Beating the Buffet: Holiday Survival

We are back, from our week long holiday to the gorgeous, sunny, Marmaris in Turkey – and I survived. All inclusive, buffet meals 3 times a day, foreign food, unknown calorie content and cocktails on tap! Wow. There were highs and lows, struggles and successes, some predicted, others not – would I do it again? Yes, but not in a hurry! Being away from my own environment and pushed out of my comfort zone, made me realise an awful lot (good and bad) about myself, the eating disorder and my limitations.

For anyone, holiday starts from the morning (or night before) setting off. Travel day was tough but it was day 1 so there’s still the rest of the holiday to rectify and learn from the days downfalls, right?! You don’t need me to tell you how much of a challenge it is to find ‘healthy’ or ‘lower calorie’ meals and snacks in an airport or on a plane! It’s literally like playing where’s wally but with salad and fruit! Anyhow after wandering around the departure lounge for what seemed like an eternity (Harvey would vouch for that) we settled on somewhere to get lunch, based on the availability of seats (desperate times, and all that). Harvey being Harvey had some crazy, man-sized, double, massive, extra large, extra cheesy, cheese burger and I opted for the ‘lighter’ pizza option – I wasn’t convinced it was much lighter than a standard pizza though but either way I needed something to eat before 4 hours on the plane and a 2 hour transfer at the other end.

I spent the majority of the flight distracted, trying to work out the calories in the meal I’d just eaten and predict what tomorrows intake would be like and how I could compensate for over doing it that day. I went round and round in circles for a good hour or 2, to conclude that I have no clue – you can kinda see how time consuming and ridiculous the ED is now! Anyway by the time we’d taken off, I’d sorted Harvey, obsessed about all things food, craved an apple (the closest thing they could offer was sweets or cider – which didn’t quite fit the bill), stared out the window and had a flick through the duty free mag it was time to land and the holiday had officially started!

By the time we got to the hotel it was very early hours of the morning so we went straight to bed to start a fresh the next day! I always like to start again in the morning (seems logical), bit of a perfectionist trait, I think. The meals weren’t as scary as I’d predicted, but this varied day to day – somedays I felt like running out of the restaurant screaming because; a) I’d already eaten ‘too much’ that day and didn’t want to face more food, b) It all looked so nice and I didn’t know what to have or where to start, or, c) I was over hungry and didn’t trust myself to keep in control and not fall into a cycle of binging and purging (this was my worst nightmare while not being at home). Other days I was composed and chilled and could just crack on with choosing what to put on my plate without too much internal aggravation. It can’t have been too bad though, as I managed 5 days in a row without binge and purging, which in itself, regardless of anything else, was a mahoooooosive achievement!

Main meals were all buffet style with different ‘stations’ – hot dishes, fast food type dishes (chips, nuggets, etc.), salad bar, breads, show grill and desserts. Breakfast was a similar set up – hot options, cold meats and cheeses, pastry selection, fruits and yogurt and cereals section. This, for loads of reasons, had it’s pros and cons. It was refreshing and comforting that not everything was deep fried and it was possible to eat healthily and have a balanced meal, with plenty to chose from. I tended to veer towards the fish dishes and salad bar, occasionally the grill and desserts when I was feeling particularly strong and on form!

Evening meals I found the easiest which came as a bit of a welcomed shock. Normally at home its evenings I struggle most with! Breakfast and lunch were harder, probably due to the fact the days were spent in swimwear, in front of however-many other people and the fear of bloating and feeling uncomfortable and fat was quite overwhelming at times, having said that I did try and have something (breakfasts tended to be fruit and coffee, sometimes a mini pastry or yoghurt too) at every meal. Initially I found it really frustrating that I didn’t know and couldn’t access the calorie content of the buffet foods, which affected me more some days and I found it really daunting having to rely on my own instinct and ‘listen’ to my body, so to speak. I don’t trust my own judgement but that’s something that I definitely need to change during this recovery! Going back to the point about feeling bloated, on the drinks front, it was practically pop, pop and, you guessed it more pop – or… cocktails, wine, beer. Which is most peoples idea of heaven.


Ohh, don’t get me wrong I did drink my body weight in Diet Pepsi by day and Wine and Cocktails by night, but, the consumption of fizz, so frequently, doesn’t help the whole bloat situation. Couple that with rehydration and post binge/purge (from back at home) fluid retention and it’s not the most ideal concoction and not something I’d really considered or anticipated before hand. My saving grace, and I’m sure a lot of you can totally relate, for your own personal reasons, all inclusive buffet = no preparation, no cooking, no choosing from a menu, no pre-set portion size, and (save the best til last…) no cleaning up after!!! All we had to do was put the food on our plates and eat!! You’d be surprised at how much anxiety and stress this removed from meal times. I could have my meal and not have to think about it prior to or after finishing – it was brilliant. After meals there was always something going on too, whether it was going in the pool or taking Harvey to kids club and soaking up some rays or evening entertainment (I’ll admit – I am quite a fan of the kiddy disco’s), which meant after eating my mind was very quickly on something else! Being all inclusive, we didn’t need to keep snacks in our room or ‘stock up’ at the local mini-market, therefore escaping food was fairly easy. At home I’m always only a stones throw from the kitchen or accessing food, yet in Turkey I could completely avoid and shut off from all things food – this really helped at times when B/P urges were strong. Thanks to this little fact, multiple B/P’s were avoided! However, saying this, when there were binge-purge urges, having the buffet and snack bars open became a massive battle, food is just there, for the taking – there are no limits!

If it wasn’t main meals there was always something in between – cakes, fast food, ice creams etc… you get the gist. Majority of the times I didn’t bother with the between meal snacks. There was, however, the odd occasion where I felt so annoyed and angry at myself for not being allowed to enjoy all the nice looking food that I did try and have some of the snacks, which, did result in a temporary loss of control but somehow (don’t ask me how – I have no clue, possibly not being in my own environment or having harvey with me and being around other people) managed to claw it back. After a few chips, chicken nuggets and slice of pizza, I managed to shake myself out of it! It was kinda reassuring knowing there was always something available and shockingly having that option and choice there, was easier to resist and keep in control than not having it and really fancying something – if that makes any sense?! Especially with Harvey making full use of kids club (aka my life line/recharge time), he would be more than set for snacks after running around in the splash park, treasure hunting as a pirate or competing in the mini olympics!! He could easily help himself and we didn’t have to hit the shops and forage – again, reducing temptation, anxiety, fear and feeling out of depth.

Over the course of the holiday, generally buffet times, towards the middle-end of the holiday, I realised a few things:

  • I can’t switch off – if there’s food on my plate, sometimes (a lot of the time), I struggle to not pick at it (seems strange right, for someone that fears food and gaining weight)Β – especially when the B/P urges are strong. I can’t for the life of me figure this one out and why I’ve only become aware of it now. This baffled me massively but also made me think about when we’re at home and about picking at left overs when I’m actually full, which almost always, without fail will result in falling into the binge/purge cycle. Sat writing this now with Scooby-Doo blaring in the background, potentially the reason I became more aware of ‘picking’ on holiday was the lack of distractions when eating and actually paying attention to the process of eating. At home there’s the TV, things to get done, text messages to reply to, social media to keep up with and a million and one other distractions. On holiday, meal times consisted of Harvey and I sat at a table, together, with nothing else to think about. I had always thought this would have the opposite effect, hence why I use meal times to do mindless, sit-down tasks and take my mind of eating, when in reality I should apparently be doing the opposite – who’d of thought it!
  • I have to put exactly what I plan on eating on my plate – no more, no less and the balancing act is something of an art – that I didn’t succeed at all the time, but when I did, it was like wining Bingo! (I can only imagine that one, unfortunately, as I didn’t manage to win the daily bingo once – despite my best efforts – it was a sore subject). Any more food than I ‘needed’ and the above is highly likely, too little and I found myself over hungry later on and struggled with the next meal. I had a bit of a mental block in the sense I couldn’t go back up to the buffet and get more once I’d already been up once. Despite this I was going up multiple times for Harvey, but just couldn’t bring myself to top up my own plate. Maybe down to a fear of judgement or losing control and over doing it – still trying to figure this one out!
  • I can’t rush my food choices. The days I did better, despite wandering round like a bit of a lost cause, having a good look at what was available, then getting Harvey’s food and spending a few minutes planning what to put on my plate did the trick! Planning too far ahead in the day made it really tough for the run up to the evening but taking each meal/snack as it came and actually thinking about what I fancied, rather than basing it on what fit with my calorie restriction (I did still give this consideration but it wasn’t the only factor given thought) worked surprisingly well.
  • Harvey is becoming increasingly aware of my routines, rituals and rules relating to food – the one thing I’ve always tried to avoid. There was a point he asked why I hadn’t had an ice cream because “Mum, you love ice creams”. I didn’t know how to really respond to this, other than by biting the bullet and having a Magnum with him (it was actually quite tasty and I did really enjoy it), despite feeling a bit of guilt and panic later in the day but, fortunately, it was a day I hadn’t rigidly planned, so I just had slightly less at the evening meal to compensate. This day I was totally in control and looking back, barely even thought twice about food or weight or calories. Success!!! Maybe because I’d let myself enjoy the ice cream or I hadn’t let myself become over hungry or possibly because I’d made Harvey happy and then had some energy to properly engage with him, which as awful as it sounds, doesn’t happen all that frequently to full extent at the minute! There was another occasion where he informed me that “today Mum, we are not eating lunch” when I asked why his response was “I just don’t want anything”. My mind was going absolutely bonkers at this point and my thoughts were racing at 100mph. With the way my own brain works it was hard not to think the worst and conclude that he’s following in my foot steps and it’s all my fault and what do I do now?! I made him sit at the dinner table, went and got us both food and sat and ate with him – he did eat fine and after some time to ponder it, I think (hope) it was just a case of desperation to fling himself in the pool (a kids top priority on holiday, of course)! It was this point I realised I can’t shield him as much as I used to, he is so much more aware than I give him credit for (even though he has his head in the clouds a lot of the time). The only way I can combat this is to fix myself, get back on track and set good, healthy, strong examples – slightly easier said than done though, right now!

Challenges didn’t just stop at meal times though. There were many a point it felt like I couldn’t escape from the rut of the ED and there was always something ticking over in my mind or causing anxiety. It took a couple of days to get used to the change in routine but I liked having the set meal times, almost like being told when to eat! I’m such an indecisive person and struggle with recognising hunger. Having the set times took this responsibility and deciding when to eat away from me and I actually found it quite beneficial. One of the biggest challenges I faced and hadn’t been prepared for was the weighing scales in the hotel room bathroom. Bear in mind, travel day had involved a bowl of granola, fruit and pizza – more than I’d consider safe, for myself at the current point in time; there was 2 hours gained to changing time zones and stop start activity – therefore I had no clue what my weight was, and the accuracy of these scales (I know, ‘who cares’? – completely ridiculous thought but it was my first, when I saw them), was doubtable. I resisted stepping on them for the first 2 days, until I couldn’t keep looking at them without getting on, despite being massively dubious of their accuracy! I wish they hadn’t been there as they didn’t help the situation but at the same time it was reassuring to know that I hadn’t rapidly gained a stone overnight! One of the other things I felt uneasy about was being in my bikini and people looking, talking in foreign languages (probably about the doughnut over the way that just spilt their ‘smurf’ drink (blue lemonade) down them, but how do I know?) and feeling really paranoid. I know, I know, who cares what anyone else thinks? I never really have but this ED has changed that, I have become so much more self conscious than I previously thought I was and if Harvey was in club I’d sit out on my balcony away from everyone to avoid the anxiety or would try and get a sun-bed away from the main pool. Kids club was an absolute blessing, Harvey loved it and as predicted I did struggle with having the energy to keep on going, so it gave me chance to recuperate a bit.


As much appreciation as I do have for club, I did feel guilty and let down with myself that I couldn’t do more with Harvey – there was so much we could have done but didn’t – equally we did manage a couple of part days out. We went on a jeep safari and spent an hour at Marmaris Castle, which were such wonderful, albeit draining outings. They were worth the exhaustion but physically I couldn’t have managed anymore than what we did!

Preparing to come home evoked all kinds of mixed emotions! I was really sad to leave (tears were shed), we’d met some fantastic people, that I miss greatly but at the same time, I craved getting back to my usual routine and home comforts. I was anxious and worrying about what my weight would be, falling back into the B/P cycle after managing so well, having to meal plan, food prep and cook myself. I was thinking in the airport, on the way home, how I could try and replicate the hotel meals and came up with a few ideas to put into practice (watch this space) but I was also well aware that I would struggle more being back at home and having to stand on my own 2 feet again! No matter how closely I could relive the meals from holiday, the environment, company and goings on aren’t so easily replicable (unfortunately)! I had a bit of a panic with how quickly it came round to home time and my lack of prep for coming home and meals etc. but I managed to do a bit of meal planning and a Tesco shop on the coach back to the airport (thank goodness for online shopping, ay!), so, fingers crossed, this week, being back at home, will go as smoothly as possible!


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