Do you feel guilty after eating a cookie?
Do you agonize over going out because of all the food that will “tempt” you?
Do you wish you could eat “whatever” and not gain any weight?
Do you avoid foods you consider “fattening” but secretly wish you could eat them? Maybe you do eat them- but only in secret and often ends in overeating or binging.
Are you getting exhausted with having to manage feared foods?
If so, let’s start by looking more closely at your “feared foods”…
Make a list of different foods according to how “safe” versus “scary” these are to eat.
On a piece of paper, draw 3 columns to divide between SAFE~MEDIUM RISK~HIGH RISK Foods
Make a list of all the SAFE foods~
Make a list of all the MEDIUM RISK foods~
Make a list of all the HIGH RISK and/orUNTOUCHABLES
Get clear on the fears that each food elicits. Where does that fear come from? What or who supports this fear? What are the facts about that fear? What is the message you tell yourself about the fear?
4 Steps to challenge your food fears and create more ease with eating
Step 1: Identify your beliefs about ‘scary’ foods and what is preventing you from eating them. Awareness is key to making ANY behavior change.
· Is eating a Twinkie scary? If so, what is the fear? What do you think will happen if you eat a Twinkie?
Step 2: Look deeper into the distorted beliefs about these foods and educate yourself on the scientific facts. Be open to learning and accepting new information.
· Learn the facts on how many nutrients and calories your body needs everyday to perform well. Can eating a Twinkie fit within a daily caloric range and still fall within the “healthy eating” definition?
· If fear of weight gain is up for you with eating Twinkies, let’s learn about the amount you would have to eat or overeat to gain or lose weight. Although not recommended, one could conceivably eat a diet of just Twinkies and lose weight… just sayin’….
· What happens when other people (who don’t have an eating disorder) eat a Twinkie? Are they able to stop at just 1 Twinkie? Do their thighs suddenly contort to look like giant Twinkies?
Step 3: Use the facts to challenge the old belief and fears.
· Affirm and practice new thoughts about particular foods that are based in your own truth, using your own words. Repeat to yourself often: “Eating a cookie with lunch is a great way to balance out carbohydrates and prevent deprivation. Avoiding cookies is a set up to crave more sugar, not less.”
Step 4: Move into the risk-taking zone to become more comfortable with discomfort. This involves eating the ‘scary’ or higher risk foods on the list, one at a time, slowly and systematically.
· Agree to systematically eat a specific food on the list within a specific time.
· Eat a specific amount of food from each group. “This week I commit to eating at least one medium risk food everyday.”
· Remember that real life will provide you plenty of opportunities to challenge yourself with eating higher risks foods; the birthday parties and holiday celebrations are growth opportunities along your recovery journey.
As you continue to work your way down the list of feared foods, you will over time become MUCH more comfortable with eating these foods. This process does take a long time, so be very patient with yourself. After a few months of making progress with the feared foods, it can be helpful to re-write the list. Write a new list and save the old one so that you can track your progress.
Your commitment to show up and continue to be in the ‘gray zone’ of discomfort will help you to achieve a lot more flexibility and fun with your eating. Remember, you did not develop your eating disorder overnight, so your will also not be letting go of your food fears quickly either. Making peace with ALL foods will take months, but over time, you will begin to notice a shift in your relationship to foods being more joyful, peaceful and just a whole lot easier compared to holding onto the list of eating disorder rules and avoiding the ‘forbidden’ foods. Making peace with foods takes time but the peace and freedom that ensues is well worth the effort.