“I can’t eat pizza in front of people because then they’ll think I’m fat and that I can’t control my food intake.” “I can’t go to the gym because people will look at me and see my body and be disgusted.”
Almost everyone would agree that they have felt self-conscious about eating or exercising at some point in their lives. This is typically a fleeting moment and doesn’t interfere with basic self-care. For people with eating disorders, however, self- consciousness can be paralyzing. The person with an eating disorder may feel watched, judged, critiqued and compared so much that they avoid eating with people, even friends and family. They may avoid eating in public places like the school cafeteria or restaurants. Those who feel self conscious about exercise may avoid even taking a walk around their own neighborhood for fear of judgment.
Most likely this hyper self-awareness stems from one’s own critical voice. We are all more critical of ourselves and many people with eating disorders have a constant inner dialogue that is harsh and downright mean.
So, how do you get out of your head and into your life? The next time you eat a burger in front of someone or go to the gym, remember that others are not likely to notice what you are doing. In fact, they’re probably on their phones! Don’t let your critical voice stop you from practicing recovery!
Pam Chin-Lai, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD specializes in the nutritional rehabilitation of eating disorders in children, adolescents and adults.