On the airplane back from Orlando, I started writing. You know how insights crystalize up in the air?
Well, I wrote quick because I had a shockingly nourishing & flourishing experience at Disney World and I want to share the pixie dust.
I’ll start by saying, I was hesitant about going. Disney World appears to embody everything that worries me about our culture. The excess, the consumerism, the plastic, the abandonment of the knowledge that there’s anything wrong.
I understand this is part of what makes Disney beloved. The magical Disney experience, I felt it!
It turns out… I loved it. My epiphany is that “the magical experience” is the RE-SET everyone’s dieting for. You don’t need a Summer Body yo, get yourself to a theme park.
And if you can’t, I’m encapsulating the essence of Disney magic so you can feel it ANYwhere. That’s Part II of My Disney Food Diary, right now I want to get to the food.
Now, if you’re doubting a theme park can make you healthy, I did too. I didn’t think I’d make it a day, let alone FLOURISH in a park this HUGE, this HOT, this stimulating – with food I don’t normally eat.
My anxiety, when traveling, has a lot to do with access to food.
“Getaways” usually include a tent, a camping stove, and a cooler. We’re a BYOF family (bring your own food) to save money and eat quality ingredients. So, Disney World was outside my comfort zone. That in mind, I entered the largest theme park in the world, giving up all food control, for three 12 hour days. I didn’t even bring snacks, I didn’t want to carry them! And THAT, for a Feminist Health Coach who dislikes relying on corporations to feed me, is unheard of.
And yet, despite everything you know about theme park food and Disney quantities of sugar, I left feeling better than I’ve felt in a LONG time. And it’s NOT because I “stayed on track” or kept to a diet.
I ate everything that caught my fancy. I ate ice cream cones, Dole cups, Citrus Swirl Floats and hot dogs with Mac n’ cheese. I “ate” Disney and flourished. Not by abstaining, but by nourishing the experience AND sticking to three important food guidelines.
Out of curiosity, I researched the hashtag #HealthyDisney/Family when I got back, to see what other health-minded strategies people used at Disney and I was horrified. Not at what people were eating, but at the level of control and restriction and moralizing people are inflicting on themselves. I can tell you, you don’t have to “stay on track” to eat well — and staying on track won’t get you the Disney Experience, HELLO! That’s the WHOLE point.
I invite you to drop Food Righteousness like you’re dropping down Splash Mountain. You want guideposts that worked for your ancestors and will work at Disney and anywhere you make food decisions.
You want to nourish your body, respect your hunger and LIVE. These show you how:
Eat 3 meals a day plus a bedtime snack
When you don’t have control over food quality, don’t focus so much on what you eat, focus on WHEN you eat. Make sure you eat MEALS: breakfast, lunch, dinner and a bedtime snack is a self-care practice. Rhythm organizes your body and cravings.
Eating in rhythm keeps hormones happy, bowels working, and the reptilian brain CALM. You can RELAX knowing another meal will follow (especially if you get a meal that flops). There’s always next time!
When you’re committed to “meals” rather than snacking, your body knows it’ll be fed the major nutrients it needs. Traditional “meals” include protein, fats and carbohydrates – that’s what I mean by meals.
Meals are comforting, satisfying, and give us energy. Meals also manage blood sugar – a critical self-sustaining practice.
There’s a certain nutrition requirement we need to feel good and function well. Part of that functioning is making sure our bowel movements are moving effectively. Veggies are good for that. I also knew that at a place like Disney World, if I found veggies I’d find other important nutrients: protein + fat. I aimed for two meals a day with veggies.
Seeking veggies is a strategy for avoiding “all purpose flour” (aka white flour) – a food that can disrupt healthy bowel function. Notice my reframe? Instead of creating a list of foods to avoid, like “all purpose flour,” I choose the EAT MORE strategy. Diversity and inclusivity is the goal, even when it comes to food.
Secondly, I don’t like to support factory farm raised animal products, so I tend to eat vegetarian and fish when I don’t know my sources. AND I keep it flexible because — my protein needs overshadow my food values.
That’s what happened when I ended up eating half of this hot dog for dinner (I’m so glad someone was willing to share). Blood sugar stability was a must if I wanted to find my way out of that park or stay for that matter.
Guilt is the antithesis of the Disney experience.
So I ate that hot dog gratefully. I wasn’t the one who had to stand in line for 40 minutes! And my well being matters above all, as harsh as that sounds: “mask on me, first.” I used to hem & haw over decisions like this and the amount of stress I built up was far worse an effect than eating the hot dog.
Food is negotiable. I “don’t eat” hot dogs, unless I eat a hotdog.
Make food decisions quickly.
This one’s genius because it takes us back to our ancestral wisdom. Our hunter/gatherer foremothers & fathers were FREE from “food decision fatigue.” Their goal was — food. So, making quick food decisions brings us to that instinctual space. Without faltering, we know when, how much and what to eat. This isn’t easy for me. I have to navigate thru my nutritionally oriented MIND but I always come back to my first instinct after going down the nutritional pros & cons rabbit hole.
How quick should you decide?
As instantaneous as the rides start after buckling in. There’s no time to second guess your decision. Even deciding what restaurant to eat at can become intuitive. This is one of my super powers, and it’s something you can practice and get good at.
THIS is how I could eat all the sugar & fat and still lose weight –
a side effect from the whole experience. And a result of effortless & joy-filled eating. Most importantly, I felt great. I slept well, had enough stamina to keep up with the teenagers and I didn’t feel like I needed to go on a diet as soon as I got home.
My trip filled me with nourishment from family & friends, adrenaline pumping rides (normally I’m too afraid to go on), SUNSHINE and moving my body 10 miles a day.
I wouldn’t call the walking “exercise,” it was movement and moving helps everything function better, especially the instinctual mind. If you want to know more about movement vs exercise, see Katy Bowman’s work.
You can go “off track” and still be healthy. Heck, you can go off track and FIND health.
I hope you take this wisdom on your next getaway and rethink any “Summer Body” goals.
Look out for Part II, I teach you how to get the most of your Summer pleasures. All the reasons you want to diet anyway, so skip the middleman.
PS Know any Disney super-fans?
Please share this post! If nothing else, they’ll love the photos.
PSS Here’s what else I ate at Disney:
- 3 egg veggie omelettes every morning (these were a staple)
- overnight oats (a “trendy” but welcome find at our hotel cafe)
- mediterranean plate (hummus, veggies, olives and pita)
- fish and salad or rice with sides like green beans
- nachos with cheese & black beans
Photo credit for Citrus Float, Cookie, Hot Dog and Hands with Drinks, goes to Instagrammers: @irelandfrost, @thisistampabay, @disneyfatties. And @girafferty.
Nourish to Flourish,