When my best friend growing up set up a time for us to meet at a old-fashioned burger diner, I agreed but silently worried. Even if I didn’t struggle with restricting food, what was a vegetarian like me supposed to order? I wondered why my friend wanted to meet a restaurant when everyone knew I didn’t eat.
Just breathe, I reminded myself as I scanned the menu. It is not the end of the world if others realize that you actually do eat. When the waitress walked over to get our orders, I was calm enough to mumble out a vegetarian option as quietly as possible. Although I could already imagine how the staff and my friend were judging me, at least other tables would not know about my food intake.
When left alone, I smiled shakily at my friend wondering what she thought of me now. “This is the first time I have gone out to eat in a long time.” I remarked, trying to break the tension inside.
Eyes widening, my friend leaned across the table closer to me. “I totally forgot. Is this too much for you right now?”
Forgot? She forgot that I have an eating disorder? How on earth do you forget something like that?
I was not mad but shocked. Didn’t everyone expect me to not eat? Whenever I eat or even talk about food with others, I assume that they are disgusted with me for being such a pig. It isn’t that I judge other people about their diets, I just think that everyone sees me undeserving and gross.
However this lunch date reminded me of what people truthfully are thinking. They assume that you DO eat and want you to do so! Everyone needs to be fueled and people are taken aback when someone refuses food. When anyone does self-destructive behavior, others are concerned and uncomfortable. When anyone does normal things – like eating – to take care of themselves, people just go on with their everyday lives.
In other words, almost no one automatically assumes you should harm or deprive yourself. Shocker, I know.
Overall, I was able to get through the time with my friend and have fun. No, it was not easy eating in public but it was worth it. And I learned a powerful lesson as well. I am the one who looks at myself as a girl with an eating disorder who does not deserve to eat. Others see me as a person who needs fuel. I am putting many more judgments on my self than anyone else. So the next time you are anxious about being judged, take a deep breath and remember this: You are worthy of a good life and others do not expect you to make yourself miserable. If they do, that is their own nastiness not yours. Normal people do not disprove of others eating, be they friends, family, or strangers.