To varying degrees, nearly everyone has fears. Some fear heights, some fear the dark, others fear spiders; but for me, I fear eating certain foods.
It’s really a scary thing, being afraid to eat certain foods. But, did you know that restricting the range of foods one eats is actually a common eating disorder symptom? This fear worsens as people avoid certain foods in an effort to look a certain way. For me, this fear of certain foods began in my teens when my Mother joined Weight Watchers and I learned to avoid, shun, and even fear being in the presence of certain foods.
My mom was always on a diet. I was surrounded by serial dieters. I grew up watching my “overweight family members” counting “food points,” bemoaning over failed attempts to keep from eating forbidden foods, and obsessing about their weight, my weight, and my sisters’ weight. I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting when I was just 15 – even though I was not overweight – or even slightly heavy. The fact was, I was just terrified to become fat. I was terrified of becoming the one thing my family did not accept.
And so began my lifelong journey with diets, starvation, food avoidance, and eventually my fear of eating certain foods.
So, I want to share with you, how at the age of 53, I finally overcame my fear of eating certain foods and actually ate Beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans and enjoyed every minute of it!
How to Overcome a Fear of Eating Certain Foods and Face Your Fear Foods Head On
As mentioned previously, food avoidance behavior (or fear of eating certain foods) usually starts as mine did; from internalized dietary rules about which foods one is “permitted” to consume and a long list of “forbidden foods.” Most of us serial dieters and people suffering from Eating Disorders will avoid the usual culprits; french fries (yum!), chocolate, ice cream, candy bars, etc. But, did you know that I also avoided otherwise perfectly good foods that I would consider calorie dense such as rice, bananas, nuts, figs, and even grapes?
So, here are some ways to overcome these fears and try and live your life incorporating those yummy foods you have been avoiding.
1. Identify Your Avoidance Foods and Rank Them
Make three lists.
1. Foods I worry about (foods of concern)
2. Foods I try not to eat (foods I avoid)
3. Foods I can never eat (foods I avoid at all costs)
Basically, you are listing your avoidance foods, and ranking them by your fears from least concerns to worst concerns. Do this using whatever labels you want, just keep the list short and simple. If you create a list that is too large, it can feel overwhelming and unattainable.
2. Note (Explain) WHY You Avoid These Foods
Here, you are briefly explaining why you are scared to eat that particular food. Here are some examples from my list:
- French Fries: Too much fat and salt and I’ll get bloated
- Doritos: Once I start eating these, I cannot stop
- Ice Cream: I’m going to gain weight
- Figs: Too carb-dense and they won’t fill me up
- Rice: Too many calories
3. Start Consuming Them in Moderation
Now begins the real work. Start by eating the foods of least concern, or the ones that you worry about the least. Ease your way into this, but here are a few pointers that helped me:
- Try to ENJOY and taste the experience. After all, they say that Forbidden Fruit is the Sweetest!
- Eat your avoidance foods with “safe” foods. For example, I love frozen corn but worry about the carb density, so I mix it with frozen kale when I cook it. Yum!
- End your meal with your avoidance food for maximum happiness (so you end on a happy note). I will eat my safe foods first, fill up, and then end with the taste of my forbidden food so that my last bite is something yummy, memorable, and I feel fuller too!
4. Carefully Track and Measure – What Happened?
For example, “If I eat a piece of cake I will gain five pounds.” Or, “If I eat Doritos, I will not be able to stop eating Doritos and will continue until I eat an entire bag.” Make sure to record whether or not your prediction comes true.
I found that over and over, my predictions for the most part either didn’t come true, OR the impact was only temporary (bloated for a day, weight resolved after a few days, etc.).
5. Repeat and UNLEARN
Now keep repeating this process, moving down your list progressing from your safest to your most forbidden foods. Realize slowly that incorporating your challenge foods into a healthy diet is going to have little if no impact on your body. Over time, you will realize that foods you love can be eaten responsibly and enjoyed thoroughly.
Eating Beignets at Cafe du Monde
For me, I started this process slowly over the last few years, carefully incorporating foods and allowing myself to explore tastes I had not enjoyed in years. It was just a few months ago when I finally took that bucket-list trip to New Orleans that I finally felt completely and totally free.
I ate and sampled anything I wanted in New Orleans. I drank cocktails, ate fried chicken, devoured red beans, sausage, and rice, sampled macaroons in many flavors, ate an entire (huge) slice of New Orleans King Cake, and ate beignets at Cafe du Monde. In fact, I ate every last powdery, messy, delicious crumb of beignets.
However, the problem was never my body. The true problem was the relationship between food and my body. If I can do it – I know you can too. Start slowly and consistently and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your forbidden fruit.
Do You Have a Fear of Eating Certain Foods? Help is Available – You Are Not Alone!
If you believe you or someone you know if suffering from an eating disorder, a joy-filled life is possible. We can work one-on-one with you to make that life a reality. We believe in living a fully recovered life. Our team of specialists will develop a personalized treatment plan for you/your loved one. Contact us today … You are not alone in this battle!