9 Tips for Eating Out at Restaurants While in Eating Disorder Recovery

While going out to dinner is an activity most people look forward to, for a family with a loved one with an eating disorder, it can induce feelings of dread and stress. However, learning to eat out is an important and necessary part of the recovery process.

Strategies to utilize when eating out with a child or loved one who has an eating disorder:

  1. Look up the menu before going to the restaurant. If your loved one is a child, decide what he/she will order before you arrive.
  2. Discuss what disordered behaviors may occur and how you can support him/her.
  3. Discuss what coping skills he/she could use at the restaurant.
  4. Develop a goal or pre-meal intention.
  5. Discuss enjoyable topics - movies, music, books, good experiences, future desires and avoid talking about issues, tasks, or anything stressful.
  6. Role model healthy eating behaviors.
  7. Ensure your child stays at the table or is accompanied to the restroom after the meal.
  8. Stay attuned if your child is becoming overwhelmed by the noise level or other stimulation. Provide reminders about strategies for grounding if needed.
  9. Find a few moments to discuss the meal. Discuss what went well and what was challenging.
  10. Remember to share observations and ask them to share their thoughts as well.

By having a plan before you go out, you are creating the opportunity for a positive experience for your child or loved one. And remember: it’s not about perfection. It’s about progress.

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