5 Tips for Facing Social Eating Engagements

Scenario:

You have been invited out to dinner for a birthday celebration with good friends. Your initial reaction may be excitement to see your friends, to celebrate and eat delicious food or you could be worried.

You immediately Google the restaurant that you will be going to and peruse the menu. Nothing sounds good. Well, the food sounds good but it is food you do not allow yourself to have. Maybe the calories are listed next to the menu items and that is scaring you. It could be food that goes against the food rules you have created or rules the diet you are following created.

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You have these choices:

1. Abstain from going and therefore abstain from eating that meal and socializing with close friends.

2. Engage in disordered eating throughout the day by planning to restrict to “make up for” what you will be eating later.

3. Engage in disordered eating the day after to “make up for” what you ate last night.

4. Be present and enjoy your day’s worth of eating prior to the event and continue after.

Tips for dining out when you are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating:

1. Say yes. So often my clients are presented with opportunities to engage in social activities that are surrounded by food. Part of healing from an eating disorder, disordered eating patterns and chronic dieting is saying yes to events, people and food and devising a coping plan, without manipulating food, to manage your thoughts. Commit to the event and then come up with a plan for self-care.

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2. Eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day prior to the event. This will allow your blood sugar to remain optimal and steady throughout the day and allow your metabolism to be regulated so that your brain is supplied with constant energy to have improved cognition; making the best decisions you can throughout the day. This physiological aspect will also prevent binging from happening later in the evening.

3. Set an intention. An intention is different than a goal. Many intentions can stem from a goal. Goals are not always achieved automatically, so we set mini goals, or intentions, along the way. This allows you to feel a sense of immediate accomplishment, motivating yourself further down the path of healing.

4. Use your senses to keep you present. You may want to zone out of conversations but use your senses to keep you engaged. Use your senses to increase mindfulness with the food. Taste the flavors, smell the scents, notice the textures and listen to your friends’/family’s words.

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5. Radically accept that you will feel uncomfortable. No change is easy, whether it be good or bad. If anxiety presents when you attend social events with food remember your intention for the event/meal and know that practice makes progress.

We cannot avoid food. Not only is it necessary for survival, but for many parts of the world eating together is a form of bonding, unification, therapy (yes, therapy), celebration and so forth. This is why having a healthy relationship with food is so important! If we say no to events that will make us feel discomfort, we are saying no to a lot more than just the food.