Traveling in OA…food planning on the road

With Thanksgiving coming up, many of us will be traveling to friends or family for a day, two, maybe even a week of visiting. Others of us travel frequently for business…or pleasure. It reminds us of that eternal question: How do I use a food plan when I don’t necessarily know what will be served?

The answer, as it turns out, is different for every OA member. In part, of course, because we all have an individual food plan. But also, in part, because we all need different levels of structure.

For some of us, eating away from home can be an open invitation to the higher quantities our disease desires. Or to eating some of our “yellow-light” foods: ones we don’t eat frequently because they call to us sometimes, but that we don’t react to as insanely as our “red-light” foods. For others the lack of structure can feel frightening by itself. Doing things a little loosy-goosey threatens the firm boundaries we rely on.

So we each have to work out with our Higher Power and our sponsor what will work for us. There are, however, a variety of strategies that we hear in meetings that we may able to adopt or adapt for our own situations. Here’s a few:

Strategize with a sponsor before leaving.
Failure to plan is planning to fail. Talking to our sponsor before we depart and developing a strategy for the trip is a great way to bring a sense of structure to the journey.

Call ahead, when possible, to see what the menu will be.
Especially when visiting loved ones and friends, we can easily call to see what will be on the menu. If we’re concerned little or nothing will meet our needs, we can not attend, or we can ask if we can bring something we can eat.

Check out eateries along the way in advance.
We can plan where we want to stop if we are driving. The internet allows us to search out and check the menus of eateries before we leave. If we are going on an extended vacation, we can look into restaurants around our hotel or the area we are visiting to ensure we have someplace to get the food we need.

Bring food in the car/plane/train just in case.
Having a small snack item might be a saving grace if we are caught in awful traffic, sitting on a runway, or what have you and unable to eat our scheduled meal. Whatever that small item is, we tell our sponsor about it and keep it in reserve for an emergency.

Don’t always eat out.
If we are renting a house or have a hotel room with a fridge or a small galley, we may be able to buy the food we usually eat and keep it handy. That reduces our eating out and increases the structure we’ll have.

Use a 3-0-1 plan and don’t touch binge foods.
This is the first plan listed in the “Dignity of Choice” pamphlet. If we truly don’t know what our food choices will be, we can keep things simple by committing to three moderate meals a day, nothing in between, one day at a time, and no binge foods.

Stay in touch with a sponsor.
Just because we leave town doesn’t mean we leave our sponsors behind. We may need them more than ever while traveling. Even if we can’t call them without risking our anonymity, we can certainly text or email, both of which are silent. Also, if something is bugging us that may lead us to eat, staying in touch with a sponsor will help us avoid eating over feelings.

Be sure to do a 10th Step inventory at night.
The rationale here is to ensure that we check in our eating. Did we respond to anything in our day by making excuses based on our circumstances while traveling to eat compulsively? Is there anything that occurred during the day that we need to deal with before we might eat compulsively tomorrow?

Most important of all, however, is that we trust and rely on our Higher Power. Many times traveling brings with it stressors such as traffic, lost luggage, or simply the strangeness of being away from home. If visiting family and friends, we may feel ill-at-ease being a houseguest or longstanding conflicts may rear up. In many cases, we may be visiting our eating buddies. Our old way of dealing with these things was to eat for ease and comfort. Now we are in the business of trusting and relying on God. We replace food with God. We sit with difficult feelings and situations, knowing that by not reacting to them with extreme actions or with compulsive eating, we will be OK. We accept a little discomfort now in exchange for keeping the abstinence that allows us to be sane in this world.