As emotional eating expert and author of the Taming of the Chew, I am often asked this question: "How can I take care of myself on vacation so I don't get too stressed and turn to food to calm myself and take care of my emotion?" Below are some suggestions to help you relax, have fun and take care of your real needs.

Most of us will travel in some fashion over the summer and some of us realize the importance of making and checking lists ahead of time. We may make packing lists, lists of items we need to take along and lists of things to do when we reach our destination. Some more organized people even have lists of lists! But many of us neglect to consult the most vital list of all – our self-care list. We are complex beings and must attend to ourselves – physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and environmentally to have a healthy trip free from emotional eating and our usual reactions to stress.

Life is stressful. We are always on the go and trying to meet the needs of others while balancing the often-difficult demands of our personal lives. When we find ourselves away from our homes, on the road, eating airport snacks and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings. We often get out of sorts. We may not have opportunities to exercise and we may have to deal with delays, plan changes and set backs.

Before you head out the door, pack a self-care checklist to review before your departure. Attending to your needs on all levels will insure consistent health and balance. You will look better, feel better, radiate higher energy and have a lot more fun on your vacation!

Following is my personal checklist.

Physically: Have I been eating well, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats, sugar and simple carbohydrates as often as possible and eating good amounts of protein every few hours? Have I packed healthy snacks to take along, like cheese, nuts and fruit? Do I have my I-pod and earphones for music and my neck pillow for my comfort? Am I well hydrated, drinking at least 64 ounces of pure water each day? Have I been keeping regular bedtime hours, getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep? Am I keeping moderate exercise a priority in my life?

Emotionally: Have I been attending to my feelings and expressing myself appropriately; not holding in feelings or stuffing them down with unhealthy foods? Have I really been taking time to nurture myself? When was the last time I truly relaxed? I bring a journal along with me. This provides a place to vent or explore my feelings. Writing down how I feel can be very helpful. Clearing myself emotionally means I can better attend to the tasks at hand. I am less distracted or preoccupied.

Socially: Have I been spending time with positive people that I enjoy being with? Am I having fun? Am I paying enough attention to my relationships? Do I stay well connected so I don’t find myself isolated and lonely? Do I apportion my time with others with the alone time I need to stay balanced? If I feel lonely while away, do I have one or two support people I can call and connect with?

Spiritually: Have I been taking quiet time for myself? Do I spend time every day praying, meditating or just sitting and quietly breathing? Do I remind myself often to stay in the present rather than worry about the future or hang on to difficulties from the past?

Environmentally: Have I brought what I need to set up a comfortable environment in my hotel room (perhaps a favorite photo, bath oil, small scented candle or incense)? I bring along my down pillow that I put into a compression sack. This fits easily into my suitcase and ensures that I will get a good night’s sleep.

Whether on or off the road, it is essential to take gentle care of ourselves. The busier we are, the more we need to do this. Only by paying attention to our own needs, can we best serve the needs of others. If we head out the door unprepared and we don't bring along what we need to manage our stressful times, we are likely to turn to food and engage in emotional eating behavior to soothe ourselves. Go now, enjoy your summer and have fun!

I wish you happy travels and radiant health!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Denise is the national emotional eating expert, founder of Emotional Overeating Awareness Month, a noted author and international professional speaker. She has been quoted in many publications including "O" The Oprah Magazine and has been a guest on New Hampshire Public Radio and many other radio and television programs. She is the International Professional/Celebrity spokesperson for Nelsons USA, Bach Flower Essences and the emotional overeating expert for Ann Louise Gittleman's popular Fat Flush website and other popular internet sites.