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Question: Submitted via email by Isa in Loma Linda, CA

I’m leaving for Vermont to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I have a four hour layover in O’Hare and I’m really scared. Layovers are  usually  a time when I go from Cinnabon to Pizza Hut to McDonalds to Chilis to Starbucks and eat several full meals at places I would never ordinarily eat.  I am totally freaking out. I can’t even imagine what four whole hours in the airport is going to be like! I feel like I’m going to eat until I burst. What should I do?

Hi Isa,

First off, you are not alone in this. Binge eating at the airport is huge. Airport layovers are recipes for a binge because:

  • Traveling is stressful and binge eating is a stress relief
  • You are bored and it’s a way to fight boredom
  • Although you are traveling among several thousands of people, if you are traveling  alone, you are in a city where nobody knows you and this can feel very isolated and anonymous and secretive.
  • There is a bounty of fast foods and “forbidden foods” in relatively small radius.

Four hours is a long time, but there are many other things that you can do besides binge eat on a long flight.

1.)Make sure that you have a plan.

2.)Figure out how to get your three meals in that day without restricting or bingeing. Know that because you have a long day of flying ahead of you that you need to prepare with snacks. Have a full meal before you get on the plane (breakfast), or if it’s too early, make sure that you bring snacks on the plane. I like to bring nuts and Lara bars. There is also often an option to buy food on the plane.

3.)When you get to the airport, actually have a meal there. You will need to eat lunch anyway, so find a place that you feel comfortable getting a meal at, and have a sit down meal. Eat something that feels safe. Being in a challenging situation is probably not the right time to be challenging yourself with trigger foods.  Eat it slowly and mindfully.

4.)Let some people know that you will have a 4 hour layover and that it’s a good time to chat and catch up. You might have some safe people who you call who know that you are afraid of bingeing at the airport, so you might want to “bookend” your arrival and departure with them.  “Bookending” is calling someone at the beginning of a challenging situation where you think you might binge, and then calling them at the end of the situation. Knowing that someone is there supporting you can help keep you safe.

5.)Find out of this airport has any fun amenities before you go, such as a place to get your nails done or to get a massage and plan on that for your layover.

6.)Bring (or buy!) an awesome book to read. Camp out and read somewhere away from the food court.

7.)Make sure that you’re drinking enough water throughout your layover. It’s important to stay hydrated and it will keep you doing something with your mouth.

8.)Bring something to do with your hands like knitting or beading or sketching.

9.)Bring some movies to watch on your computer or ipad or portable dvd player.

10.)Decide that you’re going to explore all the different terminals. O’Hare is huge. And you’ll even get a little exercise in.

11.)Remember that  cinnabon, pizzeria uno, starbucks, taco bell, tcby, chili’s, et al. will always exist and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and just because you are in the airport, it’s not your last opportunity to eat at them. You can always make that choice when you are empowered to, not when they are seducing you by keeping you a captive audience.

12.)Peruse the bookstore, thumb through magazines, be a window shopper. There are lots of different and fun stores in the airport where you can just look and not have to buy.

13.)Do some personal grooming so that you feel more comfortable after your long flight and before going on another long flight. Brush your teeth, wash your face, brush your hair, try to freshen up a bit. It will generally pull you out of the binge trance.

 

Good Luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

Does anyone else have any suggestions on ways to kill time at the airport without binge eating? Please share in the comments.

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.

 

 

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  • Wow, what an incredible list! I would add to it something that was helpful for me. When I go out to eat by myself, usually when I’m travelling alone, I take a magazine or newspaper with me. It makes for a more leisurely meal when I’m reading. Out-of-town newspapers can be especially interesting, if you like seeing what’s going on in another town.