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A client raised a common problem about dysregulated eaters: How to assert food needs when you’re with others. I vividly recall learning to get my eating preferences met in social situations and know that it can be difficult, but not impossible, to do.
First, as someone who’s been fully recovered from emotional/mindless/binge eating and chronic dieting for 30+ years, I still dislike being very hungry or full because they’re reminders of my old messed-up-with-food days. Second, I’m now a far healthier person emotionally and physically than I was back then. Taking care of my body is a job I welcome and enjoy and doing so comes first, before most things and people in life.
Here’s what happened to my client who spent the day with a group of people who kept passing on stopping to eat. Though she thought she’d planned well for it according to the schedule of activities, she ended up famished and not eating for way too many hours because others kept putting off taking an eating break. We discussed how not eating is a badge of honor for many people, especially women, an unhealthy behavior encouraged by society. This causes them to feel ashamed of wanting food and, out of fear, not saying so. Many dysregulated eaters want to fit in and go with the flow: eat when others want to and go wherever they choose. If everyone’s eating, they eat; if everyone’s not, they don’t.
Speaking up about being hungry or about food preferences can be more difficult when you’re a higher weight. Whereas average weight or thin people probably think little about saying they’re hungry and desire food, higher weight people may worry about others thinking badly of them for being hungry and not wish to call attention to themselves. This is an aspect of thin privilege to be aware of.
No matter what your size, you have a right to be hungry and eat. You have a right to choose food that satisfies you. You have a right to eat food that is more, rather than less, nutritious. You have a right to not eat if you’re not hungry. You have a right to stop eating when you’ve had enough. You have a right to stop eating when your body is satisfied. You have a right to have different eating preferences and schedules than other people. You have a right to order something different than other people. And you have a right to not want to be around other people who don’t respect these rights.
Becoming a “normal” eater is about more than changing eating habits. It’s about doing whatever’s needed to become a healthier person. Self-care must be your #1 priority, which includes eating when, what, and how much you want whomever you’re with.
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