Table Talk - Meal Support and Boundaries around Eating
While meal times for most of us are viewed as a time to sit and relax with others and share the events of the day, for someone in recovery, meal times can be a complicated and stressful time. In today’s society it is not uncommon to hear or make comments about how the food is made, the nutritional content of the food, or what will need to be accomplished in order to burn off the energy provided by that particular meal. However, is this information respectful and helpful? For someone recovering from an ED it can be hard to navigate through the web of information shared at this time, and for a loved one caring for an individual with an ED, determining what is helpful vs unhelpful to say at the dinner table can become quite confusing. Below is a list of some do’s and don’ts of meal time conversation.
Set an example. Be a good role model by showing up to the table on time and practicing good eating habits yourself. For example: Take time to taste and chew your food well. Practice mindful eating principles by listening to your hunger and fullness cues – take seconds if you do not feel satisfied and stop eating when you feel full. Ensure to include adequate hydration and balanced nutrition by including fluids, carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your meal.
Keep conversation neutral. T
his means keeping discussions centered away from food, nutrition, shape, weight and size. For example: Make your kitchen and dining room a zone free from diet talk, body shaming and workout discussions. If you don’t know what to say, it’s Okay to say nothing.
Choose a caring environment – unless requested, keep distractions to a minimum. For example: No electronic or cellular devices at the table. Choose calm music and adequate lighting.
Be prepared. Have a discussion before the meal(s) about what kinds of foods to included with meals/snacks and make sure some “go to” or comfortable foods are always available. For example: This might mean developing a weekly menu and/or grocery list.
Ask how you can provide meal support. For example: This might mean helping with meal prep before the meal, keeping conversation going throughout the meal, or helping to distract after the meal.
Set up an agreed upon check in time to bring up concerns and/or questions you would like to express. For example: Set up a weekly or twice weekly time to talk and check in how recovery is going. This is the time to bring up concerns, ask questions and provide feedback.
Comment on portion sizes and/or food selection on my plate or yours. Remember I am in charge of my meal plan. If you have concerns about my intake we can discuss this during our agreed upon check in time.
Pressure me to try a food or take seconds if I have already declined. I am taking responsibility for my meal plan and will let you know if I want to try something.
Talk to me about your concerns for me during meal times. Remember we have an agreed upon check in time. If you are really concerned about my recovery, please come to me after the meal to discuss. Don’t make meal times more stressful then they have to be.
Assume I am struggling. I am going to have better days then others and my appetite will vary just like yours. Please keep your comments/concerns until after the meal.
Praise me after I have finished eating. I know you mean well but I may likely take this the wrong way.
Don’t rush me through the eating process. It may take me longer to decide what goes on my plate and it may take me longer to eat than you. Just sit with me a while longer and I will finish in time.
Please use the above do’s and don’ts of meal time conversation as a guide. Because everyone’s recovery journey is individual, I recommended that you prepare your own personal recovery meal time do’s and don’ts and share them with your support team. Bon appetite!