Last week I talked about challenging your fear foods…
…BUT, understandably, that brings up a lot of questions, fears and concerns around eating those “unhealthy” and “bad” foods.
✔️ “Once I start eating it I won’t be able to stop!”
✔️ “But this food is so unhealthy for me!?”
✔️ “But what if some foods cause me negative symptoms?”
✔️ “How to cope with the fear when I eat those foods?”
These are some of the questions and fears I will address in today’s post.
So lets address some common fears and questions about challenging fear foods.
FEAR: “Once I start eating it I won’t be able to stop!”
This is a very common fear and this is what I genuinely believed as well. But it’s not true.
Yes at first when you come from dieting and restriction you will crave more calorie-dense foods for a reason – diets are a form of starvation to your body and it will want and need lots of energy (aka calories) to get back to energy balance and out of starvation. Physically and biologically it makes sense.
But there is also a mental component to cravings – if you feel you can’t have something then the more you will want it.
There are some studies that have been done on food habituation. Food habituation means that when we have consistent and unconditional exposure to some foods then we lose interest in those foods, they become more normal and neutral over time and not as exciting anymore.
Food habituation means that when we have consistent and unconditional exposure to some foods then we lose interest to those foods, they become more normal and neutral over time and not as exciting anymore.
Food habituation studies have been done with foods like potato chips, chocolate, and pizza – those foods we typically think are “addictive” – we believe that “once we try one bite we cannot stop eating it”.
But those studies proved that this is not true – in those studies if people were given unconditional and free access to those exact foods then over time those foods lost their power and excitement and became neutral. They didn’t binge on them just because they had free access to those foods, instead, they lost interest in those foods.
It’s the same effect when you have a favorite song and you listen to it over and over again, then over time it becomes less exciting and you may even lose interest in listening to that song. But the same thing can happen with food if you give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want and do it consistently and frequently.
FEAR: “But this food is so unhealthy for me!?”
I came from orthorexia so I totally understand how many fears we can have about eating “unhealthy foods”.
But in reality, having an eating disorder is way worse for your health than any food can ever be.
Plus, the goal of full recovery is to be a normal eater in the long term. To eliminate all urges to binge and also to normalize your cravings. So it’s not like just because you will want a lot of those foods now that this is exactly how it will be for the rest of your life. Remember what we talked about food habituation.
And there is a huge difference if you eat, let’s say many bags of candy in one go and feel pretty uncomfortable afterward… compared to if you are able to eat some candy, enjoy it, and then move on with your day.
It’s not the candy’s fault for making you unhealthy and feel bad after eating, but it’s the fact that you are so deprived of it and then binge on it. The deprivation and restriction are making your food experiences way worse than they would be if you wouldn’t be restricting.
The deprivation and restriction are making your food experiences way worse than they would be if you wouldn’t be restricting.
FEAR: “But what if some foods do cause me negative symptoms?”
If you have some true food intolerances or allergies then this is something you must address with your doctor and this is not really what this post is about.
BUT if you restrict some foods, you eliminate them or try to eat them very little what can happen is that your stomach loses the digestive enzymes to be able to properly digest those foods. This can easily happen with things like gluten and lactose. You need consistent exposure to those foods to be able to digest them and have the enzymes in your stomach. So here, eating those foods over time can actually make your digestion stronger.
Another thing is that restriction really damages your stomach, the stomach muscles, stomach lining, it lowers the healthy gut bacteria that help with food digestion. So if you eat some foods in recovery it’s not the food’s fault exactly but it’s because of the damage restriction has created in your gut that is causing the symptoms now.
Yes, food can seem to really irritate your stomach but also, food and enough calories is the thing that can heal it.
And thirdly, since our mind and body are connected just the anxiety and fear of eating some foods can cause your stomach upset and digestion issues. It is very different if you eat a cake while feeling calm, relaxed, with enjoyment and unconditional permission…or you eat the cake with anxiety, nervousness, thinking that this food is “bad”, “unhealthy”, “makes you fat”…that by itself will increase the cortisol levels in your body and will cause this stress response that will shut down your digestion or at least will stop it from working optimally. So working with your negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, and getting rid of this diet mentality is so important when challenging your fear foods.
How to cope with the fear of eating fear foods?
Firstly, I want to say that there is nothing that can completely take the fear away before you start challenging yourself with those foods. You have this fear mostly because you have been trying to minimize or avoid those foods for so long, so actually starting to expose yourself to these foods regularly and consistently is the primary thing that will take the fear away. As you are challenging yourself over time the fear will become less intense and in the long run, the fear will go away altogether.
The 5 Second Rule
Another thing that I recommend is to use something called “The 5 Second Rule”. The basic concept about The 5 Second Rule is that if you wait too long to do something and you hesitate, then your brain will talk you out of it. So it’s important to do something rather quickly to stop this overthinking before you take action.
So when you have a thought of challenging a fear food, you must count 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and just DO IT, you go and physically move your body and take action. Counting the numbers helps to stop the thought process and it also signals action. The 5 Second Rule is a book written by Mel Robbins and I highly recommend it.
Coping with the emotions and thoughts
And if after eating you feel very uncomfortable in your body, you have fear, anxiety, shame, what you can do is use another tool I have talked about – How To Cope With Emotions – and there is a meditation you can use to sit with those uncomfortable feelings. And if you are able to sit with those feelings then know that over time they will pass, it’s temporary.
And another thing T can recommend is to reframe your negative thoughts. It’s very likely you have so many negative thoughts as you are eating those fear foods and those thoughts by themselves create fear, anxiety, and discomfort (not the food itself), so it can be really important to start working on those thoughts as well.
If you want to learn more about recovery and how to do it step by step then please read my book “BrainwashED”
You can check out my recovery online courses HERE.
If you wish to work with me one on one, then I offer Recovery Coaching where I can help you go through your recovery step by step and offer support and accountability. Read more and apply HERE.
Or you can book a one-off coaching call with me HERE.