How to Not Lose Your Sh*t with Food While Traveling


I just returned from a two-week vacation in New Zealand for the wedding of two wonderful humans, and it was refreshing as all hell!

It was also exhausting, but I (mostly) accepted that as part of the journey. Only some complaining about it:)

As someone who loves to travel internationally and experience new cultures, cuisines, cities, and adventures, I was forced to face my fear of losing control and going off the deep-end years ago.

In fact, when I backpacked throughout SE Asia for three months in 2014, it was the beginning of a very healing journey for me—in all aspects of my life, but especially food. 

I succumbed to the lack of routine, the unusual (to me) foods, the lack of sleep (those overnight buses were ROUGH), and the absence of gyms. I decided that if there was ever a time to release the reigns and really double down on trusting myself, that was the time.

And so I did.

I committed to honoring my body and treating it with kindness and respect—a completely foreign concept to me at that point in time.

Listening to hunger signals and eating when I needed to, not when my three girlfriends were hungry. 

Listening to fullness cues most of the time. When I decided to eat beyond the point of satisfaction, it was a very conscious choice.

Not eating to numb or distract from feelings of discomfort.

Asking myself if and when I truly wanted to consume alcohol. On that particular trip, I had maaaybe one drink every couple of days, and that was the perfect amount for me.

Developing this trust in myself around alcohol was one of the most liberating tools I acquired during that time.

Exercising when I wanted to—not due to any feelings of guilt or unworthiness. This usually meant bodyweight workouts or runs after long, overnight bus rides or when I needed to process energy.

To be clear, this wasn’t comfortable right off the bat. It was VERY uncomfortable in the beginning, and I feared that I would blow up from the lack of rigidity. To my surprise—the opposite occurred.

I lost weight—seemingly effortlessly!

While this wasn’t my intention whatsoever, it was incredibly eye opening for me.

I realized that I had it wrong all along.

My body is actually on my side, and it will settle at the weight it feels most comfortable with given my lifestyle and priorities at the time.  

My job is to let it do its thing.

My journey with food and my body endured additional ebbs and flows once I returned to the states, but that extended period of travel taught me that travel is nothing to fear and has everything to teach us.

My Recent Trip

This most recent trip to New Zealand was a very different kind of trip from the one described above. I traveled with around 15 friends for a significant portion of it, had zero alone time, was constantly on the move, drank a significant (for me) amount of booze, and ate quite a bit of processed foods.

Yet, I didn’t doubt myself, my intentions, or my actions once.


Because I’m now able to see the bigger picture, and I trust myself and my body.

I don’t follow “rules” about filling up with protein and veggies, drinking a ton of water, not standing in particular parts of the room near food. NOPE.

I focus on ensuring my mind is right, that I’m actually living—not preparing for it—and that I’m being mindful of both my body and soul.

These are my top mindset tips and approaches to keep in mind while traveling, especially this holiday season!

  • Allow Room for Change – Our bodies are ever-changing on this journey, as are our lives. If you don’t want a stagnant and boring life (I don’t), then you can’t expect your body to exemplify those traits. Essentially, loosen up a bit!

  • Play the Long Game – Trips are temporary, and healthy foods and opportunities will be more readily available once you return home. What you do the majority of the time is what matters.

Interestingly, this isn’t even comforting to me anymore. I trust my ability to adapt to these situations so much now that I look forward to the change and excitement of the new!

  • Prioritize Your Mental Energy – Using mental energy on the unhealthy choices or the calories you’re consuming will instantly take you out of the present moment. What a tragedy it is to miss out on creating memories for such trivial matters!

I experienced this on a trip to Machu Picchu in 2015, and I vowed to never make that mistake again. 

  • Weigh the Balance of Body & Soul This is the big kicker, right here. Listen to what your body is telling you, and weigh that against what your soul is craving.  

Does your body want rest and a night off from alcohol, but your soul is calling for another night out on the town with friends and a couple drinks? Which is more important to you in the moment, and is the payoff the next day worth it?

You won’t always get this answer right (you’ll know the next morning), but keep asking yourself these questions, and you’ll hone the skill of balancing these competing priorities.

The only “rule” I tend to follow is the last one, where I listen to both my body and soul, consider the action that will balance both of them (although they’re usually aligned), and act accordingly.

It’s tempting to cling to rigid rules that make us feel safe and in control, but the experience of travel should feel anything but. It’s the whole point!

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to travel to various parts of the state, country, or world, then don’t let the amazing opportunity to go waste by playing small.

You already have everything you need within you. 

In Defense of A Drunken Night Out

So you’ve had a late, booze-filled night out—potentially with some late night pizza involved—and you wake up the next morning wondering what the hell happened to your motivation to live a healthy lifestyle.

I used to adhere to a rigid approach with alcohol, but similarly to food, the relationship should be fulfilling on a holistic level. Not just physical health.

I used to adhere to a rigid approach with alcohol, but similarly to food, the relationship should be fulfilling on a holistic level. Not just physical health.

How the hell did I get here?

I uttered those words to myself every Saturday and Sunday morning for years, and it was as though I had no control over my decisions the night before. The reality is that I fully participated in the decisions that led up to my over-consumption of alcohol and junk food, but I just wasn’t ready to face that fact.

This feeling of lack of control—being on hamster wheel of overdoing EVERYTHING after loosening the reigns just a little—was a major source of my discontentment every morning.

It wasn’t the choices and uncomfortable aftermath, both physical and emotional, that led to my internal battle, but rather the feeling that I wasn’t the one making those choices. The feeling that something or someone else was in the driver’s seat of my life—it was unsettling AF.

After finally accepting the adage of “nothing changes if nothing changes”, I embarked on the journey of reframing my relationship with food, exercise, and alcohol.

Little did I know these were all directly related to my relationship with myself. 

As I worked on uncovering the motivation behind my self-destructive patterns, I started to realize that I could in-fact trust myself to make balanced choices, and that my version of balance could include consciously choosing to go overboard when I wanted to.

Discovering this involved a process of trial and error for about a year.

I would drink too much because I was caught up in what everyone else was doing and completely lost sight of what I wanted for myself (old patterns I slipped into).

On the other side of the spectrum, I would strictly adhere to my pre-determined drink limit despite my soul calling for a night of letting loose with some extra drinks.

To my surprise, the feeling of ignoring the internal pull to throw caution into the wind and have a drunken night out was often just as unsettling as a hangover I didn’t truly sign up for. 

This threw me for a loop, and I was incredibly confused. 

Wasn’t booze in excess the cause of so many of my previous internal battles?

Does this pull towards excess every-now-and-then mean I’m slipping into old patterns?

Is my intuition leading me astray? 

The answers to these questions, I discovered, was no.

The source of my internal battles was the use of alcohol (just like food) as a replacement for an internal void that I needed to attend to or a complete lack of connection to my body, intuition, and emotions.

As I explored my relationship with the concept of choosing to drink in excess consciously, I realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with making this choice. It’s not indicative of an addiction, a lack of discipline, immaturity, or of an unevolved human being.

When made consciously and with a sense of discernment and connection, these choices are simply a part of the human experience!

And what a shame it would be to live life so rigidly in the middle that we miss out on meeting our edges again. 

This may seem contradictory to my thoughts about how our extremes help us find our own middle and definition of “balance”, but balance doesn’t have to mean one mode of operation at all times.

It can mean periods of less alcohol when needing to feel more grounded or less social (if we choose to drink at all).

It can mean having a drink every night for a few weeks or months simply because it feels right and it still makes you feel physically and emotionally well overall.

It can mean an entire season of drinking more every weekend because you’re yearning for carefree social time, or simply because that’s the experience your soul is calling for.

If living a life of pure moderation isn’t one that aligns with what you want out of this life, THAT IS OK!

It’s not one that I want either, and I wish I had been given the permission to truly create my own definition of balance at the beginning of my journey of self-discovery.

Your definition of balance, health, and a fulfilling life doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

The key is to ensure that you’re the one in the driver’s seat—in tune with what your body and soul are calling for.

“All things in moderation, including moderation.” – Oscar Wilde

You don't have to pursue weight loss right now

I love everything about the Fall and Winter seasons, which means taking full advantage of all festivities and everything they have to offer! As long as I'm feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced, then I'm good.

I love everything about the Fall and Winter seasons, which means taking full advantage of all festivities and everything they have to offer! As long as I'm feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced, then I'm good.

The fall is almost upon us, and with this time of year comes football, holidays, travel, and festive gatherings. Essentially, really good food and booze start to roll in, and there are often plenty of reasons for us to celebrate.

This isn’t to say the Summer season isn’t filled with the same, but people tend to be more conscious of their choices due to the clothing attire accompanying the season. The colder months usher in heavier food (and hopefully red wine), and I’m allll about it!

Many of the women I work with are beginning to fret about the upcoming seasons.

  • “I love Fall and Winter foods, and I tend to eat more of them.”
  • “Football season is my favorite, and I love to eat the snacks and drink the beer.”
  • “I really enjoy my wine nights in the Winter.”
  • “I bake so many seasonal treats during this time of the year, and I really want to enjoy them.”
  • “Holiday parties are my favorite!”

To anyone not stressing about their food choices or their weight, these statements seems innocent enough. All of these statements should be celebrated, right?

To the chronic dieter or food obsessed, these are relayed with a sense of stress and panic. Wanting to enjoy the season to the fullest is the ultimate source of internal conflict—

I want to change my body, but I also want to live my life!

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to pursue weight loss right now. You can actually take a break—permanently or temporarily—from pursuing body changes.

For many, living in a state of constantly thinking about diet manipulation is the norm, so to consider actually living life and thinking about other things is absurd. But there are certainly some benefits.

  • Eating more food will allow your body to reset hormonally if you’ve been living in a chronic deficit.
  • You can crush your workouts with the extra fuel.
  • You may actually find that the weight loss you’re so desperately seeking isn’t what you really want—it’s giving yourself permission to actually live your life.
  • You get to experience everything the season has to offer to the fullest. 
  • You’ll give yourself the opportunity to enjoy your favorite foods and booze in a way that aligns with your physical well-being—not an aesthetic goal. This means honoring a balance between enjoyment and nourishment. Essentially, this is an opportunity to practice.
  • You can utilize this time to get crystal clear regarding your priorities. If you find that enjoying the season is more of a priority than changing your body, then that’s extremely valuable information.

That last point is important, as we often don’t take the opportunity to look up and ask ourselves if our autopilot manner of thinking is what we really want for ourselves.

Do I really want to be sacrificing the seasonal food, wine, beer, or the social outings? Or am I blindly following the societal programming I’ve been given that tells me I should constantly be moving towards a better physique?

If you answer these questions honestly, you may in-fact find that you don’t give a shit about changing your body right now, and that’s more than OK!

It’s tempting for us to feel ashamed when we’d rather eat and drink than lose weight, but that’s simply a product of societal conditioning. YOU get the make the choices you want for your body and your life, and you also get to change them whenever you feel necessary.

There’s nothing that says we have to be in a constant state of betterment of our bodies.

There isn’t anything that says we need to feel shame in response to wanting to change them either. My only suggestion is that you ask yourself if NOW is the time to do so. Is pursuing aesthetic goals really in alignment with your true desires at the moment?

If not—let it go. The opportunity to pick it back up will always be waiting for you if you so choose. In the meantime, go on and live your damn life and enjoy the wine, the festivities, and the heavy food to the fullest.

Alcohol - It Really Can be Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Alcohol Pink Margs Pic.jpg

I’ve gone into detail about my journey and relationship with alcohol here, and you’ll see that I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs with this popular party drug. I still love wine and tequila, and I consume them regularly. I believe they can find their way into a healthy lifestyle, even when losing weight is the goal. Am I going to say it’s healthy? Maybe. We know it’s not physically healthy for us (you can get your antioxidants elsewhere, ok?), but imbibing in a balanced way can actually be health promoting.

How can something that’s essentially poison be healthy? Because oftentimes the stress of abstaining from it for the sake of weight loss leads to an unhealthy mindset, in addition to subsequent unhealthy behaviors. For example, I used to vow to not drink any booze after a bender of a weekend, and then the only thing I could think of was having a drink. Similar to struggles with eliminating a “forbidden” food. It only makes you obsess about said thing. This comes with the obvious caveats of actually enjoying alcohol, not having issues with addiction, and not using it as a crutch for any number of underlying issues.

In addition to the unhealthy behaviors that can accompany completely abstaining from alcohol, having a drink or two can actually be a great way for some people to relax or enjoy time with loved ones. Do we NEED it? No. We don’t need many aspects of our modern lifestyle today, but they can add to our joy and fulfillment in a positive and balanced way. I thoroughly enjoy having a drink with my family when I’m home catching up, while out with friends, and even while at home alone.

This all occurs when the following criteria are met:

  1. I actually want a drink: This is similar to mindlessly eating processed foods that aren’t going to make us feel great, oftentimes because they’re simply available. I always ask myself, “Do I actually want a drink, or am I just having one because everyone else is? Or because it’s right in front of me?” It took me a while to determine the differences, and I usually didn’t know until halfway through the drink. Don’t listen to what anyone else says. I promise it’s ok to leave an unfinished drink on the table.
  2. I’m not drinking to suppress an unpleasant emotion: this kind of drinking never feels good, especially the next day. Not only do we feel physically unwell, but our emotions are even more unstable than they were to begin with.  Drinking in response to discomfort doesn’t allow us to address the root causes of our feelings, so they will only intensify in time. Face that shit, then have a drink.  This also includes boredom. It happens to many of us on occasion, but if it’s a recurring theme, it’s time to find some more valuable ways to spend time.
  3. Not using it as a social lubricant: This was a big one for me in my early to mid-20s, as I had essentially been socializing drunk for the previous seven years. As a result, I wasn’t comfortable entering a social situation without a buzz, and if I did happen to arrive sober, I was drunk within the hour to stifle my social anxiety. Overcoming this took some time, but I slowly became comfortable with sober socializing, and it’s definitely my preference now. I find being buzzed or drunk only enjoyable in the company of friends and family.

Once I have checked the boxes on the above, then I assess the environment I’m in and mindfully choose my plan of action. I typically find myself in one of the following situations:

  • An environment where everyone is having just a drink or two, so I don’t need to overthink my drinking. Everyone is on the same page, and it’s a relaxed atmosphere, so I can easily have one or two drinks without giving it a second thought.
  • An environment where everyone is drinking to party and get drunk, and I only want a few drinks or none at all. This takes some more conscious effort, as it’s easy to get carried away when we really don’t want to or to succumb to peer pressure. It’s best to walk into these situations with a game plan and stick to it. Two or three drinks (that’s pushing it with a potential hangover for me), and I call it. Club soda with lime is a lovely way to feel like I’m drinking something more fun than water, and it also reduces the likelihood of someone harassing me for not drinking. It’s unfortunate that people still do that, and I don’t lie about it if I’m asked, but I’m ok with consciously mitigating those instances when I can.
  • An environment where everyone is drinking to party and get drunk, and I’m on board. This doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes the mood strikes or it’s a special occasion and I’m all in.  I go into these situations with the expectation that I’m going to drink more than I know is physically ideal, and then my hangover the next day is MUCH easier to accept.  Having this happen so sparingly is also important for not berating myself the next day. It’s not part of an abusive cycle; it’s simply a fun, rare night out.

“Know thyself”

-  Socrates

In addition to drinking for positive reasons and acknowledging and adjusting to our environments, we also need to understand how alcohol affects us individually. Once we do, we can act in alignment as often as possible to ensure we minimize the negative effects, both physically and mentally. 

The next time you enjoy a cocktail or your beverage of choice, bring awareness to the following:

  • Eating before: This is a huge one for me, as it is for many people. If I don’t eat before drinking, my stomach hurts, I get a buzz far more quickly than I would like (and far more quickly than anyone around me), and I feel like shit the next day without fail. Even if it’s just one or two drinks. If I’m out at a restaurant as opposed to a bar, then I pace my drinking with my eating to ensure I don’t get ahead of myself. Loading up on high-volume foods that are more satiating, like protein and vegetables, is helpful. Eating before drinking or pacing my drinking in accordance with my eating is a non-negotiable for me, and if I’m going to be out all day, I’ll bring a snack with me just in case. 
  • Effects on hunger and cravings: Drunk eating is a common effect of imbibing, but some are immediately drawn to foods they wouldn’t normally eat once they’ve had a drink or two. For me, this only happens when I haven’t eaten or paced appropriately as noted above. For others, light drinking actually suppresses hunger and cravings. It’s important to know which one you are and to adjust accordingly. Don’t use a buzz as an excuse to go off the rails and treat your body poorly! If you’re eating moderately the rest of the time and aren’t restricting, then this urge will be greatly reduced, but bringing mindfulness to the situation is always necessary. And if you do end up going overboard on food, either with poor quality or excessive quantity, please don’t beat yourself up. On top of a hangover, self-loathing is the last thing we need. It’s just one day/night!
  • Water consumption: This is a given for most of us, as we’re taught this from a young age, but it’s easy to forget about drinking water when we’re busy socializing. I aim for one tall glass of water between each drink, and it makes a huge difference in how I feel the next day. It also slows down our consumption of alcohol, so it’s a win-win!
  • State of Mindfulness: Acknowledge your environment, your hunger levels, and play the situation out in your head. Don’t bury your head in the sand (or your drinks, in this case) and mindlessly consume things you won’t feel great about afterwards. If you want to do so consciously, then great! But don’t check out. I promise you’ll wake up feeling much better if you made your choices consciously, even if you have a hangover and ate more than your body was asking for. This applies to hungover eating as well.  I used to overeat processed foods excessively when hungover without any sense of consciousness, and the minute I decided to bring awareness to my hangovers, those poor choices were drastically reduced.

The last point is the most important piece of the boozing puzzle. Bringing awareness to how alcohol affects us physically and mentally, how we manage various drinking environments, and our state of mind during and after imbibing is crucial for developing a healthy and malleable relationship with alcohol.  And while finding out what works best for each of us individually takes some time, it’s so worth it. I no longer stress about how I’m going to manage a night out when I don’t want to drink, I know how to minimize the physical and emotional side effects, and most importantly, I now respond with kindness towards myself rather than with negative self-talk when I do overdo it. We don’t have to be at war with alcohol in the same way we don’t with food.

Feeling Like Sh*t After Thanksgiving?


I distinctly remember how the Sunday after Thanksgiving used to feel for me for years.  I was filled with remorse and guilt, in addition to feeling physically unwell, due to excessive amounts of alcohol and processed foods for days on end.  To be clear, there is nothing wrong with having a bit more booze and/or food than usual around the holidays, but I was taking it to a new level. I would polish off several chocolate chip cookies per day, have a large bowl of ice cream at night, eat huge servings of leftovers that I wasn’t remotely hungry for, and tack on whatever other foods were on my “bad” list of foods. This was on top of getting drunk every night and drinking for most of the day.  The worst part of this cycle was the feeling that I couldn’t control it. I would anticipate how I was going to feel by the end of the weekend and felt defeated before the holiday had even started.  Helpless is the best word to describe how I felt. 

The weeks following Thanksgiving were then filled with excessive restriction in an effort to combat my binge-like behavior. I was swinging from one end of the spectrum of extremes to the other; failing to realize the causal relationship between the two. Now I know better. I know that attempting to combat a few days or even weeks of overdoing it by overly restricting will just cause the vicious cycle to continue.  While I am now able to navigate the holidays without overdoing it, I still indulge more than usual (wine is typically my choice over holiday foods). And I occasionally feel the pangs of desire to subsequently restrict as penance for this behavior.  But please take it from me when I tell you that this is the wrong approach. Your relationship with food and your body will only diminish as a result, and you won’t make any physical progress either.  A better approach is to jump right back into our healthy and balanced lifestyles while being mindful of our individual responses to these situations, in addition to a few short-term strategies to assist with feeling great again. 

Everyone reacts differently to overindulgence on a physical level and we typically fall into one of two categories:

  1. Becoming a sugar demon (or other intense craving): For some, a few days of indulging in sugar, alcohol, or other processed foods prompts further intense cravings for these. Given that these products are manufactured with this response in mind (i.e. they have a high reward value), this is not an indication of failure or lack of discipline, so please don’t perceive this behavior through a moral lens.  It’s simply a physical response that many of us experience. Are natural, whole foods now unappetizing to you? Are you constantly thinking of when you can have said processed food/drink next? If so, your body and mind have likely been roped into this cycle, and you will need to practice more awareness than usual until these cravings dissipate. Call these cravings out and acknowledge their existence. From here, you can implement more tactical strategies, like grocery shopping and only purchase whole, natural foods, or if your lifestyle primarily consists of takeout, then only purchase meals that consist of whole foods. You will need to make it as easy as possible to make the more nutrient dense choice.
    • Note: Don’t vow to never have a certain food again as a result of overindulging, as this will only lead to a negative relationship with food and you won’t trust yourself around it.  Simply prioritize natural, whole foods for most of your meals (as I hope you’re doing regularly) and these cravings will begin to diminish.
  2. Wanting nothing to do with processed foods or alcohol: I tend to fall into this camp, while many of my family members fall into the previous category. My body is sensitive to alcohol and processed foods, so it doesn’t take much to make me feel unwell.  As I prefer to feel great, I will naturally gravitate towards whole foods and tend to avoid the processed foods and booze for a few days until my body is back to feeling like normal.  Admittedly, experiencing this reaction is much easier than the former, as it simply requires listening to our bodies and acting accordingly.

Aside from bringing awareness to our individual responses to overindulgence, I use a few easy strategies that assist with getting our bodies back to their balanced baselines.

  • Prioritize sleep: For those of us who experience terrible sleep as a result of too much booze or processed foods, we need to do our bodies a favor and assist with the recovery process. Poor sleep also increases the hormone responsible for increased hunger and decreases our satiety hormone, so hitting the hay early will lend itself to making better choices too.
  • Stay hydrated: dehydration due to alcohol, travel, or sugar leads to low energy, poor sleep, and contributes to cravings.  There is no need to overdo it with this; simply get back into your usual water habits and be mindful of your thirst.
  • Pay attention to carbohydrate consumption: carbohydrates hold more water in our bodies than protein and fat do, and this contributes to the post-holiday bloat many of us experience. Even one day of fewer carbohydrates will aid with ridding our bodies of this excess water.  Note: I do NOT recommend “no” carbs here, and this is not an excuse to restrict. If you anticipate this will prompt obsessive behaviors, then skip this one. I simply don’t have carbohydrates with one or two of my meals for one day only, and I then immediately return to my usual balanced meals.
  • Get a workout in as soon as possible: This isn’t a form of punishment AT ALL. It may feel more difficult than usual, but I often find that I have some of my best workouts due to the extra fuel. Sweating and getting our heart rates up helps our bodies and minds recalibrate, it demonstrates to our brains that we’re back into our healthy routines, and it’s also an opportunity to use the extra fuel to our advantage.

o   Performing glycolytic activity (those that utilize glycogen from carbohydrates as the primary fuel source) will further contribute to decreasing excess water in the body. Examples include heavy weightlifting, sprints, and HIIT. 

The most important aspect of implementing these strategies is our mindset. We’re not practicing these strategies out of guilt or self-hatred.  Rather, we’re doing them because we care about our bodies and minds, and we want to get back to feeling our best. Here’s to feeling back on top on no time!

Booze - The Ultimate Love/Hate Relationship

Booze pic.jpg

For many of us without an addiction to alcohol, the problem isn’t actually the alcohol but rather the underlying reason we feel the need to overdo it. Similar to why many of us abuse food and/or body obsession. My relationship with alcohol has been up and down since I entered college and binge drinking became a staple in my life, and it took me a long time to find peace with it. I have ping-ponged back and forth with extremes, but my current state of balance involves having a few drinks per week during most weeks, and a few times a year I drink more than I know is good for me.  Is this a healthy choice?  No, alcohol in general isn’t healthy, but there are times that I truly find the process of going overboard and letting loose a good time. And this is a conscious choice, rather than something I feel the need to do. Let me explain what I mean by this and how I arrived here.

I started drinking in high school with my siblings and friends, unbeknownst to my parents of course, but the really heavy drinking didn’t start until college.  It was a time when I was meeting new people, figuring out who I was, enjoying new experiences, and alcohol was a buffer for all of this.  I never really stopped to consider not partaking in it, as it was just “what you did” in college. And I had a lot of fun with it most of the time! But I also had a lot of negative experiences as a result, including blacking out and making poor decisions I was embarrassed about the next morning. Talk about anxiety inducing. This wasn’t just my experience, as everyone I surrounded myself with did the same thing, so once again, I felt that it was just part of the gig.

By the end of my senior year, I was truly burned out from all of the partying. Because of this, it wasn’t difficult for me to move in with my parents back home for a few months while I studied for a big exam, as I was so ready for a calmer lifestyle.  Interestingly, it was during this summer that I realized I had a real love for red wine and would enjoy some almost every night with my dad. We’re talking one glass a night, and maybe two on the weekends.  It was such a liberating feeling to have just one drink and not feel like I was white knuckling it the entire time. I was drinking it because I enjoyed the taste, ritual, and time with my family, not because I needed to feel more comfortable with myself, lack of boundaries, or to escape an aspect of my life.  If I had previously wanted to cut back and only have one or two drinks, it would have felt next to impossible due to social pressures and my own discomfort, and I would have inevitably overdone it.

By the end of that summer, I felt as though I had developed a rock-solid relationship with alcohol and really had it all figured out.  Welp, I was wrong. I moved to Denver with a few of my college friends, and I once again found myself back in the party game. I was in a job I didn’t like working really long hours, so when the weekends rolled around, I went all out with my drinking.  Looking back, I made some amazing friends during this time and don’t regret it at all, but I also knew that I wasn’t really happy deep down. And I truly believe that was the reason I felt the need to have a drink in my hand at all times.  (It’s no surprise that my relationship with food and my body moved in tandem with my relationship with alcohol).  I didn’t consider the notion that meditation, being out in nature, travel, spending quality time with friends, or other sober activities would actually serve me in a much more positive and fulfilling way than drinking or my food/body obsession ever could.

The uneasiness with my drinking and lifestyle was growing quickly, and I didn’t know how to escape the life and environment I had become so accustomed to. As a result, decided I was going to quit my job at the end of 2013 and travel abroad for a few months. Three of my friends joined me, and to my relief, we barely drank the entire time we were in SE Asia.  This would have NEVER happened even one year before. Little did I know that all of them were also looking for a way out of that lifestyle; we just didn’t have the strength or know-how to do it in our usual environments. In fact, one of them had recently started a sober lifestyle that she continues to this day.  It seems a little ridiculous to say that we had to travel across the world to find a way out of our unhealthy habits, but sometimes we need to completely remove ourselves from our usual environments to create space for ourselves. This allowed me to see myself and my life through a neutral lens, and there was no escaping the conclusion that I didn’t like what I saw.

When I returned home to the US, I was doubtful of my ability to hold steady with my new drinking habits and what I wanted them to look like when I arrived back in Denver. Would my friends still want to hang out with me? If not, does that mean they didn’t really like me for me? Would I fall back into my old patterns? What would I do with all of my free time if I’m wasn’t drinking?  That last one is a little difficult to write, but it was such a serious concern at the time. So much of my identity in the States was wrapped up in heavy drinking that I couldn’t conceptualize my life without it. And I hadn’t taken the time to consider what I actually enjoyed in life outside of it.

I was really insecure about my choices when I returned to my social circle in Denver, and I even felt this way around my siblings and extended family. I was known as the girl who was always up for a party, even by my own definition, so they weren’t quite sure what to make of my new lifestyle. In fact, I was so unsure about how to navigate my new lifestyle that I felt as though I had to remove myself from my old one completely.  I really needed to surround myself with people who were seeking a similar path, and this wasn’t because my friends and family were doing anything wrong. It was because I wasn’t secure enough in who I was or my choices.  It felt as though my new energy and motivations were so raw and vulnerable that I had to protect them until they were solidified (i.e. I wasn’t comfortable in my choices yet). I wish I had known how to articulate this to people in my life at the time, but I barely understood what was happening myself. All I knew was that I needed out.

As I removed myself from my party lifestyle, I spent a lot of time alone, in nature, and with very close friends. It was exactly what I needed for myself until I was able to draw boundaries, and once I was stable in what I wanted for myself and what I needed from others, I was ready to branch out again. I made new friends and connected with old ones, and most of my former stress about drinking had dissipated. I was now able to be social while only have one drink, leave parties early, confidently tell others that I wasn’t drinking that night, or do whatever I needed to do for myself at the time. However, I still struggled with the times I did have a few drinks too many (meaning I had a hangover).  Did this mean I wasn’t being true to myself again? Did this mean I was slipping back into old patterns? These were the questions I asked myself.

I sat with these questions for a long time, and I realized that my relationship with alcohol is exactly as I treat my relationship with food and exercise.  It’s one that I get to define, and as long as my emotional and physical health are at the forefront consistently, then consciously making the choice to go overboard now and then is perfectly fine for ME.  The key differentiator between my choice to overdo it previously vs. now is the fact that it’s a conscious decision I’m making. It’s never something I feel the need to do, and I don’t feel like someone or something else is making the decision for me. As a result, I no longer beat myself up about it the next day, and that in itself has been a huge relief.

I learned quite a few things about myself as I navigated my complicated relationship with alcohol, and my hope is that these can be beneficial to others who are struggling with their own.

1.     Be Open and Honest: Be open and honest about your desire to change your habits with friends and family and explain why the change is important to you. I failed miserably with this one, and it made things much more difficult. I was a very poor communicator at that time, and I didn’t think others would hold space for what I was feeling. Who am I to make that decision? I should have given them all of the information and then allowed them to respond accordingly. This of course leaves two options in regards to their responses: being supportive or being unsupportive.

2.     Audit your Social Circle and Support System: After explaining why you’re making a change, if they’re still not supportive of your decisions, then distance may be necessary. People often criticize those who are making choices in the interest of improving themselves, because it highlights the fact that they may not be doing the same. Essentially, they’re projecting their insecurity onto you**.  Discovering that some of our relationships are conditional (i.e. they only support us when we’re doing what they want us to do) can be really hurtful, but distancing ourselves or removing these relationships entirely creates space for new, positive and supportive ones.

**I can identify this so easily now with new people I meet.  If I’m in a situation where most people are drinking heavily and I’m not drinking or am only having one or two, I receive negative comments from the people who are insecure about how much they are drinking.  Those who are secure in their own choices never harass or criticize me, and those are the people I want to surround myself with! 

3.     Engage in Positive Activities: As I mentioned earlier, I really didn’t know what I enjoyed to do outside of partying and drinking. Sure, I went to the mountains to ski or go camping, but I started to dread those trips because I knew binge drinking was going to be a huge part of them. I had to learn how to enjoy those things without excessive amounts of alcohol or none at all. Additionally, I had a TON of time on my hands now that I wasn’t out at the bars until 2am and subsequently useless the next day with a hangover.  I started spending more time in nature by hiking, skiing, and camping, and I enjoyed more quality time with friends in town.  I even started working out on the weekends, as I was no longer feeling like death. (huge win!) This is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to stop drinking so heavily – I didn’t want to continue wasting my life away being drunk or hungover.

4.     Don’t judge others for their choices. I was guilty of this in the beginning, for sure, and this was most certainly due to my own insecurity with my choices. Due to not adhering to suggestion number one above, I reacted defensively to negative comments and developed a “high horse” attitude. “If they’re going to criticize my choices, then I’m going to criticize theirs.” Really mature, I know. But just as we deserve unconditional support from my friends and family, they deserve the same. We’re all on our own paths, and I’m certainly not in a place to tell anyone else how they should be living their lives. If they’re happy, then I’m happy (barring any serious addiction/issue here, of course). I now have friendships with people who drink heavily, and neither of us criticize the other for our choices. I truly never thought that was possible.

5.     My relationship with alcohol directly translated to my relationship with my body. I don’t believe the alcohol was the cause here, but I was mistreating my body via booze and food due to unhappiness, living in an inauthentic manner, and a negative self-image. When I realized I had the power to create the life I wanted and to show up as I am, my entire world changed. And my relationships with alcohol and food followed suit as I described here.

There are a lot of things I could have done differently as I navigated and continue to navigate my ever-changing relationship with alcohol, but I have learned a hell of a lot in the process. And I’m grateful for all of the lessons. It taught me to stand up for myself and create boundaries, to be open and honest with loved ones, to give others the benefit of the doubt, to accept myself and others right where we are, to create space for myself and others to grow and evolve, and that it’s OK to put myself first and do what’s best for me, despite what others might think. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I’m so happy I decided to finally make a change for myself.