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As an eating disorder warrior, social events are a challenge for me

A lot of times holidays can be difficult for people struggling with their relationship with food. Having events and lots of people around while you’re eating and food that you wouldn’t normally eat can be hard when you’re not comfortable with food.

A lot of people who struggle with eating disorders or their relationship with food are not comfortable eating around other people.

They also really struggle with eating foods that they enjoy instead of just “healthy” foods. Eating around other people or eating foods outside of their comfort zone can trigger anxiety, isolation, or more unhealthy eating patterns.

If this resonates with you, you are not alone. When I was struggling with bulimia, I remember being around food and people—especially at events—was so difficult. I didn’t want to eat because I wasn’t comfortable with food, but I was also scared of what people would think of me. I was worried that people would think I was eating too much or too little, and I didn’t want to have to deal with any comments about my eating.

I was also trying to hide the fact that I was struggling with an eating disorder, so eating around people felt highly uncomfortable. I didn’t feel safe.

Food was a form of control for me, and this made events with food and eating around other people very difficult for me. At events I didn’t have control over the types of foods that were there or the environment/people that were around me.

Now that I’m on the other side of this, I’m so grateful that I am comfortable eating what I want, eating around people, and being at events that have food. But I know that this is still a struggle for so many people. I want to give you a few tips for how to survive and maybe even enjoy these situations.

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If you have an event or holiday/family gathering coming up, get details in advance. Find whoever is doing the planning and find out what foods are going to be there, what other people are bringing, and offer to bring something yourself. Knowing what the food situation is going to be like and bringing something that you feel comfortable with can be so helpful. Also find out who’s coming/how many people are going to be there. Learn the details so that you can properly prepare.

Once you have these details, make a plan. Decide when you’re going to go, how long you’re going to stay, and what you’ll eat at the event versus what you’ll eat at home. Ideally I want you to get to a place where you’re comfortable and confident in yourself and your food relationship that you don’t have to do this. But in the meantime, do not be ashamed of taking care of yourself in the best way possible. Don’t beat yourself up for needing a little more structure and planning around social events containing food.

If you’re ready to take it a step further in your healing journey, start to take small steps towards freedom.

At events allow yourself to eat one food that you really like. Then allow yourself to eat two foods that you really like/want to eat.

After you feel comfortable with this, allow yourself to go back for seconds. Start to make steps towards the relationship that you want to have with food—even if you’re not there yet. Remember that you are allowed to eat foods that make you feel good physically and mentally/emotionally. You are allowed to eat until you are full. You are allowed to eat differently than other people. You are not alone, you are never alone, and you can have a healthy relationship with food! Food wants to be your friend.

Abby Horst Mallard

A podcaster, wife, health/wellness coach, beach lover, and musician. She specialises in nutrition education, meal planning, and developing sustainable habits. She passionately works with her patients to help them build healthier and happier relationships with food, exercise, and themselves.

Click here to follow Abby & her work.

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