Social Eating in a Virtual World
Posted on February 24, 2021
As we approach one year since the beginning of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I reflect on how quickly we've all grown accustomed to life behind a screen. Our lives have transformed and adapted to this new, virtual way of life. Activities we used to engage in face-to-face were quickly formatted to Zoom screens and FaceTime calls. Think of all the words and phrases that have newly entered our vernacular: work from home, telecommuting, quarantine, and social distancing, to name a few.
As we prioritize community protection, I cannot help but notice the irony of the meaning these words convey: isolation and disconnection.
So how does our unlimited virtual connection (and real-life disconnection) impact recovery? In a recent group discussion, we explored the impacts of quarantine on social eating. For some, eating with others, out at a restaurant or with colleagues at work, presents common challenges. The perceived judgments of friends or meal comparisons may provoke anxiety, discomfort, embarrassment and frustration. Thus, the suspension of in-person dining and the reality of working from home removes old barriers to social eating, while also presenting the complicating lack of accountability and support.
Perhaps you find yourself in a different camp. You may find eating in the company of supports or trusted co-workers challenges your eating disorder voice and promotes recovery. So, forgoing dining-in for carry-out at home may offer the opportunity to return to old habits.
Whether you miss the company of eating amongst friends, or find the lack of perceived judgment preventing you from challenging yourself with fear foods, how can we manage the benefits and drawbacks of social eating in a virtual world? Here are some strategies to start:
Kate Ramsdell, M.S., is a clinical intern at The Renfrew Center of Baltimore. She is a fourth-year student at Loyola University Maryland, pursuing her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Communication from Denison University in 2016 and Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from Loyola University Maryland in 2019. She is most passionate about her work with disordered eating/body image, identity, religion/spirituality, and crisis intervention in emerging adult populations.
- Set an intention prior to your meal, such as, "Food is fuel." Despite the chaos of 2020, let's remember to prioritize nourishment – both physically and mentally.
- Share a meal via FaceTime or Zoom. Set up a standing virtual lunch date with a friend!
- Eat at your dining room table or kitchen counter – not your desk. It may be tempting to eat while you continue to work in your home office, but eating is not something to multi-task.
- Plan ahead. For most of us, our refrigerator is only a short walk from our workspace. And yet, establishing a consistent meal routine, even at home, will make mealtimes run smoother. Need a new recipe? Click here to join our virtual "Cooking with Confidence" demonstration on Thursday, February 25!