ADVANCED MEAL SESSIONS
Most meal sessions are done to provide good role modeling: eating in a healthy way to help clients do the same. There is another kind of meal session we do that is at an entirely different level. We realized that after a while our clients needed to step up the nature of their meals sessions in order to deal with real-world situations. You have probably experienced eating with others who inadvertently do or say things about food or dieting that are difficult or triggering to you. In these advanced meal sessions, we intentionally set up triggering situations to help desensitize clients to the real world without resorting to their eating disorders. For example, what would you do if your friend, roommate, or co-worker ordered a salad with no dressing and talked about her new diet?
Advanced meal sessions (and other kinds of advanced sessions, like going to a gym or buying clothes) can help you learn how to tolerate your feelings and build the resilience you will need to do the right thing for yourself, even if you are triggered by something, or someone, which will happen.
Planning these sessions is collaborative, and we only do them when a client is willing and ready. Even though clients know in advance that we will be doing something triggering at the meal session, we do not tell them exactly what it is, so they aren’t completely ready for it. The opportunity to practice tolerating and responding to these kinds of situations when it is not actually happening, but it is happening, seems to provide a safe, but challenging halfway step that helps being able to do it in real life. It can be pretty funny as well, and a little humor around food is helpful. Clients can’t help but laugh listening to us ordering the diet plate, or saying some of the triggering things we say to them If you have a therapist or a dietitian, ask if he or she would be willing to do this with you, however, you can also do this with a willing friend or family member, but be careful whom you choose. You can tell the support person what their role is so he or she is prepared to challenge you by intentionally triggering you in some way, or you can provide a list with a few and let it be a surprise.
Examples of triggering situations we have used in advanced meal or food sessions:
1. Go out to lunch and have the support person make comments on what or how much you are eating.
2. Order first at a restaurant and then have the support person order much less food.
3. Go out to eat where the support person does not order carbs and discusses how bad they are.
4. Eat a challenging meal while the support person asks about the calories in everything and then barely eats.
5. Have someone come to the grocery store with you, and whenever you choose an item, they point out a lower-calorie version.
If you aren’t ready for this yet, that is okay. In fact, we refer to them as advanced meal sessions because they are. You need to be ready and when you are, these experiences are very valuable.
TRIGGERING MEAL CHALLENGES
Find a person who will help you with a triggering meal challenge. Ask them to go to a meal with you and do things that will likely trigger you, but not tell you ahead of time.
Tell your support person that he or she has to come up with things that could happen to you in the real world. For example, push the food around on their plate, get up from the meal several times, or order plain grilledfish when you order a pizza. Are you getting the picture?
Write about your triggering meal experience. Include what happened, how you handled it, and what you learned by it.
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