Fear foods are foods that you may feel afraid, anxious, or uncomfortable eating. The fear of a food may come from irrational thoughts about how it impacts your body or weight. People that are affected by eating disorders often feel guilty, ashamed or even disgusted by themselves for having these certain foods, so they try to avoid these foods on all costs.
Not everyone suffering from an eating disorder does have fear foods.
What fear foods can look like
What a person is afraid of eating varies from person to person. Sometimes even day to day. However most of the time fear foods are foods that are higher in calories and food that are demonised by diet culture. Typical fear foods are baked goods, pizza, pasta, bread, spreads, oil, … But not all of the time they have to make sense. One of my greatest fear foods has been lettuce. And I felt comfortable eating chocolate again BEFORE feeling comfortable introducing lettuce back into my diet.
Why it is important to challenge them
From a psychological perspective, avoidance is a unhealthy/unsustainable way to cope with uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, guilt and shame. Avoiding a fear food is probably relieving your anxiety for a moment, but in the long term it will worsen. Some consequences of avoiding fear foods on the long term:
• More anxiety around food = More time and mental energy spent thinking about food
• More time spent thinking about food = Less time spent having meaningful conversations
and relationships with friends and family, even avoiding social gatherings because this certain food might be involved
• Stronger eating disorder voice = Stronger “good food-bad food” mentality, stuck in the diet cycle
• Increased appeal and desire of forbidden food = Increased risk of binge eating and dissatisfaction
Tips how you can start challenging your fear foods
Some of these tips are evidence based, some are coming from my very own experience. If there is anything you don´t resonate with please let me know. Be aware, that everyone´s recovery journey is individual.
list of all your fear food
how to enter a fear food challenge
What are the roots of your fear foods?
Media messages, diet culture, friends and family views, and past experiences with certain foods can all influence your thoughts and fears about a food. But also your very own believes, you think eating this specific food will lead to. For example eating a cheesy pizza will lead to weight gain, which will lead to being less happy in general. (even weight gain is not the main root, so try to dig in really deep here)
When you feel like you found the main root of this fear – ask yourself if this believe is actually true. Is a person in a bigger body really incapable of feeling happiness? (Spoiler: this believe is not true.)
do it in company
This is also connected with the first one: Entering the challenge in a positive/relaxed mood, to connect the food with more positive associations instead of anxiety, stress and guilt. I challenged my fear of pizza together with my best friend, now when I am eating pizza, the first thing that comes to my mind, is how we sat there and ate our pizza and not all the guilt and shame I once created around this food.
But it´s also helpful to have someone that can comfort you once it is getting too overwhelming.
Are there any other tips you can give other fighters and warriors to face their fear foods? Drop them down below.
I am sending much love, strength and tight hugs towards those, that are challenging their fear foods right now. You are so brave and strong for taking this battle up, and I promise you, no pizza, donut or lettuce will hurt you the way your eating disorder does!