ve been strong enough to willingly throw ourselves into a foreign city where we don’t have our usual support network to lean on when things get uncomfortable. We know we’re going to go up against language barriers and culture shock and the possibility of not being able to find our favorite brand of deodorant at a foreign store. What we shouldn’t have to add to that list is the inevitability of being judged for the way our bodies look while we’re already way out of our comfort zone. Women who travel should be celebrated for their gumption, their spirit of adventure, not how they look in a short skirt. Let’s comment on the beautiful sights they’re seeing instead of their body shape. Let’s cheer on the girls strong enough to leave home and experience another part of the world, rather than feeding their eating disorders.
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We are a team of four feminist travelers coming together from different parts of the world to share with you what we have learned from traveling, living, loving, and exploring all over the world. Join us and tell your story about female solo travel, relationships, mental health, city guides, or whatever else comes to your mind.