Learning How to Eat Out in Binge Eating Disorder Recovery

For the individual who is recovering from binge eating disorder, many aspects about eating are essentially relearned. Binge eating disorder is characterized by an abnormal and chaotic relationship with food, in which larger than normal quantities of food are usually eaten in a short amount of time.

The common misconception about binge eating disorder is that it is primarily an issue of self-control, in which a person lacks all willpower needed to stop eating at a certain point.

However, binge eating disorder is a severe type of mental illness that goes beyond compulsive overeating. A person that experiences binge eating disorder will often feel extremely upset or distressed during or after binging and often uses food as a means of coping with overwhelming feelings and emotions, such as stress, anxiety, tension, depression, sadness, anger, and more.

Because of the emotional component to binge eating, a person tends to numb out during binge episodes, as this serves as a temporary form of escape. There is also a lack of satisfaction that is typically experienced with binge eating, regardless of how much food has been eaten.

Treating BED

Because of the severity of this disorder and the many factors involved, seeking help from a professional treatment team is helpful for recovery and healing. One aspect of treatment includes nutrition therapy, which involves learning healthy eating habits and how to effectively make peace with food and body.

Because the physical and emotional are so closely connected for the individual struggling with binge eating, having treatment that addresses both of these areas is needed for recovery. Working with a dietitian alone may not be as effective as working with a dietitian and therapist, who together can address the complexity of this disorder.

As a person begins to heal and grow emotionally in their recovery, food begins to take its rightful place as nourishment for the body. Learning how to renegotiate foods that were previously binged on can be a difficult task, but it is necessary in order to make progress towards recovery from binge eating disorder.

Dining Out

Eating out at restaurants can also be a challenging experience for the person recovering from binge eating disorder. The combination of being in a restaurant environment coupled with the overwhelming food choices and portions can lead to a catastrophe.

If you are in recovery from binge eating disorder and have struggled with eating out at restaurants, be sure to work with your registered dietitian and treatment team to learn how to work through these scenarios and situations.

The likelihood that you will be presented with the chance to eat out during your recovery and beyond are considerably high. If eating out is a trigger for binging, it is essential to work through any potential issues that you may face to set yourself up for success.

Making Peace

One aspect of making peace with food and your body begins with mindful eating. Mindfulness is a philosophy that teaches awareness of ourselves and environment and learning how to appropriately respond. Basic hunger and fullness cues are often lost with binge eating disorder, and tuning in to how your body feels while eating is a necessary part of making peace with food.

If you are going out to eat, be sure to plan accordingly if you can and have support in your midst. It is also important to eat sufficiently before your time at a restaurant in order to ensure that you are not starving when it is finally time to eat. Under-eating prior to a restaurant outing can increase urges to binge once you are there, so be sure to follow your recommended meal plan.

Lastly, aim for progress, not perfection. As you learn to listen to your body once again, you will find that this is often a trial and error experience. There may be times that you under-eat or overeat, but neither of these situations means failure.

Remember you can learn from your experiences and try again the next time you are eating. Stay connected to your treatment team and support as you walk along this journey of recovery.

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 30, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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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.