In today’s post, I will give you some tips on how to challenge your fear foods.
If you are going through eating disorder recovery it’s most likely you have a lot of fear foods. These are the foods that cause you fear, guilt, and anxiety. You have tried to restrict or limit these foods in some way because you believed they are “bad” or “unhealthy” for you.
But to gain back food freedom and to fully recover from the eating disorder you must make peace with ALL FOODS.
And you can start this process by challenging your fear foods – eating them consistently, adding them back into your diet, buying those foods and keeping them in your house, choosing challenging meals over safe options, etc.
What are fear foods?
Fear foods are the foods you have deemed as “bad” and “unhealthy”. These are the foods you have tried to eliminate or restrict in some way.
Fear foods are something that causes you fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame if you eat them. They also come with lots of limiting beliefs like “this food will make me fat” or “this food is toxic for me”.
Some common fear foods can be things like hamburgers, pizza, french fries, pasta, ice cream, cakes, oils, sugar, and so on and on. Fear foods are very individual.
For example, for me, I was very scared to eat fats – things like oil, butter, nut butters, nuts, and processed foods. But for someone else eating high carb foods might be the scariest. So it really depends on a person. But generally, whatever we restricted in the past are now likely to be part of our fear foods.
And keep in mind that here I’m not talking about foods that some people have real intolerances to or real allergic reactions to, like if you are allergic to nuts or if you have Celiac Disease and you must avoid gluten. When talking about fear foods I mean these are the foods you have chosen to restrict without clear medical evidence that you really need to, but just out of fear or belief that it’s a “bad” or “unhealthy” food.
Setting yourself up for success
Before I start talking about exactly how to challenge your fear foods I want to talk about other key points that you must address beforehand, otherwise this process will not work.
1. Eating enough food
I have talked about this so many times before but it’s worth repeating – you must eat enough calories to recover, in order to eliminate the urges to binge, and also normalize the cravings for your fear foods.
Because if you are not eating enough calories, if you are still malnourished then you can keep eating many bars of chocolate and challenge this fear food over and over again, but it will never ever normalize because you are not eating enough calories to begin with. So the key to being able to normalize and neutralize fear foods is to eat enough food overall and to restore your body physically, this may mean weight gain and getting back to energy balance.
2. Rest more, no overexercising
The second important aspect of recovery is resting and often taking a complete break from exercise. Because if the food you eat and the fuel you get goes towards fuelling the exercise you are doing and not fuelling the body, recovering from malnutrition, restoring the body functions, then just challenging your fear foods won’t neutralize them.
So remember, all other aspects of recovery are equally important to work on, not only challenging fear foods while neglecting other aspects of recovery.
3. Working on the limiting beliefs
It’s not enough to only focus on the behavioral changes, like challenging your fear foods if you are also not working on the mental changes at the same time.
For example, if you challenge your fear foods by eating them while still saying to yourself that “this food is so unhealthy” or “ok I will eat this cake but I hope I can settle with just one peace”.
These thoughts are still very conditional, they are not unconditional. They are still full of fear, shame, guilt, and diet mentality.
You must start to identify your limiting beliefs and thoughts and work on them. You must work on overcoming the diet mentality and mental restriction. Otherwise, it won’t work.
How to challenge fear foods?
So how to challenge your fear foods in recovery?
1. Create a list of your fear foods
List all your fear foods, write them down. Mine were pasta, chocolate, oil, peanut butter, butter, hamburgers, french fries, pizza. There were more but just as an example.
2. Put them into order starting from the scariest foods first
For me, it would have been something like:
- Peanut butter
- French fries
3. Start eating the scariest foods first
In my opinion, it’s best to start challenging your fear foods from the scariest foods first. Because then, over time, the fears can start to lessen. Plus, you have proved to your brain that you can eat some scary foods so everything else can start to seem less daunting over time.
So for me, it would mean that I would start by buying a block of butter and a bottle of oil from the store. Which is exactly what I did.
4. Challenge fear foods consistently every day
Next, you must start challenging your fear foods consistently and frequently, I would say every day even at every meal there should be some fear foods.
For me it would mean I would eat butter every day, I added it into my foods. I would also cook with oil, I would pour it into the pan, not measuring it.
Of course, I would also add other fear foods over time but maybe first I would focus more on the oils, butter, and other fats since fats were something I used to restrict the most.
And basically, you would continue doing this with all the foods on your list, to start adding them back in, to eat them every day, to stay consistent with this. While, of course eating enough calories, eating regularly, resting, working with your mindset, and so on.
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.
Or you can book a one-off coaching call with me HERE.