Sunday, January 17, 2021

Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zones

February 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Eating Disorders

This coming Saturday, my husband and I will be heading to Korea to visit my brother who is teaching English over there for a year.

And while we’ve traveled throughout Europe and Latin America, neither of us have been to Asia — so we’re in for a quite a cultural treat on many levels.

I think it goes without saying that we will no doubt stick out like sore thumbs in my brother’s adopted city (Gunsan) and, unlike in Europe or Latin America, we won’t understand the language or traditions — which I’m stoked to learn about.

But to be honest, one of the things I’m most excited about is the fact that for a full week, we will be completely removed from our routines and life as we know it here: work, school, gym, commitments, etc.

For someone like me — a recovering disordered eater/over-exerciser — being outside my comfort zone will be a really big challenge … but one I’m sincerely looking forward to embracing.

Sure, like always, I’ll pack my usual artillery of instant oatmeal packets and almond butter squeeze packs for the plane (it’s a 13 hr flight).

But once I’m there, I want to be there. I want the full experience — and that means loosening up and living a little.

In Korea, obviously I won’t be hitting the gym every day like I do here at home. We’ll be walking plenty I’m sure, and maybe we’ll go running a few times and/or do a bit of hiking … but certainly nothing like my obsessive-compulsive gym routines here (which are I might add, much calmer now than they were a few years ago).

And I think the time “off” will probably be a healthy change of pace.

Likewise, in Korea, I will need to be flexible with food choices. My brother speaks a little Korean now, but my usual way of ordering (X on the side, no oil, etc.) won’t be happening there. And you know what? I think that’s OK.

It seems like there will be a lot of healthy options anyway — vegetables, fish, etc. (and apparently we’re having Korean BBQ our first night there!) Anyway, I want to experience the flavors and culinary traditions of Korea, so I’m trying to be as open-minded as possible. My brother says a lot of the food is shared, like tapas … served family style. I’m looking forward to that, too.

(My only caveat to him was that I draw the line at eating live octopus tentacles — which he ate and filmed for us to see a few months ago. Other than that, I promised him I’d be as open-minded as I could, recognizing it’s a totally different culture than anything I’ve experienced before).

What I’m realizing on this recovery journey is that each time I travel or just loosen up at a girls’ dinner or on a date night with my husband, I feel like I’m making more and more progress towards becoming a more “normal” eater.

Each time, there’s less fear of the unknown and less anxiety … but I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that there’s also more of me now than there was three years ago … and sometimes it upsets me.

Still, that being said, I’d rather carry these extra pounds and be happier, saner and mentally healthier … than live a life of restriction and self-punishment. That’s no way to live, either. And I don’t miss those days.

Since life is about balance, I’m hoping to have an enjoyable vacation and experience Korea in moderation. I can’t wait, and feel up to the challenge. I’m not sure I would have felt so cool, calm and collected about a trip like this even a year ago.

To me, that in and of itself is a huge sign of progress.

How about you? Do you struggle when you have to travel for business or if you’re on vacation? Does being away from your comfort zone make you anxious?


No Responses to “Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zones”
  1. CandiceBP says:

    Wow, this sounds like it’s going to be an utterly amazing trip! I think throwing yourself into a completely different culture is a wonderful experience. You really can’t make everything about you and your constructed needs when those needs don’t fit the culture you’re currently visiting. I can’t wait to hear what kind of insights your bring to your daily life when you return home.

    I actually look forward to the break in routine when on vacation. I love things just as simple as going in a grocery store I’ve never heard of before and seeing how it’s laid out or what they have to offer. It’s amazing to see all the worldwide differences simply in what “breakfast” means to people… In France, it’s a simple croissant or pain du chocolat and coffee, but in Ireland, not so far away, it’s a huge meal with meat, eggs, porridge, fruit, bread, etc. The small details of our everyday lives become fascinating out of context, I find.

    I’m glad you’re feeling confident and calm about the trip. It can only bring good things. πŸ™‚

    • lissa10279 says:

      Thanks, Candice! I’m sure I’ll do a post about it when I get back. Hope to glean some insights, for sure.

      Exactly — it will be interesting for sure. I am such an oatmeal-for-breakfast kind of girl no matter which city/country I’m in! (Or bagels if home in NJ ;))

      Thank you!

  2. Jaimee says:

    Korean food is awesome. Kimchi is some of the healthiest food you can eat on the planet. Bi bim bab is by far my favorite, with lots of gochujang.

    I’m terribly jealous and wish that I were going too! If you like shoes, don’t skip out on Seoul. I’m told there is an entire corridor in the open market of just shoes, shoes, shoes, piled high and without end. πŸ™‚ Have fun!

    My only struggle when I vacation is avoiding meat, as I’m a vegetarian. Other than that, I’m usually running around so much that what I eat has little impact. When we were in New Orleans in August, I lost half a pound on my diet of beignets, cafe au lait, and French toast, but we probably walked five or ten miles a day. Vacations are awesome.

    • lissa10279 says:

      I don’t know anything about Korea Jaimee, so keep sharing, thank you! My bro promised to be our tour guide. Usually for foreign travel I pick up Lonely Planet and Fodor’s guides but this time we’re winging it πŸ˜‰

      Oh we are going to Seoul – the last two days!! (Well, we fly into Seoul but go straight to Gunsan where he is). Thank you!!!

      I am thinking I might go flexitarian there … I don’t eat much red meat anyway.

  3. julie says:

    You probably won’t even gain any weight, despite your fear. I think it sounds really fun, personally I’m terrified of Korean food, but I’ve been semi-veg most of my life. Not into live octopus, larvae, cat or dog. My ex’s best friend is Korean, I am a big wuss. Have a great time!

  4. cggirl says:

    Wow good for you! I completely identify with the whole comfort zone thing. I think maybe it’s ok to stay within our comfort zone in the day-to-day. But it’s important to be able to break out too and it’s great that ur so positive about it! What amazing progress you have made.

    I love this: “Still, that being said, I’d rather carry these extra pounds and be happier, saner and mentally healthier … than live a life of restriction and self-punishment. That’s no way to live, either. And I don’t miss those days.”

    let that be an I inspiration to us all!

  5. Sounds like it’s a wonderful opportunity to trust–trust that you will take care of yourself, and your body will take care of you and the analyzing and worrying and counting doesn’t have to happen–because you can trust yourself and your body.


  6. Nell says:

    Ah, I’m so jealous! I’d love to go to Korea on vacation (been several times on business).

    I’d pick up one of those quick “what to avoid doing at any cost” guides at the airport. I’m not really sure how much business etiquette translates into everyday life, but there are several situations that you don’t even want to get into if you want to have comfortable interactions with the people of Gunsan. One very important example? Your brother will probably introduce some friends of his to you (people you’re expected to see several times during your stay there.
    People you’re just casually meeting aren’t introduced at all!). You should bow a little, then hold the opposite party’s right wrist in your left hand (shaking hands) if the person is older and/or higher in rank than you are, otherwise there’s no shaking hands but you proceed directly to exchanging your calling cards. These MUST be studied extensively, even if neither you nor the person opposite you can read a word of what is printed on there. Be thorough, make some appreciative noises, then nod again and settle into conversation.

    Going out to eat? If you’re led to a raised platform, take off your shoes and sit cross-legged at the low tables there.

    Korean food is spicy, even to someone who is used to eating spicy food (I think it’s just right, but my roomie dies every time I cook “original level spiciness”). Your nose is going to start running, but: NO BLOWING YOUR NOSE IN PUBLIC, ever. This is an affront and a sign of really disrespecting both the people in the restaurant and the ones sharing your table. You just don’t do it. Don’t stab your chopsticks into food so they will stand upright- this is the way the food at altars is presented and means you hope the ones you’re sharing your meal with will join their ancestors stat.

    There’s several rules about when to give whom what to drink, but generally it’s like this: You never choose and pour your own drink but ask your neighbor what he/she’d like. They will answer you with their choice, giving you the opportunity of pouring for them and stating your own preference. This drives me crazy every time we have a business dinner.

    The left hand is “impolite”. Do things right-handed or use both hands (which is really a hassle for a lefty like me). If you want to wave to a server or someone keep your palm turned down and wave downwards, too. I don’t know the reason for that, just that every Korean I met seems to do it that way.

    Don’t kiss in public. Even though “uncultured Westerners” have something of a get-out-of-jail-free card in many regards, you will be seen as extremely impolite and crude. You may kiss other women, though, just as men may kiss men and hold hands with them. Intra-gender touching is much more common there!

    Finally, I’ve always loved traveling to Korea. People there are very polite, there is so much to to and see and if you want to get out of having to drink too much alcohol mention han-yak (I’ve no idea what that is, but if you say you take it people don’t expect you to keep up with them in drinking). Also be prepared to listen to utterly incomprehensible English and praising the skills of the speaker afterward. Even if your brother will translate what the person will repeat in Korean, they will want to show off their English skills. It’s so friendly, sweet and fun!

    Oh, and one quick tip: Stay away from Kimchi-filled chocolate. I DID try that once…

  7. lissa10279 says:

    Hey Nell, wow, thanks!! My brother did give us a lot of the same advice, but til we’re there it doesn’t mean much πŸ˜‰ I will def. print this out though, to add to my folder of stuff I need to know! πŸ™‚ He’s loving it over there, so I’m excited to experience it.

    LOL — kimchi-filled chocolate … def. does NOT sound appealing!

    • Nell says:

      *g* It’s definitely been wonderful every time I’ve traveled to Korea. The Kimchi choc was a dare from one of my wonderful colleagues πŸ˜‰

      Another thing to avoid is having noodle soup in restaurants that offer metal chopsticks. Hot, uncomfortable, and even though I grew up using chopsticks and cutlery equally it’s just not doable. The noodles end up everywhere except where you want them (and you get to smell the (presumed) tastiness all the time!).

  8. How exciting! I envy you. This will be an incredible experience. Asians eat so much better than we do and you should have a ball. Maybe it is better if you don’t know what you are eating… but I’d keep away from those tentacles too, especially if they are still wiggling! Have fun.

    • lissa10279 says:

      LOL. When my brother ate them (he filmed it) he said they were delicious but you had to swallow them quickly or they get stuck. I have to draw the line somewhere and living food just is it πŸ˜‰

  9. i love your ‘vacation’ attitude. we just returned from a vaca in south america, and i did some yoga & walked a ton & we were so active that i didnt feel guilty indulging or experiencing the vacation to the fullest. besides does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?
    as for the octopus- you should try it! i had it in greece and it is soo good! if you can get over the fact that it has a suction cup on the end you will be fine!
    enjoy korea!

    • lissa10279 says:

      Thanks! πŸ™‚ Exactly … when certain opportunities present themselves, we’d be insane to pass them up.

      Nah, I respect others who are food adventurists but I am not one of them πŸ˜‰ Never have been … but I will be respectful of those who are eating it.

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