Eating out. Eating out at restaurants, other peoples home, or in any environment that you are uncomfortable with is terrifying during recovery. But, it is a huge stepping stone that you have to find a way through.
I remember the anxiety that came along with going out to dinner with family or friends. It would always feel like everyone was watching me. I was so self conscious anytime I ate with other people and at a place other than home. At home I had control, comfort and security.
But it was only feeding into my eating disorder. By not getting out of my comfort zone and eating out, I was helping the eating disorder self instead of developing my “healthy self”.
It was so hard for me to find a way to enjoy going out to eat instead of fearing it. When I was little I used to love going out and choosing whatever drink I wanted the food I wanted to eat. My eating disorder stole that joy from me. But I’m living proof that it’s possible to overcome the fear of eating out and find that joy of sharing a meal with others once again.
That said, here are 5 tips to begin the process of feeling comfortable eating around others and eventually wanting to go out to eat.
1. Say yes (even when you don’t want to)
Say “yes” to going out to eat. Say “yes” to fun opportunities and experiences. In doing so, you are saying “yes” to recovery.
When you say “yes” to going out to eat you step into unknown territory.
Saying “yes” means you are intentionally stepping out of your comfort zone. I know this is hard- but it’s absolutely necessary for your recovery.
Once you start to stop listening to you ED self you start to slowly give control back to your healthy self.
When you sit down take a second to breath. In and out.
It may feel like your world is ending. You feel like you are losing control. There may be nothing that fits your eating disorder’s “rules” of what you “have” to eat. You may be feeling pure anxiety.
But its crucial that you take a second to just breath. Remember that this is one meal, one moment, one step towards a future where food can be food again.
3. Focus on you
Focus on you and you alone.
I know how difficult it is to only focus on what your body needs. I would always let what other people get dictate what I was going to order.
Then I would always try and calculate calories up in my head.
I was so focused on what I was ordering and if other people were watching me, that I could never be present.
I could never create memories that would later bring me joy. So, I encourage you to focus on your body’s needs instead of what everyone else is doing around you.
4. Take baby steps
Saying “yes” to going out to eat is already a huge step. But as time goes on, continue to challenge yourself while eating out.
For example, actually order something that sounds delicious to you. This is hard to do. You may have forgotten what actually brings you joy to eat.
So, start small. Order a drink that you like to drink (not just water). Eat the appetizer that comes out. In small steps you can slowly get back in touch with your taste buds and slowly rediscover foods that you like to eat.
5. Keep yourself accountable
If you have a family member, friend, or doctor who knows what you are going through I encourage you to talk to them about your struggles. Maybe even plan to go out to eat with them.
Let them know what your thoughts are and what you’re scared of. Ask them to help you stay accountable to your body and your needs. Every step is a positive step forward.
Ask people to help you push past your comfort zone into unknown territory. And maybe, if your up to the challenge, let someone else choose the restaurant.
I know how scary it is to go out to eat. It seems like such a simple thing, but it is not. It is hard and stressful for someone in recovery.
It is terrifying. But it is necessary.
Once you can begin to go out to eat, you’ll begin to realize that overtime you said no to someone you missed out on memories, you missed out on life.