Hi friends! Popping in for an extra special post today about food anxiety and restaurants because this is something that I struggled with for a very long time and a topic I get DMs about all the time. I wanted this post to be mainly a Q&A (thank you, by the way, if you submitted!), but I thought I’d also give you a brief background to share more about my experience with major food anxiety at restaurants. As always, if you are suffering from an eating disorder, please please please seek help. Seek professional help. I recommend checking out the NEDA website for more information!
There was a time in my life where I would spend more time researching menus and calculating calories than eating at actual restaurants. In my early 20’s, going out to eat was a mega ordeal…every. single. time. No added oils, dressings on the side, bland as can be <— that was my motto. Eating disorders aren’t just “eating disorders,” they’re so much more complex. They bring so much social and food anxiety along with them and this very much so consumes your entire life. I’m speaking from experience here, and can I just say that the pressure to eat as clean as possible lead me to miss out on some of the best years of my life. In my early 20s (my eating disorder days is what I refer to it as), I was eating the same 3 dinners over and over again at the same time every single night. It was like clockwork. I knew exactly how many calories I was consuming and the best time to eat so that my body could metabolize it and burn it off. Eating at a restaurant was like eating the unknown because you never know what they put in the food. I remember that Panera was on my “safe list” of places to eat because they were one of the first restaurants to share calories next to food items. Yup, that’s all food was to me. Not flavor or texture…just a number.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to put in words the feelings that I had when I was at a restaurant. I felt pressure to eat “bad foods,” guilt for feeling pressured, scared that I was going to gain weight, and completely anxious and uncomfortable. I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging my order. I also felt out of control because I wasn’t the one physically cooking the food. Oh, and I could think about when I was eating at a restaurant was how I was going to burn it off when I got home. An extra mile or two…maybe half my allotted calories for breakfast?
Restaurant anxiety was a VERY large part of my eating disorder. Today I want to answer YOUR questions about my recovery and how I overcame this. From normalizing my eating habits to challenging myself to spontaneous meals at restaurants, recovery CAN BE DONE. You can do it and you are not alone.
<< PS: My eating disorder was a combination of anorexia, binge eating disorder, and orthorexia. You can read more about that HERE. >>
Food Anxiety Q&A
These questions came directly from YOU. I asked FFF Instagram communities what questions they had on this topic and am answering every single one below.
How do you politely ask the restaurant to cook vegetables in olive oil instead of butter?
At this point in my recovery journey, I do not do this. Part of eating out at a restaurant is the experience of taste and indulgence. Instead of fixating on what’s in my food, I try and focus on flavor and taste instead.
How do you deal with big events and photos being taken?
Confidence! You just need to rock your mind, body, and soul! Being confident with who you are on the inside will help you with confidence on the outside.
Tips on ordering what your body is craving now rather than what you “think you should be eating.”
I used to be strictly a salad eater when I went out to eat, but then I’d leave my meal feeling unsatisfied and wanting more. There’s really no other way for me to describe how to order what you are craving than to just do it. In today’s society, we’ve created these lists of good foods vs. bad foods. Eating out at a restaurant should be more about the experience of who you are eating with, than trying to eat the perfect meal. You may not eat the entire meal if it’s a little more indulgent, but you gave your body what you were craving..and you deserve it!
How do you handle having thoughts about other people judging you for what you’re eating?
Have the mindset that you really don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. And…confidence! Just be you and it won’t matter.
How do you find ways to steer others towards healthier places/places you know you’ll have food options at without coming off as difficult.
It all comes down to who you surround yourself with. If you surround yourself with normal eaters and those who live a similar lifestyle to you, then it should be easy!
How do you handle your anxiety when restaurants post the calorie amounts?
I don’t look at calorie counts! This is one thing that used to arise a lot of anxiety inside of me, so I try and just avoid looking at calorie count at all cost. This also helps me eat intuitively in the end. My mind goes immediately to “how much I should be eating” if I know the calorie count. Instead, I just stop when I’m full.
What do you do when someone else orders takeout/pizza and you’re pressured to eat it?
You should only eat it if you actually want to eat it. You ALWAYS have the choice to say yes or no. Listen to your hunger and craving cues and your body will tell you what it wants!
How do you handle comments about your eating habits and disorders from others?
The kind of comments I get from people are usually…WOAH Fit Foodie eats pizza? Why yes, I eat everything! Girl, you shouldn’t care what anyone thinks about you. Live and breath the saying “you do you.”
How do you handle the guilt that comes with eating a “bad” food?
This takes A LOT of practice and self-control. Try to change your mindset from good and bad foods to just food in general. You ARE allowed to indulge. Feel good about your choices. Tomorrow is a new day!
What do you do to distract yourself on a bad day?
I’ll do anything in my power to get myself outside or to the climbing gym with people I know will pick me back up. Fresh air can do wonders for my mind and soul. Bad days are inevitable and I’m a total binger on these kinds of days. So, I eat the ice cream and feel good about it.
How did you learn to live in the moment and enjoy the experience of eating out even if it’s unhealthy food?
This is suchhhh an important part of life! I try and clear my mind from all bad thoughts and really focus on being intentional with who I am with. In order to do this, I had to keep challenging myself over and over again in “unhealthy food” situations. Say yes to everything and the more you can train your mind to feel comfortable around food, the easier it will get!
How do you balance eating healthy without being too picky and having your friends call you out for being too healthy all the time?
It’s all about listening to your body! Order what you are craving (this could mean a salad or a burger and fries) and feel confident with what your decision is. If your friends are true friends, they likely aren’t judging you and it’s all in your mind :)
How do you let yourself stray from the safe foods at restaurants into the new foods you’ve never tried?
Moving away from “good” and “bad” foods is what has helped me do this. I try and eat all foods and I don’t put labels on them. I know this sounds easier than it is, but we’ve created this majorly skewed notion of food in today’s society. To some people, beans are “bad foods.” At the end of the day, beans come from the ground and are a great source of protein. Instead of following a certain diet or having foods that you can and can not eat, try to eat everything in balance! Eat what makes you feel good most of the time and feel good about your decision to indulge.