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  • Writer's pictureSasha Millice, MS, RD, LD

Facing your fears in recovery

In the spirit of Halloween let's talk about fear foods.

What are fear foods?

“Fear food” is a term used to describe foods that someone avoids eating due to irrational beliefs about the consequences of eating them. These irrational thoughts may be related to how a food impacts body weight, causes an adverse physical reaction or contributes to a negative self-view. Generally, individuals will experience a heightened sense of anxiety, discomfort, or fear when they attempt to consume these avoided foods. Disordered thoughts may also lead to feelings of guilt and shame when these foods are consumed, contributing to compensatory behaviors for some.

Fear foods are different for everyone and even though the fear is often illogical, it can be overwhelming and at times debilitating. Food doesn’t need to be so scary! The first step to decreasing feelings of anxiety and guilt around feared foods is starting to reintroduce avoided foods into the diet in a consistent manner. Being able to consume ALL foods (except those you are allergic to) is essential to building a better relationship with food.

So why is it so important to be able to consume your fear foods?

1. Avoiding foods just makes them scarier!

While it may seem easier to continue to avoid all your feared foods, this ends up making the foods even scarier. Avoidance is an unproductive way to cope with anxiety. The more you avoid something the more instilled the belief that you “cannot handle it” becomes. Reintroducing foods helps you to take back power from the eating disorder and build a case of evidence that you are capable of eating a wide variety of foods.

2. Reintroducing feared foods helps you learn to see food neutrally.

Repeatedly exposing yourself to feared foods, can help you to challenge “good” and “bad” food mentality and start to see foods as more neutral. Food is just food. There are no good or bad foods. All foods fuel our bodies. Some provide extra nutrients and some provide extra enjoyment; both are equally valuable.

3. Having a more neutral view of food helps you understand your true preferences.

Many people with eating disorders have a hard time tuning into their true food preferences. This is because, over time, the eating disorder’s fears and preferences can muddle their own perspective. Therefore, it is essential to reintroduce all foods and determine one’s true motives for avoiding them. When you learn to see food in a more neutral light, you can start to explore your true preferences.

4. Including fear foods in your diet allows you to embrace your social life.

Avoiding foods, often also means avoiding social situations. When the eating disorder is in charge, food rules take priority over everything else leading people to skip birthday parties and movie nights. Getting comfortable eating ALL foods, helps you to navigate these situations and reengage in your social life.

5. Consuming a wider variety of food can help you reconnect with aspects of food other than nutrition.

Food is supposed to be pleasurable. It helps connect us to our family and our culture. It is a way to practice self-care and express love to others. By getting back to a place where you can enjoy formerly feared foods, you can start to explore food as more than just nourishment. As your anxiety with reintroduced foods decreases, you will likely find that you are less preoccupied with those foods and are able to be more present during meals with friends and family.

Reintroducing avoided or feared foods can be pretty scary, but it is also so worth the effort to get to a place where you can enjoy all food. This is what ultimate food freedom is all about.

If you need support tackling your feared foods reach out and schedule a free 15-minute discovery call to learn more about working together.

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