3 Tips for Coping with Disordered Eating at Family Dinners

May 5, 2020 Miranda Card

Family dinner with disordered eating is always uncomfortable. Here's my deal: I was born with an autoimmune disorder called Behcet's Disease. My symptoms include gastrointestinal ulceration and pain when I eat. This has created a complicated relationship between me and food.

Growing up, I avoided eating most of the day -- it hurt too much. So I never had trouble staying thin. As a teenager, I considered my thinness a silver lining to my disease. But now, I know I'm underweight. I'm trying to put on some pounds. But there's a piece of me that doesn't want to, and I'm ashamed. It's even more uncomfortable at family meals when everyone else eats without complication or guilt. Here's how I'm handling my desire to restrict at mealtimes.

How to Manage Disordered Eating at Family Dinners

1. Decatastrophize to Manage Disordered Eating at Family Dinners

Unfortunately, the pain and ulceration that I endure when I eat are very real consequences of non-restricted eating. But according to a recent doctor's visit, it's not going to kill me. So, that leaves me with my attachment to my thinness. When I approach mealtimes and I feel the urge to restrict, I play the whole fear out. I start with what I'm afraid of, gaining too much weight. So why is that scary?

I think it's because I don't believe I'll be perceived as "special" or "perfect." Will this change in perception be the end of the world? Probably not, but maybe the loss of being the only one in the room with abs will be too uncomfortable. Okay, but the discomfort will be momentary and will pass. Playing out the whole scenario allows me to understand that the change is more inconsequential than the initial feeling would suggest.

2. Plan Ahead to Manage Disordered Eating at Family Dinners

I know that feeling out of control during meals is triggering for me. It's important for me to plan my meals ahead; though it might seem counterintuitive, I actually track calories to gain weight. I often think I'm eating more than I am, and I sometimes use this misconception to justify restriction. I plan my meals before I eat, track as I go through my day, and leave one-third of my daily calories for dinner time. Then, I fill my plate with the knowledge that I'm eating an appropriate amount of food. Planning helps me feel in control, even when I didn't do the cooking.

3. Ask Family to Help Regulate Restrictive Urges

My parents know my story; they know about my chronic illness and the physical and mental symptoms that go with it. They have never shown anything but equal concern for my mental and physical wellbeing -- so why do I feel so much more anxious about talking about my mental symptoms than my physical ones? I have no problem airing my stomach pain, but it's more difficult for me to discuss my urges to restrict. So, during quarantine, I have taken the opportunity to practice validating my mental symptoms. I try to voice my anxiety that surrounds food. For the most part, my parents have responded with reassurance and understanding; they validate my struggle and offer their support.

How does disordered eating affect your family dinners? Share your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
Card, M. (2020, May 5). 3 Tips for Coping with Disordered Eating at Family Dinners, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Author: Miranda Card

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