Eating Out in Eating Disorder Recovery


It feels amazing being able to stumble upon a restaurant or café and order something that sounds good. Not having looked up the menu beforehand, not having picked the option that seems the healthiest, and not having interrogated the waiter/waitress about the cooking process and whether the dish is served with any additional butter/oils/sauces that aren't clearly mentioned on the menu.

For most people, all of the above is a given. But if you struggle with an eating disorder or have struggled with one in the past, you know how incredibly challenging it can be to dine out. For me personally, going out was one of the most anxiety-provoking experiences that, believe it or not, took lots of "preparation". I would thoroughly examine the entire menu, scouring for the lowest-calorie and/or "healthiest" option. This option was rarely what I ever wanted, but I was too fearful of what would happen if I let go and actually listened to my body's needs. Because at the time, my body's "need" was a need for control. I believed that by picking out exactly what I was going to get, I was a step of ahead of the rest in some way. I believed I was "winning" at being the epitome of health...while in reality, my obsession for health made my health quite the opposite!

We often feel we can control our emotions by controlling our surroundings or other aspects of life. For some it's isolating yourself, for others it's manipulating food, and for some it may be overworking yourself at work, the gym, or even a combination of everything. However, just as being obsessed with healthy eating is an unhealthy phenomenon in itself (orthorexia), trying to hyper-control your life is allowing everything that you feel you're controlling, control you!

The need for control usually stems out of a place of fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of not being accepted...this fear is different for everyone. But what we all have in common is that we're scared of something, and this lack of being able to control this one something (whether it be change, an unknown event, or something else) urges us to grasp onto something outside of ourselves. This external grasp has us feel like we're rocking it at life, but all it is is giving us a feeling of safety and security.

I like to compare facing your fears to being a kid and learning how to do new things. When you're a kid, you don't really know how to do much. You don't know how to swim, how to bike, how to read, how to you learn. I'm sure we all know that it never works on the first try, but that's BECAUSE we're learning! If we knew how to do everything right off the bat, what would be the point of life? For myself, I love the bike comparison because that's one of my earliest learning memories as a kid (I'm Dutch, so I knew how to bike at 3 years old!). My first time on a bike was with training wheels, which do just what their name says: train. But at one point, I knew I could bike easily with training wheels and I wanted to try without them. The training wheels felt safe and I knew there would be a risk if I took them off, but I was so eager for adventure and challenge that I asked my dad to screw them off.

I very clearly remember that first ride on just the bike itself. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and I definitely fell quite a few times, but I also remember the thrill and excitement of three-year-old Livia that day. I was shaky and wobbly and full of nerves, but at one point I let go of trying to control the bike and just let my pedalling feet and inner balance take over. Letting go of the thoughts and tuning into this intuition, that's when I felt like I was truly flying.

Although it may seem silly to letting go to a three-year-old learning how to ride a bicycle, this personal example goes for everything in life. At one point we get so used to something; the routine it gives and the safety we feel. But staying in this monotone way of living is just so boring! It's only once you let go of the control and step out of what feels comfortable and safe, that you can truly grow and learn. Right now, I know that's scary. However, although it feels like you’re holding onto something, the fear is holding on to you. The fear has got you in its full grasp, isolating you from discovering your true potential and flying free to find everything you’re capable of. 

So how can you then truly discover what you're capable of? How can you find out where your true passion lies? By venturing out. By feeling the fear, and doing it anyways. So next time you feel there's something that scares you--such as going out to a restaurant and ordering what you ACTUALLY want instead of what you THINK (or rather your ED thinks) you want--remember that you can never discover how it really feels if you don't try.

Please remember, I am ALWAYS here to help. You probably can't do it on your own, and that's the exact reason I created my 1:1 Coaching Program...because I KNOW how scary it is, but I also know how incredible it feels to be on the other side! I see your full potential, and would love more than anything to help you see it, too ✨

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