By Rachel Horowitz
Sometimes social life revolves around food. A lot.
In the past week, I met up with old friends over lunch. I shared stories about a night out over brunch. I went to study sessions with coffee and baked goods. I attended club events with free food. I cooked a “family dinner.” I ate frozen yogurt at a benefit night.
When I felt uncomfortable eating around others, I would stay at home and make up excuses. I would wonder what it would be like to be able to enjoy a meal without worrying about if my eating disorder would thoroughly spin out of proportion. I remember an orientation skit that showed the problem of assuming that people have enough money to go out for meals. I wish they had also discussed not feeling comfortable going out because of private struggles with food. I never realized it was that common of an issue until I started discussing it with others.
Once I went public with my recovery story, I was still worried that people would scrutinize what I was eating even more carefully. Sometimes friends would want to eat dinner super early or super late, or I would go to an event with food after I already had a meal. In those cases, I worried that others would jump to conclusions when I did not have a lot on my plate. There was a time when this caused my friends to worry, and they often did not know what to do.
So what should you do if your friend feels uncomfortable meeting up for meals and you feel that they are missing out on their social life? An easy alternative could be suggesting to do something else – going to a museum, an art gallery, or a park. You could visit them in their home or meet for coffee between meals. If you feel comfortable, you could use this time to ask them more about their thoughts and feelings that may be preventing them from eating around others.
By showing that you understand and are not going to force them to do activities they are not ready to do, you can build a layer of trust and present yourself as a good person to talk to when they are ready. There is no “fast track” to recovery, but you can be there to help them over this hurdle.