For a start, this is something I never did. Before I fell ill, I loved going out for meals with family and friends. However, and I know I wasn’t alone in this, it became my idea of a nightmare. Even still now, meals out are a challenge. I think I assumed in recovery, that I would slip back into ‘normal’. But, I think it is important to recognise that these thoughts that you have in your head, that voice, does not completely go. Or mine certainly hasn’t. It doesn’t mean failure. Fighting against it means strength. I won’t go into all of those thoughts and feelings surrounding a meal out. Those of you reading this that have been there know them all too well. They are not something we need or want to be reminded of. The helpful way of talking about this for me, and hopefully you too, is the way I have faced the challenge now and still do.
To start with, and still sometimes now when I feel I need, I will order foods I feel safe with. My safety of a jacket potato, salad. Because actually, the fact that I have even gone for the meal in itself, compared to my previous habits, is fantastic. This will allow me to focus on the company and enjoy the meal out if I found that the choice of a different food would be too much.
However, I have actually stopped looking at the menu before I go somewhere. Trying to challenge myself to just order what I actually fancy on the day. If that is a pizza, great. And the enjoyment and the freedom that comes from doing this is worth every tiny second of the doubt. Food is to be enjoyed, is to be remembered. I don’t remember telling many people about a fantastic salad I had. But a cake, pizza etc yes! I’d actually forgotten myself how much I enjoy these foods. And that’s just it. Enjoyment. Deciding that it is okay to go out and order a pizza just because - and guess what? There’s no reason for it other than the fact I would like to eat it and it’s something I like.
The other thing that I have come across lately, that in my head makes me cross, is menus sharing the calories. I have had conversations with many people about this topic. While I completely understand that as a nation people want to be more aware of food choices and calorie intake, for me, in recovery, this is quite unhelpful and at times provides a challenge for me. I think this is okay and healthy to admit! I am still juggling this one, and am surprised by how much this can sometimes impact my food choices still.
My go to at the moment:
- Don’t look. Sounds simple. Just read the foods. Don’t even look at that number. You don’t need to.
- Avoid the menu completely - I know this goes against most peoples ideas. Decide you want to eat the pizza/risotto/whatever it is without looking. (This works if it is a place you visit often/a chain like Spoons.
- Ask a family member or friend to look at the menu for you - I have some very supportive friends and family members who totally understand that I just don’t want to look at the amount in my food - a life hung up on those numbers really doesn’t make for a happy one!