When it comes to phobias, one of the last things you might think of being afraid of is eating in public. This is actually a more common issue than many would suspect. The fear of being seen while eating such as while out at a restaurant, bar, or even at a friends or family's home is often associated with social phobias. The fear of eating in public can be caused by a number of early life experiences. If you have this phobia, rest assure that it can be treated. Read on to learn more.
Why Do You Fear of Eating in the Public?
You have a food aversion.
When you have a food aversion, you might not feel as much anxiety but will feel more revolted by certain foods or food smells. Food aversions can occur for many reasons such as seeing someone become sick after eating a certain food, religious or family upbringing, or being subjected to an unpleasant smell for a prolonged period of time.
You are afraid of choking.
Many individuals who avoid eating in public because they are afraid of choking do so because their anxiety often causes them to feel as though they have a lump in their throat. This fear of choking leaves the person to believe that they are unable to swallow foods that are not mushed or liquid.
The foods are difficult to eat or messy.
Some individuals may feel more anxiety when they need to eat foods that are messy or more difficult to eat. Soups, salads, or a course that has sauce can bring on more feelings of anxiety because they don't want to look foolish or embarrass themselves while eating.
The atmosphere brings on your phobia.
Where someone eats can bring on anxiety. While eating out at a restaurant they may be fine, eating at a formal dinner can cause them anxiety. Other individuals may find eating in a crowded restaurant more challenging and prefer to eat in front of just a few people.
Who you are eating with.
Typically, eating in front of people you know well will help keep you more comfortable. For some, however, the fear of eating in public might be caused by eating in front of an authority figure even if you are also surrounded by people you know well.
How to Stop Being Afraid of Eating in Public
Know what foods you will eat
You might find that there are certain foods you are comfortable eating when in public. When you know your anxiety will be higher in some social settings, you'll feel more comfortable when you already have a plan to reduce your anxiety. Consider starting with finger foods or tender fish as these foods are easier to handle, cut and are less messy.
Know what foods to avoid
As mentioned, messy foods can increase your anxiety, so you want to avoid these types of foods when you have a fear of eating in front of others. Know what foods can and will increase your anxiety, and you want to avoid them at first until you build up a confidence of eating in public.
Identify what triggers your phobia
When you are trying to overcome your phobia, you want to understand what can trigger it. For many, it isn't just the type of food they are ordering making them anxious, but it can also be who they are eating with, the time of day, the venue, or even the temperature. Knowing your triggers will allow you to first choose a more relaxing setting for you and then be able to overcome these triggers one at a time.
Remember to start small and to take small bites. You want to keep the number of foods you eat to smaller portions so that it is easier to manage. When you have a fear of eating in public, focus on chewing small bites that won't take you long to swallow. This will help you feel more comfortable and allow you keep up a conversation with who you are dining with.
Improve your confidence
It may take practice to build up your confidence which can be easily done actually. Set up a camera so you can record yourself eating at home, or eat in front of a mirror. This will allow you to improve upon your table manners and be aware of how you look when you eat.
Let others know your fear
Confide in a few of your closest friends about your phobia. This can help you feel less awkward about it and you would be surprised by how supportive your friends can be. They will be able to help you overcome your phobia and be more understanding of your fear when you go out.
Look at your mindset
Remind yourself that you don't have to feel guilty about your phobia. Often times people who have a public eating fear will also feel guilty about not finishing all the food on their plate, which increases their anxiety as they try to force feed themselves. Remind yourself that you are eating only until you feel full, you do not have to finish everything on your plate.
Read up on your manners
One way you can increase your confidence and overcome your fear is to know you have proper table manners. It may seem like an insignificant factor, but when you have a fear of eating in public, you may constantly worry about how you look when you eat. Read up on proper table etiquette, especially in settings that increase your anxiety such as formal dinners or if you are traveling to a new country.
Always have a napkin in hand
Holding a napkin in your hand can provide you comfort, and can also hide any messes that may occur. You will be able to quickly wipe your mouth, hands or accidental spills when needed.
Don't out to finish a five-course meal the first time out. While you will be able to accomplish this one day, you want to keep things simple and realistic at first. Set small goals and build upon those and don't worry if you don't overcome everything on the first try. It's a process and it takes time.