Open feeding is a concept where food is accessible by multiple people at a time. Examples include restaurant buffets, family-style meals, and potluck type situations.
It is a place where people feed. It’s a place where people can eat anything that is available. The social norms of these places and or situations are; You can eat anything without judgment. No one will think it’s weird if you take seconds, fill your plate to the brim and eat every last bite, and or shove chip after chip into your mouth. If you are eating at someone’s home, you often eat more because you feel guilty or you want to make someone else feel better if you eat their cooking.
Several years ago I stopped going to buffets as a personal choice in my ED recovery. I remember eating at them as a child, and later with my dad when we would have visited after not seeing him for a while. It is a place that has options, and you can go through and eat as much as you want, and indulge in all of the options, with as many plates as you want. It’s a food addicts heaven.
Family meals, and potluck type situations have been really hitting me hard in the anxiety department for the past several years. These environments give permission for the ED to come out in safe non-judgmental, overeating accepted areas. It comes out like a fucking monster. It almost becomes its own being that has been awoken after a long slumber. Hello world, let me judge the fuck out of how much you’ve eaten, and what they have eaten. I look around at other people, I take inventory around me. I look at people’s plates, I look at their bodies, I calculate and create excuses. I did it before I became vegan and I do it now, only excuses look different than they did before.
My brain becomes a mess, and I fight myself and judge myself. It’s a battle in my brain, fighting to keep control when in reality I don’t feel like I have any at all. My anxiety is high, my teeth are clenching, and I surrender to alleviate the pressure that I’ve manifested myself.
What probably has pulled me in (other than the obvious food) have been social anxiety (even in my own family), feeling awkward, self-hatred, not knowing what to say to people, the fact that people have made special food for me… And I’m sure there are more, but these are the only ones I can think of at the moment.
What hasn’t helped: putting my silverware on my plate as a signal that I’m done. Shaming myself over and over again, mindful eating, judging myself or someone else for their food choices (it’s none of my damn business anyway), eating more, or drinking more alcoholic beverages.
What has helped: Self-parenting. Consistently I’ve come back to this concept of self-parenting. It essentially is self-soothing, telling yourself you are safe, you have had enough, you are okay, you do not need to eat anymore. Putting my napkin and my silverware on my plate and saying out loud no more.
What I will try to remember for next time (if we can ever meet in person again): Excuse myself to the bathroom or go outside for a few minutes, get up to get a glass of water, and ask lots of questions about the people around me. Those are what I have so far anyway.
Either way, it is important to be gentle with yourself. You are human, you are wonderful and you have got this.