Chatting on the picnic blanket – Why is meal support so important?

Image via VectorStock


So, you’ve been to a day program, inpatient admission or have been struggling with eating regularly at home due to distress and anxiety. You feel stuck and know you still need the support of others to transition or continue moving towards recovery. What’s next? How can we fill the gap between the intensive support of a full/part-time program or prevent growing distress around eating at home or socially?

Current research tells us that ongoing therapeutic and peer meal support is one of the core aspects of treating disordered eating, however, often this is not offered or accessible in the community. Online meal support in the community helps individuals with an eating disorder or disordered eating in a number of ways:

  1. It helps to normalise  eating behaviours 
  2. It provides a predictable structure and therapeutic support through clinician role modelling of normalised eating while providing empathy and validation for participants
  3. It allows individuals to continue practising appropriate skills to engage in social eating 
  4. It allows space to tackle remaining feared foods, challenge eating disorder cognitions, reduce rituals and learn to adaptively reduce distress and tolerate big emotions
  5. It can become a form of relapse prevention

What are we implementing at BodyMatters to fill this gap?
When you hear the words ‘picnic blanket’ what do you see? We are launching a trial program called ‘The Picnic Blanket’. The Picnic Blanket is a trauma-informed group meal support for people 18 years and over. 

To begin with, we will facilitate this group program on Tues/Wed/Thurs from 12pm-1pm beginning on the 19th of July, 2022. 

This group will be held exclusively on Zoom to allow anyone, anywhere to participate. Individuals do not need to be a client of BodyMatters to participate. It is envisioned that the program will grow to offer an increased number of days and meals e.g., including dinner support and sessions increased to up to 6 days per week.

What can I expect in a session?

  • There will be up to five other participants and the treating therapist in each session.
  • While we encourage adequacy, we will meet you where you are at, and support and encourage you to challenge rules around your intake. Meals will not be displayed on camera, only faces will be displayed.
  • All sessions will follow the same format. The first 10-15 minutes will include a check in with each participant, practice in distress tolerance and sitting with emotion, and discussion around  group safety measures and boundaries e.g. topics that are not welcome on the picnic blanket such as numbers, other treatment facilities etc.

The next 30 minutes will include the shared meal. Social eating skills will be encouraged and role-modelled by the therapist. The therapist will also initiate and pace  topics for discussion and remind participants of the skills they can use to manage distress and emotions.

The final 10-15 minutes will consist of a post meal debrief, the opportunity for self care after the session. Before the end of the hour session, participants will email the therapist regarding any challenges, as well as individual  distress hierarchies and ritual reduction.

What is the cost of attending Picnic Blanket sessions?
There will be a two week free trial (Tues/Wed/Thurs at 12pm between 19 July-30 July) to assess the suitability and appropriateness of the program, as well as taking into consideration lived experience suggestions and wisdom. In addition to participation in the free group sessions during this time, individuals must pay $70 for an individual screening assessment session prior to joining the group.

At the end of the trial, providing there is enough interest, group participation will cost $30 per session, and $120 for an individual assessment session prior to joining.

What else do I need to know?

  • Sessions need to be booked at least one day prior and payment must be made upfront.
  • ‘Picnic Baskets’ (similar to a gift card) will be available for family and friends to purchase, enabling them to provide financial/practical support to a loved one.
  • For further information or to register interest, please contact 


Clinical research was sourced from following journal articles:

  • Providing patients with meal support in the real world (Heather Litchfield, 2015)
  • Eating disorders meal support training for friends and families of patients with eating disorders meal support training (P. Leichner et al., 2005)
  • Eating disorders meal support therapy reduces the use of nasogastric feeding for adolescents hospitalised with anorexia nervosa (Adeel Mahmood, 2009)


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