Home » What are Fear Foods and How Can We Challenge Them?

What are Fear Foods and How Can We Challenge Them?

by Haley Osborn

Food is an essential part of our lives, providing both nourishment and pleasure. However, for some, certain foods can trigger intense anxiety and fear. These foods, commonly referred to as “fear foods,” can have a significant impact on someone’s relationship with food and overall well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of fear foods, why they exist, and how you can overcome them to achieve food freedom.

What are fear foods and how to challenge them

A fear food is a broad or specific food item or food group that someone avoids eating. This is usually a form of restrictive eating due to disordered eating habits or an eating disorder (including ARFID).

Fear foods exist for many different reasons in people’s lives. Some of these include:

  • Fear of body changes from eating a specific food
  • Past traumatic experiences involving food
  • Fear of health problems as a result of eating a specific food

Fears that surround body changes or health can stem from many different places including social media, magazines, movies/TV shows, or even family and friends. Someone with a fear food may be able to remember a moment that inflicted that fear, but more often the onset of the fear is less known.

Many people who have fear foods struggle to enjoy their meals. They often have a cloud of fear and worry that looms over their heads, threatening their joy. Restriction of a specific food can cause lack of confidence, anxiety, and leave someone with a sense of longing over something they aren’t able to enjoy.

Relationships with friends and family tend to take a hit as well, as it is difficult to have meaningful social interactions with the dreadful anxiety of being around the fear food and/or watching others consume it, even if they are not required to consume it themselves.

Nutritional deficiencies are another common problem that arises when an entire food group is cut out. For example, someone may have an unfortunate belief that carbs overcontribute to weight gain, causing them to eat less than they should, resulting in issues like constant tiredness, reduced satiety, bloating, or an unhealthy gut microbiota from lack of fiber.

Removing the barrier of fear and worry towards a food can cause so much relief and allow you to feel happier, get more restful sleep, and improve your relationships with both people and food!

Addressing fear foods can be a difficult, but necessary step in relieving the stress and impact of restriction. If you struggle with fear foods I recommend working with a dietitian and therapist who have experience with eating disorders and disordered eating.

Start by identifying your fear foods and the reasons behind your fear. Becoming self-aware of the root causes can be a crucial first step. This is likely not going to be a straightforward, easy answer type of thing, so it is recommended that you have a good support group in place, including a registered dietitian and therapist who specialize in eating disorders and disorders eating, as well as supportive family and friends.

After we have awareness of the fear, we’ll want to challenge those ideas and use science and knowledge about yourself to back it up! Why is avoiding carbohydrate foods for example not going to serve you? Why is that thought contradictory to your health? In this step it’s crucial to have the professional support previously mentioned.

Gradually re-introducing foods that were once feared can help you overcome your previous negative thoughts about them. This is best done slowly, increasing over time until the exposure to the fear food increases trust with that food and your body.

Reflect on the benefits of allowing yourself to have this food and learn different ways to prepare it. Pay attention to your thoughts and make a routine plan to refrain from falling back into restriction.

Fear foods can have a significant impact on one’s physical and mental health, but they are not insurmountable barriers. With self-awareness, professional guidance, and a commitment to gradual exposure and mindset shifts, it is possible to conquer fear foods and achieve food freedom. Remember that healing your relationship with food is a journey, and seeking support along the way can make all the difference in your path to a healthier and happier life.

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