This past weekend I wrote a post to my baby about body image and how it shouldn’t stop you from doing anything. It was an extremely personal post, mainly because I’ve struggled so much with body image over the years.
As I was growing up, I didn’t have a healthy concept of eating. Eating was a reward, a comfort, something I did to make myself feel better. That continued into my early years of university when I struggled to leave my dorm room, instead packing on the pounds far away from home. At one point, I got the shock of my life, stepping on the scale to find that I was 220 lbs, a far cry from the 135 lbs I remember being in Grade 9. By all accounts, on all scales, I was obese.
It happened so gradually that I was able to deny it to myself, to ignore the creep. What it didn’t stop me from doing was fantasizing about the life I wanted to lead. A life of travel. I had this grand plan. A four month summer vacation from university: six weeks backpacking Europe, two weeks in South Africa, four weeks in Australia and three weeks in New Zealand.
The scale was the only thing standing in my way.
I could have let that stop me. I questioned the decision to go so many times it’s not even funny. Here are the reasons I’m glad I went.
1. You’ll Remember What You Saw, Not How You Looked
As I look back at my travels in 2007, from the four months on the road I remember what it felt like to stand on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. I remember the feeling of zip lining in the rainforest in Australia. I remember climbing the steps to the castle in Prague and looking out over the terracotta rooftops, thinking that this, this place is what they meant in fairytales when they said “in a kingdom far, far, away.” And I remember watching the countryside change throughout New Zealand as I rode the Magic Bus from town to town.
These are my first memories.
Yes, I have memories of feeling bigger or insecure, but if I’d let those feelings stop me, I’d never have had the incredible experiences that I’ve listed above.
2. Big Girls Have Adventures, Too!
I was always worried about the weight limits for the adventure activities that I wanted to try. Turns out that at 70 lbs above the “healthy” weight range, I was still able to zip line, snorkel, scuba dive, sky dive AND do a canyon swing. Those weight limits are actually pretty generous, so if you’re game for it… try it!
3. The People You’ll Meet Won’t Care
I used to have this big mental hang-up about my weight, thinking that those who I met would think less of me because of it. The funny thing is that when you travel, preconceptions on many levels go out the window. People don’t care where you come from, what you look like or what your income level is. They care about your adventures, your story, what you have to contribute to the nights around the campfire.
Instead of worrying about all the diets I’d tried and failed, instead I talked about the books I’d read, places I’d seen along my trip, friends I’d made and things I’d learned. Turns out, these things make you much more interesting than knowing how many calories or Weight Watchers points are in a cup of Cheerios.
4. Travel Can Help You Lose Weight
Every time I’ve done long-term travel (a.k.a. NOT the all-inclusive Mexican resort deal), I’ve always lost weight. You’re going from site to site, you’re on a budget (most of the time), and if you’re backpacking you’re lugging around some extra weight as is. Travel can be as much of a workout as hitting the gym.
You’re also trying new and exciting foods, which I find tend to satiate you more in terms of excitement and hunger than your regular routine food. Gelato tastes better in Italy, sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome. There’s no better barbecue than a braii in South Africa. Crocodile soup… well, that never tasted good, let’s be honest. Each of those meals was an adventure, though. You looked forward to them, saving your appetite throughout the day in anticipation. On my round the world trip in 2006, I lost about 20 lbs. On my recent trip to Southeast Asia I lost 13 lbs (partly thanks to salmonella – I don’t recommend that). Not once on either of those trips did I deny myself the local treats.
5. Consider the Alternative
If you’re seriously wondering whether to travel as you are, overweight and all, or whether to explore the world… I hope the answer is an easy one. The alternative is pretty grim. Instead you stay at home. That alternative is full of regret. It’s not the brave choice, but it’s the safe choice.
I’m glad I chose the brave choice. The world is waiting for you, and it’s a lot less judgemental than you might think. In fact, it’s pretty darn welcoming to people of all shapes and sizes.
I regret nothing.
Have you ever been an overweight traveler? Any regrets? What did you get to see that you wouldn’t have otherwise?