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When Your Eating Disorder Keeps You From Socializing

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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.

I guess you could say I have a fear of missing out, but that is only part of the truth. When I was dealing with my eating disorder, I really did miss out on seeing friends because the main way people gather seems to always involve food. Especially in college, we are around other people so often, that getting food during that time is often inevitable.

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 if my eating disorder would thoroughly spin out of proportion.

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 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 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 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.

Getty Images photo via Inner_Vision

Originally published: March 28, 2018
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