West Chester

Dining Out ... With an Eating Disorder

Happiness is a piece of cake therapy for eating disorders and body positive in West Chester, pa and on The Philadelphia Main Line, Bryn Mawr and Rosemont, PA

I know, I know, it sounds TERRIFYING!  Yes, I'm serious - you will not die from eating food in a restaurant ... I PROMISE!  It might FEEL like you'll die, it might seem like you'll gain a hundred pounds just from eating the food that is cooked for you back in that kitchen you can't see.  

Therapy for restaurants and eating disorders in West Chester, Pa and on The Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Philadelphia  Counseling

As my friend and colleague, Natalie says, "there aren't calorie ninja's back in the kitchen adding calories to your food"!  I understand the fear - I get that allowing somebody else to prepare your food is giving up control in a way that might not feel safe for you just yet.  Here's the rub, though - even though it might be hard to admit, I KNOW you want to be able to participate in experiences that involve food.  You WANT to be social.  You want to hang with your friends while they get frozen yogurt or try the food at the new cafe.  You want to live your life again... it's just that ED forbids it.  Here are some helpful tips for you to get more comfortable with dining out:

Practice

When you find yourself feeling fear about eating in a restaurant, it's sort of like a phobia - a very heightened anxiety around something specific.  The way to deal with and cure this type of phobia is through exposure - WITHOUT - re-traumatizing yourself.  So you don't want to push yourself to take it all on without practicing and getting comfortable with various aspects of it first.  

Use affirmations - they are wonderfully helpful ways to rewire your brain!

You might want to enlist the help of your therapist, friend or family member.  Tell them some food options that you consider safe.  Start small.  

It's better to have success with something less challenging than to get overwhelmed with something scarier.  

Dining out with an eating disorder therapy and counseling in West Chester, pa  on The Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for eating disorders

Your support team member could either get you food from a restaurant or give you food that they made without you present.  Or if you need to start even smaller, you could watch them make your meal so you know it's safe.  Eat with them.  Notice your feelings.  Use anxiety reduction and grounding techniques.  Keep breathing and do your best.  Keep practicing this step until your anxiety stays below a 7 on a 0-10 scale with 10 being the worst anxiety you've felt and 0 being no anxiety at all. 

Increase the challenge slowly

Once you get comfortable with eating meals made by others, up the ante.  If you're still not ready for restaurant dining, try getting take-out or try eating foods you didn't see being prepared.  Use an affirmation like "This food is safe and nourishing; I am safe and I can eat this food".  Make sure you start off each experience with some breathing and relaxing techniques so that you don't associate fear with the experience.

Dining Out

If noise bothers you, choose a restaurant that's quieter or a time of day that's less intense like lunch.  See if you can get a table that's against a wall, in a corner or in a quieter area of the restaurant.  This reduces over-stimulation and feelings of vulnerability.  

Have a plan

In earlier recovery, it's helpful to have a plan.  If you know which restaurant you'll be going to, look up their menu online.  Work with your therapist or dietician to determine which menu item you'll be selecting.  Most restaurants have portions that are significantly larger than the exchanges on your meal plan.  If this is the case, you could anticipate eating half the meal.  One tip is to ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal so that you can put half away for later and just focus on what's on your plate.  

Therapy eating disorder support in West Chester, pa and on The Main Line, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Counseling

Go with someone supportive

This experience is hard enough, don't add to it by going with someone who doesn't "get it" or tries to sabotage your recovery.  Some therapists or dietitians will conduct sessions at the restaurant with you so that you can talk through it as it's happening.  If that's not an option, or you're ready for the next step, choose a member of your support group who understands your recovery.  Let them know the plan beforehand and maybe come up with a code word in case you need to abandon the mission.

Remember to breathe

Keep taking those deep belly breaths and know that this is just one meal.  One meal won't make you fat.  If you notice yourself starting to get overwhelmed or anxious, just come back to your breath.  While you're eating, try to focus the conversation on something else like the weather, the new movie just out or anything fun.  Take a sip of water, feel your feet.  You got this!!

Do's and Don'ts:

Do:

  • Keep the conversation light
  • Have some topics in mind to talk about while you're eating
  • Get the food down
  • Chew thoroughly
  • Focus on the conversation, the beautiful setting or anything but the food and body
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Stay at the table for the entirety of the meal
  • Set your pace to about 30 minutes to complete your meal

Don't:

  • Count the calories
  • Compare your dish to anyone else's
  • Body check while you're at the table
  • Talk about food, weight, exercise or anything triggering while you're at the table

Keep your eye on the prize!

This experience is not just about today or next week.  You are engaging in this exercise so that you can enjoy your life - so that you can HAVE a life!  Spending all your time in isolation, feeling lonely, not participating in social events is no way to live.  Remember that you are doing this so that you can be happy and free of your eating disorder.  

One day at a time therapy for eating disorders in West Chester, pa on The Main Line in Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Pennsylvania
One day at a time
One meal at a time
One bite at a time

You CAN recover!!  Recovery from an eating disorder is not a linear process.  It goes all over the place, it's messy at times and sometimes you need to take 5 steps backward so that you can get good 2 steps forwards.  Even one success is worth celebrating, so give yourself credit for EVERYTHING you do right.  

If you're still feeling anxious about dining out and you'd like some support, I'd be happy to schedule a time to help you reach your goals.  Contact me now at 610.314.8402 to learn more about how to dine out with an eating disorder.  Please feel free to share this post with anyone who is looking for help with eating and body issues.

Good luck and enjoy!!

If you have any questions or need support, please feel free to call me at 610.314.8402 for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Please comment below and tell us your story!

Hats off to a Better Christmas: 8 FREE Tips for Eating Disorder Support

Christmas Eating Disorder Support West Chester, Pa Therapy Counseling

Holidays may be happy and exciting for some of us and for some, they are also very stressful.  Food is definitely a big deal during the holiday season for most people.  Gym memberships go up afterward, people are often found dieting or “cheating” on their diets.  Some binge, some restrict, some over-eat and some fall apart.  I’d like to help you find a bit of peace from my corner of the world during this time when Christmas is fast approaching.  If you haven’t already read them, check out some free tips on normal eating, getting grounded, reducing anxiety, navigating the grocery store… They should prove useful for you as well. 

Here are some tips specific to Christmas:

1.     Create an intention for this holiday

Remember that Christmas can be about celebrating spirituality.  It can be about enjoying family or giving.  It can be about service, love, bundling up on a cold day or anything you want it to be! 

What would you LIKE your intention to be for Christmas this year? 

Intention for Mindfulness in Eating Disorders West Chester, PA Counseling Therapy

Find a purpose and go for it.  If your purpose is about service, think about how you’d like to be of service.  It could be as simple as helping to set up or clean up the party.  You could help the less fortunate through a soup kitchen or donating gifts to children who need them.  If you’d like your purpose to be about reading a great book and drinking tea, then go for it!  Any intention you’d like for Christmas is yours to have!

2.    Get Grounded:

BEFORE you leave your house.  Think about what grounds you?  Do something that feels very grounding for you and set an intention to keep checking in with yourself during the day.  One of my favorite ways to get grounded is to ask myself

“Where are your feet?”

– then look down at them; wiggle my toes, feel my feet on the floor or in my shoes.  When I do that, I can rest assured that right here, in this moment, I am safe.  In this moment, where my feet are, I am okay.  Here are some other examples of grounding activities:

Therapy Journaling in West Chester, Pa
  • Prayer and meditation
  • Aromatherapy: earthy smells like cedar, bergamot, and pine can be particularly grounding
  • Yoga
  • Coloring mandala’s or other coloring
  • Going for a walk
  • Make a list: of anxieties, gratitude’s or plans, etc.
  • Have a bit of a plan for the day – perhaps write it down in the morning.
  • Journaling

3.  Create Foods You Love

Try a new recipe you've been thinking about.  Bring safe foods for you to the event you go to so that you have at least one option while you're there.  

4.  Don't Push Yourself

This is not the time for major challenge meals.  While I encourage you to taste some of every food you're interested in, if you know that a certain food will completely set you off, just avoid it for now.  Challenge meals are best done with the support of a therapist or a support community.  You can practice eating challenge meals until they're no longer as challenging.  Once you've accomplished taking the power out of the challenging foods, THEN you can incorporate them into your holiday festivities.  In this instance, it might be better to be safe than sorry - don't push yourself so hard that you find yourself wanting to act out in a binge-purge cycle.  Support yourself in enjoying Christmas as much as possible rather than pushing yourself into discomfort.

5.  Contain the food

Food for Eating Disorder Therapy and Counseling in West Chester, PA

Do your best to eat meals at the normal times you usually eat them.  So instead of skipping breakfast and going to Christmas hungry, eat your normal breakfast. 

When you get to your event, check into your hunger cues.

On a scale of 0-10, with zero being extremely starving, 5 is having a light sense of satisfaction – being neither hungry nor full and ten being the most stuffed you’ve ever experienced.  How hungry are you?  Aim for letting yourself empty out to a 2-3 before eating a meal.  See if you can stop eating at a 5-7. 

Once you are hungry, rather than grazing on all the different foods, make a plate. 

Allow yourself to put at least a little bit of each food you love on the plate or foods you’d like to try. 

Skip the foods that don’t interest you much.  Sit down and really savor the foods you chose.  Check in with your hunger and satiety signals a few times while you eat your plate.  Once you are satisfied, tell yourself that you can have more when you are hungry again and follow through.  Making a practice of using hunger and satiety cues is extremely helpful in finding balance with food.

6.  Keep Your Boundaries

People tend to project their OWN food and body issues onto others’.  So if you notice yourself engaged in a conversation with someone who’s trying to talk you in or out of eating or commenting on your body, take a step back. 

Check in with yourself and see what YOU NEED, rather than what this person is trying to get you to do. 

Saying you need to use the bathroom is always an easy out to give yourself some time and space to check back in with yourself and get grounded.  Take some deep breaths, splash some water on your face and ask yourself what you need in that moment to take care of yourself before you leave the bathroom.  Here are some examples of things you can say to people who are pushing you:

  • “No, thank you”
  • “I’m okay right now”
  • “Yes, I’m going to enjoy this food right now”
  • “I’m not hungry”
  • “I’ll let you know when I’m ready for ...”
  • “I’d rather not discuss my body with you”

Practice saying these boundaries out loud BEFORE the holiday, so that when you’re in the moment, they flow easily and effortlessly.

7.  Ask for Help

Enlist a member of your support group to be ‘Holiday Buddies’ to practice what I call ‘Book Ending’:  Have a few agreed upon times you with check-in with one another throughout the day – perhaps before, during and after.  You could plan to call or text one another to report how things are going.  If you don’t hear from your buddy, shoot them a text to see what’s going on.  In this way, you have another person who has your best interest in mind to be accountable to.  This practice is also helpful in getting your mind off yourself and your own difficulties.

8.  Breathe

Breathe Therapy in West Chester, PA

Remember that Christmas is only one day out of the year.  Breathe into the gifts you receive whether they are material or spiritual, gratitude or emotions - breathe into this experience of life and know that you can get through this.  You don't need to be perfect and neither does your holiday.  When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, focus on your breath.  Remember you can start your day over at any time.

I hope you've found these Christmas tips helpful.  If you're still feeling overwhelmed, please feel free to give me a call at 610.314.8402 - I'd be happy to help.

Merry Christmas from Tiffany Spilove Psychotherapy in West Chester, Pa!

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How to Navigate the Grocery Store: 7 Useful Tips for People in Recovery from an Eating Disorder

When you’re working on your recovery from an eating disorder, the grocery store can send you into a panic.  Here are some tips to help you cope with grocery shopping in West Chester, Pa:

1.     Get Centered

Before you even head to the grocery store, get grounded.  Get your nervous system regulated and mindfully notice where your emotions are, especially anxiety.  Visualize your shopping trip in entirety.  Imagine yourself successfully choosing foods that fit right with your recovery and getting through the store successfully without panic.  This trains your brian and helps it to practice the event in actuality.

2.     Come prepared

Make a list.  Look through your kitchen and see what you have.  Notice if you’re out of one of your staples like your favorite cereal.  Think about the exchanges in your food plan: protein, starch, fat, fruit, vegetables and dairy.  What are you in the mood for this week?  Will this be the week to branch out a bit and try that turkey melt you’ve been hankering for since you had it at that diner weeks ago?  If so, jot down the ingredients on your list. 

Create a list that is full, yet manageable.  Make sure you have staples and perhaps a few extra things that you could freeze if you don’t end up eating them.  Shoot for at least 3 items from each food group.

Don't go too hungry or too full - it will mess with your ability to make good choices.

3.     Stay Grounded

When you get to the store, take a deep breath, take a sip of water and give yourself a time frame to shoot for.  Grocery shopping shouldn’t take more than an hour and should probably take at least 15 minutes. 

Go through the aisles in order from one side of the store to the other – if possible.  If you notice yourself getting overwhelmed, get re-centered by taking a few deep breaths.  Remember you can leave at any time.

4.     Stay focused

Grocery Shopping for Eating Disorders in West Chester, Pa

It is easy to get overwhelmed, so when in doubt, stick to your list. Don’t get side-tracked reading labels.  If a new brand or food looks interesting to you, just grab it.  If you notice yourself fretting about which item to choose, take a deep breath, and grab the one that your inner child wants.

5.     Set healthy limits

If you’re newer in recovery, limit yourself to 1-2 challenge foods for that trip.  You don’t want to get too many and then sabotage later. 

6.     Get in and out

This does not need to become an activity that takes up your entire day.  If you’re overwhelmed and you don’t get to your entire list, that’s ok.  Try to make sure you’ve at least grabbed the basics, then scadaddle.  There’s always next time.

7.     Reward yourself

When you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, the grocery store is no joke.  Give yourself a reward like a hot bath, an hour with your favorite book or a new yummy smelling candle.

In case you’re overwhelmed by the grocery list, here’s simple generic example list that you can print out and circle items on, then fill in some specifics for your preferences:

 

Dairy:

  • Eggs                       
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Milk

cereal

Meat:

  • cold cuts
  • to cook

Fruit: 3 types

Veggies: 3 types

Condiments

Nut butter

Canned food:

Frozen food:

Baked items:

  • Bread
  • pastries

I hope you've found this helpful.  If you're still feeling overwhelmed, feel free to give me a call, I'd be happy to help.  610.314.8402.  If you have any more tips or comments, please comment below :)