overcoming fear foods
  • December 9, 2022

Overcoming Food Fears: Episode 3

This episode we will be chatting about food fears – what they are and a few simple steps to help […]

This episode we will be chatting about food fears – what they are and a few simple steps to help you tackle them.



What are food fears?

Fear foods are foods which cause you feelings of fear or anxiety when you go to eat them. These are often foods we perceive to be less “healthy” because they are higher in calories or sugar such as pizza, chocolate, cakes, pasta, etc. In more extreme cases, these fears can even be debilitating and cause panic attacks or for you to avoid things that you used to enjoy such as eating out with friends/family.

Although daunting, challenging and overcoming these food fears is a big and important part of eating disorder recovery. This is often very uncomfortable at first but gradually with more exposure, over time our feelings towards these foods becomes more positive.



3 steps to challenge your food fears and gain freedom with food

Step 1: Identify your fear foods

The first step is to identify your fear foods. This can be difficult if you have been used to just eating your “safe foods” for a long time as you may not even notice the fears coming up in your day to day life .

There are 2 simple strategies you can use to identify if you do have any food fears.

  1. Go to a supermarket and walk down all the isles of food. When you look at each food, picture yourself eating each food. Then write down any of the foods which when you think about having to eat them, give you some anxiety.
  2. When you are out for a meal, notice what others are ordering and think about how you would feel if you ate that meal – would you feel fine or does that meal give you stress/anxiety. You can even do this by noticing the meals other people on the street are eating.

Once you have identified your food fears, it is then important to understanding where they came from. Often, these unhelpful thoughts about foods are picked up from things you’ve heard or experienced in your life e.g. your parent telling you not to eat chocolate because it’s a bad food or someone saying they don’t eat pizza because carbs are bad. These thoughts often have no scientific basis but stick in our heads as fact regardless.



Step 2: Reframe and challenge these food fears

Once you are aware of you food fears and why you have them, the next step is to start to reframe your thoughts about these foods. This helps us replace these unhelpful thoughts with new more positive thoughts.

For example, take the phrase: “I can’t eat pizza crust because there are too many carbs and I will gain weight”.

  • Start by challenging this thought – why do we think the crust has too many carbs? What defines ‘too many’, and where did you get this belief from?
  • Then reframe this thought into a more positive one based on fact. For example – carbs are my bodies preferred fuel source for our brain and muscles. This pizza crust will give me the energy to get through my day.

You may not believe these positive reframes completely initially, but it is still important to constantly bring these positive thoughts in. Overtime, we can re-train our brain’s thought patterns to revert to the more positive one when we think about that food.


Step 3: Make a plan to challenge yourself to eat your fear foods

This is by far the most daunting step but also the most important one as we cannot start to reduce the fear or anxiety surrounding a food if we just keep avoiding it.

  1. Start by picking out of one your fear foods (it can be best to start one that is still a fear but not a huge fear for you).
  2. Pick a time and place to eat this food – it may be best to start with a comfortable/safe space such as your home with a supportive friend/family member.
  3. Eat the food. During the food challenge, notice how you felt before, during and after eating the food – we recommend journaling this or discussing with your support person.
  4. Repeat this process until you’ve done each fear food.

It is important to note that you need to continually challenge a fear food multiple times before it slowly starts to become less stressful.

This can be a very stressful and anxiety inducing situation. Some tips to help reduce the stress include:

  • Remembering your core values – why is it important to you that you overcome these fear foods. For example: “I want to be able to eat out with friends comfortably”
  • Reiterate in you mind the positive reframes about the foods from step 2
  • Before the challenge engage in a calming activity to relax such as:
    • a quick walk
    • yoga
    • meditation or deep breathing
    • listening to music


Working with a dietitian and/or psychologist throughout this experience can help provide additional support.


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