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10 First Date Ideas for Eating Disorder Recovery That Don’t Involve Food

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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.

Recently, I decided to dip my toes into the dating pool.

Many people would agree that dating is hard, but as someone in recovery from an eating disorder, I found it particularly challenging. The first and second dates, in my opinion, are the worst. On top of the stress of meeting a new person and wanting to make a good impression, there is all the eating disorder noise that pops up: the outfit-checking, the hyperfocus on your appearance, the voice in the back of your head questioning your worth and likability and social abilities. To tack on food — what kind of food, how much food, eating in front of a stranger at a new place I don’t know, whether I will disclose my eating disorder recovery or not when the opportunity inevitably presents itself — often, it feels like too much when I’m already anxious, and makes the date something I dread rather than look forward to.

This will get better as I get further into my recovery, I’m sure, and I am getting more comfortable all the time with being upfront about the unique recovery-related challenges I’m facing. In the meantime, though, I’m constantly looking for date ideas that don’t involve food, drinking, exercise or anything that would add undue eating disorder stress. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Disclaimer: most of these dates are not virtual-friendly, but there are some stellar ideas online if you Google around!

1. Play some mini-golf.

Say what you will about mini-golf, but this is a prime first date activity. There is plenty of time in-between holes for conversation, an opportunity for fun competition (is anyone good at mini golf?), and it’s a timed, structured activity in case things get awkward and you’re looking to bail.

2. Do a shopping challenge.

Hit up your local used bookstore, Target or something else and pick out three items for the other person. The Target Challenge is actually a real thing (thank you, TikTok) with themes for each item. Afterward, go to a park and do the big reveal.

3. Be a tourist in your town.

Mention that you’ve been wanting to check out a recurring event, a cool museum or exhibit, a conservatory or a new park (although I wouldn’t recommend secluded activities until you get to know them better – public populated parks only, please).

4. Find a planetarium.

Stargazing is such a relaxing thing to do, and a great way to check if your vibes are the same.

5. Go to a park and get crafty.

Painting in the park, anyone? Look up a tutorial, take turns painting the same thing, or take a stab at painting an object or landscape. You could also try something else like photography or whatever you can find in the craft aisle.

6. Have show-and-tell.

You bring (or take them to) your favorite hobby, board game or other activity, and introduce them to it! Then, they’ll do the same.

7. If it’s not wintertime wherever you are, go pick berries or apples!

Spend some time in nature and bring home the goods to use later.

8. Play a game.

Games like Catchphrase are fun because they’re so interactive, but you could also opt for any ol’ board game, a puzzle or even something online.

9. Have a tandem Spotify-listening session.

Everyone always wants to know what kind of music you listen to — cut to the chase and show them firsthand.

10. Watch sports.

If there are no professional sports around you right now (thanks, COVID-19), search around for some Little League or high school games and pick a player to support.

What are your go-to first date ideas?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Originally published: October 15, 2020
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