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Eating Out Saved My Eating Disorder Recovery. Cooking Almost Ruined It

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Eating out saved me in eating disorder recovery. Cooking almost ruined it.

I know what I sound like – another person who is just trying to find ways to justify spending money that contributes to them being broke instead of being economically wise by cooking in and meal prepping. It’s giving poor little rich girl vibes without a doubt, and I accept that, only I’m not rich, at all. In fact I live paycheck to paycheck due to the rising costs of living in a world that prioritizes old money versus human beings (especially ones from exploited communities) actually being able to, y’know, live. This is my reality as it has been for a while, and even with that I choose to eat out (a lot) versus staying in and cooking.

Before you judge me, hear me out:

I’ve lived with various eating disorders for the better part of my life. I grew up so substantially in diet culture, not just due to magazines and media, but due to untreated eating disorders and disordered thinking in those around me. There’s no reason as to why a 9-year-old should know how to calculate Weight Watchers points, or be eating diet snacks and telling all of her friends how it’s only a certain amount of calories and thus it’s healthier, but there I was doing just that. I remember looking in the mirror at age 10 and for the first time really noticing my body, and it wasn’t a good day. Beyond that, I had a tumultuous relationship with food, where I associated it with a lot of painful memories and trauma versus anything else. That is except for when I was eating dessert, or going out to dinner with my mother or grandmother.

So, fast forward and we’re in our mid-20’s, just had a weigh-in due to a new nifty entertainment job for a major company, and you realize for the first time just how sick you are. The body dysmorphia lens is gone, and you look in the mirror and see who you’ve become. You decide (after a full day of feeling ashamed and crying) that you’re going to get better and so that’s what you try to do. 

At first, I cooked a little. I was working a job that made it very difficult to actually go out and eat, so I played to my strengths and made one big pan of something or other and ate that for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then the pandemic hit and cooking was a fun little hobby for a while (two weeks), but then that changed. It was a chore again, and slowly I started eating less because I didn’t have the energy to figure out what I wanted to cook, go to the store and get the ingredients in a COVID-19 world, prep, cook, and clean all by myself. On some of these days I compensated by ordering in take-out. It was an expenditure I couldn’t quite afford, but I needed to eat. If I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t do it at all. What’s worse? A broke bank account, or relapsing when you’ve made such steady ground in your recovery journey?

Then life got even worse. I was introduced to a toxic lover known as grief, and she stayed with me making it hard to even open my eyes in the morning. How was I going to cook if I couldn’t even swing my legs out of bed to brush my teeth? The only times I would eat would be when I made lunch dates with friends, or once again ordered in food. Expensive? Yes. Life saving? Hell yes.

Then I got a better job. I was still struggling to gain the energy to actually make meals so I would go out every now and then to my favorite restaurants. I’d lean back in a booth with a book, sip a little adult soda (or two if you catch my drift), and not think about anything, including food. My mind would be empty, and next thing you know my plate would be too. On top of that, I was completely relaxed and a better person.

There would be times that I’d try to stop eating out (because I’m not made of money) but every single time I’d eat less and less. Making time to cook and clean isn’t the same in my mind as making the time to get cute, go to a small mom and pop bar, and get some tacos or nachos. 

Let’s pretend for a moment that instead all those times I stayed in and didn’t go out to eat. I would have 100% relapsed in my eating disorder recovery. I almost did. There were times that my weight started fluctuating again which would scare me because of all the progress I made. Then in those moments I’d do what I would. Eating out, and social eating on top of that, is what helped not just propel my eating disorder recovery, but also save it. 

I think that something we need to remember when it comes to eating disorder recovery is that no one’s path is the same. Everyone’s path is extremely different, and what works for some may not for others. I know this is a financially privileged story (as much as it can be for someone currently counting down until their next paycheck), but it’s a personal sacrifice I make on behalf of my health. If I didn’t, the only other option would be restrictive eating patterns, even if unintentional, and that’s a slippery slope. 

Do what works for you. You have to. Yes, listen to professionals as they’re there to support you, but also if you have an untraditional or unconventional means of continuing on your recovery journey and it’s safe, why not do it?

Eating out isn’t my “guilty pleasure.” It’s actually my life saver.

Lead image courtesy of contributer

Originally published: July 20, 2022
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