Hey everyone! Connie, one of the RLRD interns here again. As I was thinking about what I would like to share with you today, I thought about the upcoming eating experiences I’m going to have this summer and what those experiences will look like. I thought some of you might resonate with eating less than perfect food on long airplane rides, a road trip fast food or hole in the wall food stop and finding some peace in that.
I have a really wonderful family trip to Croatia that I am so looking forward to with many eating experiences that I’m sure will be surreal and filled with authentic and unique food accompanied with a view! I will also have my last week as a camp director with food that is meant to feed almost 300 people from one kitchen in about one hour which means the eating experience is going to be less than ideal some of the time. What’s cool about both of these experiences is that I can still find nourishment and satisfaction in each, they just might present themselves in different ways.
I wanted to talk to you about camp food because I’ve learned a lot from it. The camp I volunteer for and have for several years is called Camp Fox, a beautiful place tucked in a cove on Catalina Island off the coast of California filled with self growth, new experiences, and getting to support and shape some young middle schoolers that fill that space for one wonderful week. It really is a magical place but camp food and I have been through our ups and downs. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing with camp food.
The first year at camp I was still very much in diet mindset and was the one member of the director team who brought far too many refrigerated snacks for fear of foreign food that wasn’t deemed “healthy” enough. There’s nothing wrong with snacks or packing snacks, but snacking out of necessity and/or pleasure is different than snacking out of fear. I was scared to let go of the rules I had made for myself and was scared of letting go and fully embracing camp food. I remember that being really stressful for me and it took away a lot of my mental energy that I could have been spending on building relationships, fearlessly embracing new experiences, and just doing something as simple as feeding myself. Whether it’s a vacation, family bbq or time away at a camp, maybe some of you can relate to stressing about food that will be served somewhere?
In the years to follow, I graduated college, started grad school, and discovered this thing called intuitive eating and fully living all while coming back to camp almost every summer. Last summer was by far the best year I’ve ever had at camp because instead of critically analyzing the food served, I just accepted it as fuel that I very much needed, and moved on. It was incredibly freeing to just accept that the food provided was all that was being provided- no special orders- no fancy food- just food. Side note –> of course, if you have a true allergy or medically indicated diet that’s a different story 🙂
Sure the eggs probably aren’t cage free, theres no Ezekiel bread – just regular old white bread – and who knows where the meat comes from, but I realized it’s actually pretty good! It was my fear that told me I didn’t. I found I really loved many of the things I previously denied like the crispy potatoes at breakfast in the morning. I found that along with eggs and some fruit, that breakfast holds me for a few hours so that I CAN take that 2 hour kayak without thoughts of food. I can 100% focus on my task at hand until a snack is needed because I’m hungry. I found that I could use camp food as a small nutrition education opportunity for my kids. I love teaching them how to balance a simple plate. They find pride in showing me their protein, carb, fat, and fiber in every meal and we all enjoyed our fun food together as a group after meals too.
This process wasn’t fast, nor was it glamorous. I didn’t just magically arrive one summer at camp sans my food rules. It took asking myself hard questions, working through and accepting my body, focus on what really mattered and moving forward with my life. All these things are hard, but know that you can do hard things.
During this process, I realized a few things that were helpful in getting me to this point. Maybe they will be helpful for you too.
1. There’s a lot that goes into food. Nourishment, taste and preferences, quality, and experience – just to name a few. Not every eating experience has all of these! I’m sure some experiences in Croatia will, but camp, no. I realized that if you don’t have all these components at the end of the day you still have food. That is a gift and a privilege that not everyone has. You still have nourishment that you can attempt to make work. Where can you get all the macronutrients together and maybe find some fiber that keeps your GI system healthy and move on. Where can you find satisfaction with what you’ve got?!
2. There will be opportunities for you to choose your food and have it in an ideal setting in the future and what a privilege that is! Just because I’m not having ideal eating experiences for a few days doesn’t mean I won’t have them in the future.
3. I will be ok without my “normal” food. In fact it will just taste that much better once I get home! A day without kale and days with some extra cake (or camp cookies) isn’t going to throw my or your body out of equilibrium.
4. Use this as an opportunity to try something new and focus on another enjoyable part of the meal. Why not experiment? I absolutely love the dining hall experience. The kids have cheering matches, play with cups on the table to the beat of the music, and we are all enjoying life together. What a wonderful thing. Carpe diem!
I share this with you because I think this is something many people struggle with when moving forward with intuitive eating. Making intuitive eating decisions when you have all the food and finances available is different than making intuitive eating decisions when you have limited choices and resources – that can be hard. I hope this post encourages you to try and embrace that hole in the wall restaurant or those baked beans on a camp fire. Food isn’t always the most gourmet and satisfying experience, but at the end of the day, it’s still food. And that’s something to be thankful for.