Summer Socialization

Summer is almost here and that means parties, gatherings, get-togethers galore. It means festivals, fairs, vacations, and road-trips.

And one thing all of these fun activities have in common is the omnipresence of FOOD.

While this notion doesn’t phase most people and, in fact, often excites people …  for someone with food issues, social events can cause a lot of anxiety.

Though I realize food issues are often masking something much bigger (anxiety, control issues, etc.), it can still make socializing during summer a challenge.

Case in point: at my worst, I would avoid social engagements or eat beforehand so I wasn’t tempted. In my disordered mind, I’d have an excuse not to eat something I couldn’t easily guesstimate how many Points it was worth. But that logic would often backfire – I’d end up feeling deprived and find myself eating more than I would have, had I just waited til said party.

Over the years, I’ve learned that restriction isn’t a foolproof solution: moderation is. Moderation doesn’t mean going crazy at every social function and over-eating (or bingeing when everyone leaves!), but it also doesn’t mean being a buffet wallflower, either.

I decided to post about this today because for the first time in about five years, I’m genuinely looking forward to a summer of socializing – and I’m feeling sort of blasé about the food component; it doesn’t scare me, nor excite me –but rather is just part of the overall experience.

It took a long time, but aside from still being a semi-picky eater, I consider myself to be recovered from my disordered eating issues. On occasion I struggle with emotional eating, but for the most part, I feel like I finally have a much healthier relationship with food.

I’ve tried to listen to my body more when it comes to both food and exercise. And this year in particular, I’ve been able to embrace food as an experience, not fear the unknown (i.e., dining for a week in South Korea, where I never knew what I was eating!), and loosen up my own restrictive ways when dining out.

It’s made me happier and healthier (specifically mentally), and I have a much better approach towards social functions. I try to see these moments in the bigger picture: the company, the atmosphere/ambiance, the presentation.

I finally understand that food is nothing to fear (or control/feel controlled by), but rather is meant to be enjoyed.

I’d be lying if I said I’ve turned off the Point/calorie counting in my head … but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with journaling; it helps keep me on track. I certainly don’t talk about it aloud or obsess over every decision I make like I used to, so if the numbers still float in my head … so be it.

We hosted a BBQ at home yesterday for my husband’s fellow MBA friends and their wives, and it felt wonderful to just soak in the experience. We culminated the night lighting our fire pit to make S’mores  …and you can bet I enjoyed  mine 🙂

How about you? If you have recovered from an eating disorder or have disordered eating issues, are you comfortable in situations where food is an integral component of the experience? How did you get over food anxiety in social settings?


6 thoughts on “Summer Socialization

  1. I can certainly relate. I am feeing the same way about this summer. And I have felt the same way you have about past summers.. maybe all of them since age 12…
    I am so happy to be at a place where food is not what is on my mind. It’s just there. I can eat if or not eat it, that would not be the deciding factor as to whether I have a good or bad night as it has in the past. What a wonderful feeling. I used to be completely uncomfortable. I think part of that was emphasized with my weight watchers meetings. It was like a war against the unknown uncertain points bearing food. Now since I’m not tracking, I’m happy with my body and I’m free I feel pretty good. Sure I overeat sometimes, sure I make strange choices here and there but in general I am quite balanced. it’s been a long road but it feels great! bring on summer!

  2. hi lissa,

    im still not comfortable in social/food settings at all. even with my family it is stressful for me. not for the temptation factor, but because i dont eat “out.” if i do have to eat socially, i bring my own food. the stress comes with answering the questions and the odd looks. i know it is a decision ive made and im ok with that, but i guess there is still stress involved.

    i also dont feel it is a “disorder” to choose not to eat “out” or eat what other people eat. the only disorder for me is when i choose to NOT eat because of the stress!

  3. I’m still working on this, although I don’t resort to disordered behavior anymore. As an overeater, I would eat before I went out and then say I hadn’t eaten so I had an excuse to eat at the party/event. Or, in times of trying to diet, I would starve myself all day and then gorge myself at the party.

    These days I treat the party like whatever normal meal it’s replacing (i.e. lunch or dinner) plus whatever special treat there might be (cake for an event, etc). I still think way too much about what other people might be thinking about what/how much I’m eating, but I’m working on it.

  4. Clare said what I was going to say, only much more eloquently, I’m sure. I would just add that most of the time we worry much more about what other people think of what we eat or don’t eat than they really do. In casual social settings there may be the initial question, but eventually people are much more interested in what they’re eating themselves than whether you brought your own stuff.

    Like Clare, it’s not a matter of overeating for me, but that I don’t eat “out” unless planned. Bringing something or eating before ensures that I don’t use the even as an excuse to restrict or to avoid the situation completely (my default mode.)

    It’s funny, but as I’m reading this, I got a work e-mail that everyone is leaving for ice cream in an hour if we want to go…so it begins, again! Great post and perspective. I think it’s just what makes you comfortable–physically and mentally–and not using the food as an excuse to alter your own social obligation.

  5. I love reading your blog, it’s so nice to see someone who is healing from disordered eating talk so openly about their struggles!
    I am recovering from an eating disorder myself, and this is one of the hardest things I struggle with. I stress so much about eating out that I end up restricting or bingeing later because I think “well screw it” from “messing up”!
    For this reason, I avoid social events that include food at all costs. But the other day my friend called me out, teasing that I was an “anti-social eater”… this hit home because food is such a social thing and isolating just doesn’t have any positive benefits.
    Thanks again for the great post!

  6. I get irritated with myself at social functions, like last year for instance.

    I have a motto that “FREE Food is Fun”. I really believe that, so my greedy self (because that’s what I believe it to be) used that as an opportunity to load up the plate 2 and 3 times regardless of the fact that my stomach chambers could not expand any larger.

    The appetizer portion of these shenanigans involved taking bites of dessert food I didn’t even want, and then go look for more.

    Ugh. I can’t believe I just admitted that.

    But this year will be different! Social functions foods…here I come (in moderation)!!!!!!

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