One of the biggest steps in eating disorder recovery and normalizing your relationship with food is introducing fear foods. A lot of us think “fear foods” are only those foods that produce a strong anxious response (which often happens and is completely normal for those suffering from an eating disorder). But I think a lot of us have fear foods without necessarily realizing it. Fear foods could also simply be foods you’re uncomfortable being around. I know of a lot of us are uncomfortable around foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Others get nervous around pre-packaged or convenience foods. While our bodies are highly efficient at processing all foods, our nutrition messaging has induced some fear and guilt into our foods choices.
The good news is that you don’t have to have those fearful, anxiety-filled thoughts in your head every time you eat. How freeing! You have the complete innate ability to make food choices that are best for your individual health and body. Today I want to talk about some important steps that can help you get to that point of total food and body freedom.
Making lateral moves.
Adding in new foods can be hard. A first step could be making lateral moves. The disordered mind tells us that we should only be comfortable around a certain number of “safe” foods. Rather than doing a complete 360, switching from one type of food to another, lateral moves can be a place to start. Let’s say you eat an apple every day for lunch. A lateral move could be switching to a pear. The next lateral move could be a bowl of grapes. Before you know it, you’ve introduced all different kinds of fruit! You’re not necessarily jumping from an apple to an apple pie, but you’ve started to add more variety into your meals – and important first step in recovery.
Pair new foods with a safe food.
While adding in new foods can be intimidating, pairing them with a safe food can make it feel more manageable. After you’ve been successful at making lateral moves, this could be your next step! Going back to the apple example, maybe you could still have your apple, but add some caramel dip/peanut butter (or an other new/fear food) on the side. Eating new foods 100% on their own can be intimidating. While the goal is to eventually be at that place, pairing new + safe foods together can help.
Ask yourself, “Why am I afraid of this food?”
Make a list of reasons you’re afraid of certain foods. For every reason you’re afraid, come up with 2 reasons you can enjoy it instead.
For example, fear reason –> “I’m afraid of peanut butter because it is high in fat.”
Enjoy reason –> “I need enough fat in my diet to support healthy hormone functioning and get my period back.”
Enjoy reason –> “Eating fat will help me absorb more nutrients from the other food I’m eating. My body will be strong and healthy because I have enough fat!”
Don’t push too hard too soon.
Eating intuitively is a process, not a destination. No one is a perfect intuitive eater. We all eat for different reasons, and putting perfection on intuitive eating is putting the diet mentality on something that was never meant to be there. Recovering from disordered eating is one of the hardest, yet strongest things you will likely ever do. Negative food messaging is everywhere. Getting back in tune with your body takes a lot of time. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes you longer than you hoped or expected. Demanding perfection out of yourself will only lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and failure. We are each on our own individual journey!