You've been asked out on a date. You're excited. The air is full of possibility. You're full of nerves and jitters, but also a pleasant combination of curiosity and mystery.
He asked you out after locking eyes at your grocery store as you scanned the organic bananas and non-GMO tomatoes. Little did he know you were so consumed with the nutritional content of the tomatoes that you almost missed his approach.
If you're experiencing orthorexic tendencies, an eating disorder or just a common sensation of food fear, you're not alone. You're not the only woman or man in the world that loves dating but fears the food you may have to consume in the name of being social.
I was once exactly like that. I'd plan the restaurant we'd go to a week in advance, Google their menu, research the nutritional content of whatever looked the least fattening or sugar-loaded and then call the restaurant to see if they could make any substitutions. If they couldn't or if the nutritional content wasn't "safe" enough for me, I'd get anxiety about the meal thinking about the calories I'd have to eat just to get to know a stranger.
If the date was good, I felt relieved not that I had met a great guy, but because all the calorie counting and anxiety seemed worth it. If the date was bad, I was miserable and upset. I'd wasted time, effort and calories on somebody who wasn't worth it.
How many of you have been here before? We live in a culture that tells us if we don't eat kale three times a day or don't avoid grains at all cost, we're not healthy. So how are we supposed to enjoy date night when we have all of these rules?
Treat date night like every other night.
I'm not going to give you a "moderation is key" answer like, "Learn to enjoy eating whatever you want just one night a week." That kind of answer doesn't prevent anxiety — it's just a Band-Aid. The root of the matter is actually that you need to learn to live anxiety-free around food all of the time, not just on a date night. Here are some ways you can learn to do this:
1. Stop tip-toeing around unnecessary food rules.
If you're tired of being anxious about eating "off limit" foods, stop giving yourself limits! Start enjoying food again. Your stomach might be a little off balance because it's not used to digesting certain ingredients but after some time, you'll be right as rain. You'll realize that food isn't scary.
2. Focus on eating stress-free and you'll digest your meal with ease.
Did you know that if you eat a meal in a stressed state, your body can digest it in a completely different manner than if you were eating in a happy state? If you're grumpy, worried and filled with anxiety about food, your cortisol can bump up, telling your body to store fat. Your stomach can actually produce more gas, which will leave you bloated and uncomfortable.
When you eat, focus on the deliciousness of your meal. Don't think about what it "may or may not" be being doing to your body.
3. Be in the moment and focus on your present partner.
Engage in conversation. Enjoy the moment. Savor it. Life is too short to worry about the food on your plate all the time. Focus on the present moment and the fact that you're able to share an hour (or two or three, depending on how well it goes!) with another person that wants to invest time in you.
Life is full of tiny little moments like these. When you're 85, do you think you'll wish that you had eaten something else or picked a different restaurant? No. If you learn how to embrace the moment now, when you're 85 you'll be grateful for learning this lesson early in life.
You weren't born to tiptoe around food all of your life. You were born so you could share moments with others and grace them with your being.
So please, the next time you have date night, enjoy it. Savor it. Not just the food, but the fact that you're alive on this earth. I dare you to be spontaneous and skip the pre-dinner research. Go with your gut, it knows more than you think.