A lot of people recovering from an eating disorder, regardless of its’ label, find eating away from their comfort zone, in public under the judgemental eyes of others, to be a daunting experience. As nice as it would be to totally avoid eating in public you will be missing out on many opportunities if you can’t do it for instance family gatherings, business lunches, going out to dinner with the pretty young lady or handsome young man who works in the shop down the road etc etc.
As with most things recovery related tackling eating in public will need to be something you tackle in stages. You will be doing more harm than good if you go from eating alone in your bedroom to going into a busy, hot, loud restaurant where you will have to wait 20 minutes for your food and tackle a portion the size of Wales. This is where the fast food chain comes into play. A fast food chain’s restaurant obviously varies greatly from a traditional restaurant but because of the variations they can act as a wonderful bridge to cross your anxieties surrounding eating in public.
Firstly there’s the time involved in getting your food. In a traditional restaurant you would be seated then have to wait for a waiter to come and take your order then have to wait for the food to be prepared and served. Let’s say this process takes 30 minutes. 30 minutes is a very long time to be sitting in an environment that smells of rich food surrounded by strangers who are stuffing their faces. I must admit even now I simply would not be able to handle it, it would make me feel really sick. At a fast food restaurant that time will be quartered. You go to the counter, order, the staff picks out the food you want then and there and you take it to your seat, normally within 5 minutes. That’s a lot less time for you to really soak in that restaurant atmosphere and you can just get to tackling the important bit which is eating outside of a familiar space.
Next up is portion size. If you walk into a fast food chain you can order anything from a small fries to a massive multi story bacon and cheeseburger tower. You can take on a portion size that you feel comfortable with but somewhere with a fixed menu that you can order from you might find yourself with a huge portion planted in front of you which might be a little intimidating the first time you go to eat in public.
Finally we have the people. Now it’s a myth that when you go out people judge you on what you are eating simply because they are too busy enjoying their own meal and company. I always used to worry about it even though I knew I was just making it up. If you are like me and struggle to come to terms with the fact people aren’t judging you then sitting for an hour or so surrounded by the same members of public just isn’t going to be a good time. Chance are those at a restaurant will be there to enjoy themselves too so have probably had a drink or two and might be a little loud, which always puts me on edge. At a fast food restaurant most people are just in and out again. Especially if you just go during the day. They are there for a reason and don’t want anything to do with the other consumers around them. It makes it sound horrible but it eases my mind to know that people aren’t paying any attention to me at all so maybe it will ease yours too.
If you have anxiety around eating in public then a restaurant is going to be your biggest challenge. It’s well worth taking on as the food is often delicious and normal humans eat socially so there are a lot of opportunities that can come from overcoming this fear. Fast food chain restaurants are a good stepping stone to help prepare you to take on a proper restaurant and over come that fear.
Thanks for reading and as always be sure to follow me on Twittube and Faceagram!