Food fear. Whether you have faced an eating disorder, disordered eating, or food weirdness, it’s likely that you’ve experienced some sort of food fear that holds you back from living a spontaneous and fully engaged existence. Because it is steeped in rigid rules and parameters that make us feel “safe” around meals and snack times, food fear robs us of the joy of eating for pleasure and living in the moment.
Food fear is often disguised as a diet that claims to make us “feel our best,” change our bodies, or lose weight. But instead of empowering us to live radiant lives, food fear makes us feel poorly about ourselves.
As human beings, we aren’t just one thing or another — we are complex, beautiful, and most of all, inherently good. What would happen if we looked at food the same way, instead of labeling things as “good” and “bad,” “safe” and “unsafe”?
Here are 3 exercises you can implement to banish food fear from your life. Do you have any to add? How can you feel empowered, strong, and joyful around food?
Let go of the compulsion to plan meals when dining out.
Although it can be fun and exciting to pore over a restaurant’s menu online before actually heading out for the meal, sometimes the action of “just looking” is to manipulate and plan a way of eating that adheres to our food rules and restrictions. If you find yourself restricting or changing your eating patterns in preparation for a night out, this is an example of food fear driving the bus. Try to resist the urge to menu-plan, and allow yourself to be surprised by the choices when you sit down at the table. Then, let your intuition and cravings drive your order.
NOTE: We understand that in recovery from an eating disorder, actually deciding on the meal ahead of time can be a necessary step in self-care and creating a less-triggering dining experience, so you can actually be more present. What we’re speaking to here is the “dieting” gremlin that lives in the shadow of our mind, burdening us in a way we may not even realize.
Don’t look at the nutrition facts.
Does seeing calories counts and “percentages of daily values” send you off the deep end? The nutritional information on packaged food is meant to be helpful, but it can do more harm than good. Remember the recommendations on these packages are based on broad and generalized guidelines. No one knows better than you what your body needs and craves to feel nourished. Let that deep intuition drive your food choices, rather than macronutrients.
Eat with a friend or loved one.
Tackling food fear can be a scary experience. Invite a friend or family member you feel safe with to join you for a meal in which you plan on facing one or more of your food fears. They can offer gentle support in the moment if they’re aware of your intention, and they also serve as a pleasant distraction from the task at hand.
How else can you say goodbye to food fear? Leave us a comment with your ideas.