Summer is finally here and, with the weather warming up, it is likely that you will find yourself involved some form of summer celebration like a picnic or barbeque.
Whatever the setting, mealtimes can be challenging any time of the year – these tips might help you handle mealtimes and to keep your recovery a priority this summer.
Plan ahead – and do so with the support of loved ones
As much as you probably don’t want to think about food and mealtimes, “to prepare is half the victory”. If you have an event or celebration coming up surrounding food that is making you anxious, take a moment to sit with a loved one and discuss your anxieties and what your triggers might be on the day. Perhaps you can reach out to whoever is hosting the event to let them know that you’re going through a difficult time and may need some small adjustments to the plan in order for you to join in as much as possible. It’s okay to state your needs and ensure that they are met.
“It’s okay to state your needs and ensure that they are met.”
Take time to consider how to handle portions and picnic-style meals
We often find that picnics and barbeque can be a real challenge for those in recovery from an eating disorder. There is often lots of choice and a buffet style selection of food can be overwhelming. It’s not unusual for your host to want to serve you, or you might see other guests taking generous portions.
Assessing hunger levels or knowing a “normal” portion size is often skewed when eating disorder thoughts take over. Take a moment to consider the best way to ensure your food choices or portions are right for you and your recovery. Perhaps a loved one can help you, or you could receive guidance in advance from your therapist and/or dietitian.
If you can, find out what food is being served. Often, a picnic of BBQ means you can bring your own dish or contribution to the meal. If you know in advance how you’re going to handle the way the meal is laid out, you’re more likely you keep calm and composed throughout, leaving you with enough mental space to connect with friends and family.
Sit next to someone who is supportive
Summer events are a popular way for family and friends to get together, and whilst that’s usually a joyful experience, it can be really difficult for those in recovery as there’s the risk of (often well-meaning) comments triggering unhelpful thoughts and feelings.
At the event, be mindful of who you’re sitting near, if you feel they may say something that might make the meal difficult, see if you can join a different group. Make sure you’re sitting next to someone who you feel comfortable, it will help your confidence knowing someone supportive is close by if something comes up.
Create a safe space for yourself, and know that you can escape to it
If spending lots of time with family time sounds overwhelming – that’s okay! This can be overwhelming for people regardless of whether they’re suffering with an eating disorder or not. Just ensure you have a safe space you can return to for some reflection and peace and quiet. Perhaps you could create a safe word with a family member, so they know you need a short break and need to be checked in with after a period of time. All of these actions are ways of ensuring you can keep your recovery the priority – it is not “needy” or “weak” to need time out.