What to Expect During Restaurant Outings in ED Treatment

Woman struggling with an eating disorder in a restaurant

So, you’ve been in eating disorder treatment for what feels like forever! You’ve found your own voice, reignited your passion for life, and are steadily moving closer to recovery each day.

Your treatment team suggests that the time is right for you to leave the confines of the treatment center and attempt a meal at an actual restaurant and this is equal parts exciting and scary for you. Here are some things you can expect from this milestone.

A Challenge

While you have progressed toward recovery, this outing is sure to be a challenge. Many individuals expect everything to be different, easier, now that they feel more secure in their recovery.

Building it up in this way can be harmful once the reality sets in that it’s never as simple as flipping the switch from “disordered” to “recovered.”

There will come a day when you can go to a restaurant, look at a menu, order, and eat every delicious bite without feeling any anxiety. This day will likely not occur during your first restaurant outing, and that’s okay.

Trust the process, being kind to yourself as you work through it, and know that each challenge you overcome brings you closer to that day and closer to freedom.


As blunt as it is, this is unequivocally true. For someone with an eating disorder, restaurants represent everything they fear because they are not in control and there are too many “unknowns.”

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Entering a restaurant for the first time during recovery will undoubtedly bring back the same fears and concerns they did before you entered recovery. You may enter, and the voice of your ED will creep into your mind, attempting to take over once again. But, this time, something is different.

The voice of your ED is no longer in control. You are!

You know how to silence the voice of your ED now. You know how to listen to your anxieties, how to process them, and how to cope with them properly. Tap into the coping mechanisms that work for you and fight the voice of your ED so that, out of this anxiety, comes strength and progress.


It’s a message that is consistent throughout treatment, but it always bears repeating – You are not alone.

With this restaurant outing, you will not be thrown into the deep end without a life jacket. At least one member of your treatment team will be there to help you work through any anxiety you are feeling, to remind you of your coping skills, and to support you in the entire experience.

Your peers from the treatment center will likely attend this outing as well. Studies show that peer influence can play a crucial role in the development of eating disorders but that the power it has over individuals can also be a useful tool in combating the disorder [1].

During your meal, you will be able to look to the person next to you and feel understood as you both experience this challenge and help one another to overcome it.


With the previous points, it may have become apparent to you that restaurant outings in treatment are not a simple walk in the park. However, every challenge in recovery is presented as an opportunity for growth, and this is no different.

Woman in a restaurantImagine that the outing is akin to riding a bike with training wheels: starting small, learning how to navigate the process, and graduating to two wheels when you’re ready. These outings are your training wheel days, when you take it slowly with the support of your treatment, learning how to navigate the challenges and overcome them.

Every time you go to a restaurant, you get better at ignoring the voice of your ED and overcoming your fears and anxiety. These small victories will add up until, one day, you’ve found your own voice, you’re strong in your recovery, and you’re free.

It doesn’t all happen at once, and the process can be long and difficult. You are strong enough to fight this battle, and you are worthy of being victorious over your eating disorder.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering.

Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1] Keel, P. K., Forney, K. J. (2013). Psychosocial risk factors for eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46:5, 433-439.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on October 10, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 10, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com