If you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder or had an unhealthy relationship with food, you are likely familiar with fear foods. These are the foods that feel scary to consume and may leave you feeling anxious when faced with them.
Click-bait ads deeming food as toxic, diet banter at the office, Instagram influencers selling diet plans, comments from your aunt about how she lost weight by following the latest fad diet only worsen the situation. To someone in the trenches of an eating disorder, the mere thought of eating a fear of food can be downright paralyzing.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with any foods (all foods are neutral), our mindsets and beliefs about food can become problematic if we restrict or avoid certain foods out of fear. An important stage in recovery is confronting these fears and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. While it might feel scary, ultimately, food freedom is worth the moments of discomfort.
Total food freedom means being able to eat spontaneously and regularly, with enjoyment and without restrictions. Fear foods can look different for everyone. Most often they are the foods that you truly enjoy, though the eating disorder may have convinced you that you no longer like them. You may find yourself filled with fear and anxiety at the thought of having to face these foods, which in turn causes you to isolate yourself from friends and family as well as avoid social events or eating in public. While it may feel easier and more comfortable to continue to avoid the food, doing so only makes the fear that much stronger. By removing the power that the eating disorder has over that food we become more powerful in our ability to fight against it.
Once you are able to see how much the eating disorder robs you of living your best life, you may be ready to start putting together a plan to challenge it. When you are ready, set small goals and stick to them.
Three ways to conquer fear foods in Eating Disorder Recovery
1. GRAB A SUPPORT PERSON
Ask someone whom you trust and feel comfortable with to join you for a snack or meal that feels challenging. Fill them in on your plans to face your fear food and open up a discussion as to how they can help support you. Exposing yourself to your fear foods can be anxiety provoking. Be sure to communicate your plan to your treatment team so that you are equipped to manage these emotions.
2. MAKE A PLAN
Plan to have a portion that feels challenging, yet do-able. Commit to it and don’t back down! Schedule a date in your calendar, plan the location, the time of day and who you are going to be with. Structure your environment to make it as supportive as possible
This is not a one and done deal! Stay committed to challenging yourself with this fear food again and again. This will not only help you build trust with your body, but it will also show you that you are capable of tolerating (and hopefully enjoying!) this food. The more you expose yourself to it, the less power the eating disorder will have
3. PRACTICE SELF COMPASSION
Show yourself kindness and go easy on yourself. What you are feeling is real! It may feel scary, overwhelming and out of control, but give yourself credit for working through these feelings and making the effort towards healing and recovery. Plan to distract yourself with an activity after the exposure to help with the anxiety. Call a friend, watch a movie, play a game. Choose something light and fun.
This process takes time! Developing a fear of these foods didn’t happen overnight so it’s likely going to take some time to work through the emotions that come up as you start to expose yourself to these foods again. Be gentle on yourself throughout this process.
Need extra support?
Overcoming fear foods is a major milestone in eating disorder recovery and healing your relationship with food takes a tremendous amount of courage and persistence. We are here to support you every step of the way. Contact our office to see what we can do to help you along your journey.
And remember, YOU are worth this fight.
Have you conquered your fear foods? We want to know what helped! Please share your experience with us!