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5 Tips for Navigating Social Gatherings with an Eating Disorder

Social gatherings tend to revolve around food. Family and friends often join together to share a meal and it's common practice to meet up with coworkers for happy hour after a long day. If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, however, the challenges and hurdles in these social situations may be exponentially higher. Higher, but not insurmountable. 

At Southlake Counseling, our compassionate and experienced team of mental health experts understands the impact that an eating disorder can have on your life, which is often magnified during times of high stress and food-related events.

To help you better navigate your food-based social gatherings, here are 5 tips that will keep you in good stead.

1. Put a plan in place

To start, we spend a considerable amount of time coming up with coping strategies and trigger management plans. By anticipating potential landmines, we can develop a plan of action that will keep you safe, whether it’s a deep breathing time-out or a coping statement that you can repeat to give yourself strength.

Everyone handles recovery from an eating disorder differently, so we make sure that your plan best suits your unique situation.

You may also want to set up a meeting schedule ahead of time if you’re involved in support groups

2. Food is food — even at parties and dinners

Remember, there’s nothing that says that one food is good while another is bad, which applies to social food, as well. It’s simply food, and as long as it’s part of a healthy overall diet, you can take part in any way that makes you feel comfortable. Try to put aside the guilt and understand that you’re merely doing what everyone else is doing — eating while catching up with family and friends.

3. Set boundaries

Do your best to avoid discussing your eating disorder, or dieting in general, and be firm but polite about it. With your closer family members and friends, tell them ahead of time that you’re looking forward to this time together, but you’d prefer to put any discussion of your eating disorder aside. 

With others, you can simply redirect the conversation by turning it around to them. For example, when a friend declares that she’s going to have to diet for weeks after all she ate, simply smile and ask how her new job is going. People rarely notice that you’ve changed topics if you place the focus on them.

If you’re asked outright about your issues with eating, just politely say, “Let’s discuss more interesting things, like where you found those great boots.”

4. Go easy on yourself

If you slip up at a social gathering, practice some self-compassion and get right back to your plan. One of the hardest hurdles in early recovery from an eating disorder is to stop a slip-up from gaining momentum. For example, if you purge after a meal, it’s OK. Recognize the slip and figure out how to do better at the next meal, without chastising yourself. Recovering from an eating disorder is tough enough without allowing that guilt-inducing inner voice to take control.

5. You’re stronger than you know

The fact that you’re showing up and that you’re actively doing something about your eating disorder should be a source of pride. You’re stronger than most every other person in the room just for being there, and you should recognize that. Build on that strength and let it guide you through social situations. 

To learn more about how to healthily navigate food-based social situations, please call us or use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment at one of our offices in Charlotte or Davidson, North Carolina.

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