How I Found a Solution to My Social Eating Fears

Social eating can feel like a living hell.

The thought of eating with everyone watching and having no idea what has gone into your food can fill you with fear.

But eventually, you get to a stage in recovery when you’re reading to conquer this whole social eating thing. But do these fears magically go away at this point? Probably not.

Here’s my issue with social eating…

Take this as an example: my school’s prom is coming up. All my friends are going and it’s going to be awesome. There will be fireworks and dancing and food. A LOT of food.

Naturally, I’m terrified.

It’ll be the first time in a long time that I’ll be eating around people who aren’t family. And when I do eat in front of others it’s typically one normal meal. But this event will involve an elaborate three course meal.

My mind is flooding with worries. Should I eat all of it and try to be “normal”? But then I’ll feel so uncomfortably full. Maybe I should plant to only eat half. But then I’ll feel like I’m failing at recovery- I’ve been trying hard to finish full portions…

What makes all of this so hard is knowing that everyone is watching. When you’re in recovery, it can feel like everyone is constantly watching you and evaluating what you are and aren’t eating. Which I hate.

Panicking about social eating

So I panicked. and panicked some more. I decided to email my psychologist and she replied to all my worries with this statement:

“Social eating is not normal eating – the normal rules do not apply. Don’t treat social eating like your usual meal time routine because it’s inherently different. This is because social eating isn’t really even about the food. It’s about people.”

So you can have fun, enjoy the food an conversation, and not finish all the food if you reach a comfortable fullness level. Or you can enjoy the taste of the food and the conversation, eat a bit past fullness, and finish your plate. Both could be considered intuitive eating.

During all of this, try not to focus on the food too much. If you do, you’re detracting from the whole purpose of the social eating – which is to have fun. And if this happens, the eating disorder has won.

This totally changed things for me. Once I let go of these fears, I was able to enjoy the evening. I celebrated with my friends, talked, danced, laughed – all the things you should be doing in recovery and which you probably couldn’t do when your eating disorder was in control.

What I’ve realized is, social eating is about living. Rules are from your eating disorder.

So when you start to live again, throw those rules away. They no longer have a place in your life.

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