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⚠️Trigger Warning: eating disorders
For many people suffering from eating disorders, COVID-19 related lockdowns have eliminated one major stressor: eating out at restaurants.
COVID-19 and Eating at Restaurants
Not having the option to eat at restaurants may have actually allowed some people in eating disorder recovery control over their intake–something that has only fueled eating disorders to become stronger throughout the pandemic.
As the world starts to reopen and more people are more comfortable getting out and being social again, you may find yourself in the tricky situation of wanting to get back to your social support group but feeling very anxious about eating at restaurants. This can be an incredibly scary experience for anyone suffering from an eating disorder.
On top of any COVID-19 related concerns, eating at a restaurant poses a massive threat to the eating disorder: it involves putting the trust and control in someone else’s hands, which the eating disorder hates (but recovery loves!).
Getting back to social activities, especially with those in your support system, can be powerful and healing. Below are my five steps to help you navigate your first experiences eating at a restaurant with others.
5 Tips for Eating at Restaurants While in Eating Disorder Recovery
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In eating disorder recovery, we like to talk about pushing boundaries and getting out of our comfort zone with food. For many people, eating outside of the home and eating with others is certainly far from their comfort zone. That may be enough of a challenge, so there is nothing wrong with sticking to safe foods in this situation.
You may not be ready to order a fear food, and that is perfectly okay right now.
That can be a great goal to work towards but may not be where you are now.
Make a Plan
Whenever you want to get anything done, making a plan is the best first step. Planning also allows you to have a practice run in your head.
Choose a restaurant, take a look at the menu online and choose what you’re going to have. If it helps, write out the plan too.
Appoint a Support Person
Now that you have a plan and a meal picked out, choose someone who can help you stick to it.
Ordering from a menu can be anxiety-inducing, so maybe have someone say the words for you to help relieve some of the pressure.
We often talk about sitting with our feelings in eating disorder recovery, but sometimes there is nothing wrong with simply getting your mind off things.
Distraction can be a powerful way to do exactly that and help you take the spotlight off a potentially very uncomfortable situation.
The great thing about eating out with others is that the distraction is right in front of you. Prepare some questions or a table game you can play with others to keep the focus off the food.
Write it Out
How did it go? How did it compare to your plan and your expectations? If it was a positive experience, recount what went well, what felt right, and how you were able to cope.
Having it written out is an important reminder that overcoming our fears is possible.
If it was a negative experience, recount how you felt, how it could have gone better, what you might do differently next time.
Remember that all experiences are opportunities to grow and learn, especially in recovery.
You are Not Alone if Eating at Restaurants is Scary
If you’re thinking about eating out at a restaurant with others, know that you are not alone in your fear and anxiety.
It can be really scary and new, but it can also be an excellent opportunity to push your eating disorder further while getting closer to vital social supports.
If you feel like you might be up to the challenge, try out these five steps and have a fantastic meal out! We at Libero are all rooting for you!
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Olivia Cupido is a registered dietitian and founder of OG Nutrition in Toronto. She is passionate about helping others foster healthy relationships with food and their bodies. Olivia helps her clients return to the importance of connection, culture, enjoyment and self-care in food and eating.
SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.