Fear Foods in Eating Disorder Recovery

Today we’re going to talk about FEAR FOODS.

Fear foods. I can almost guarantee that anyone with a history of disordered eating has experience with fear foods. Fear foods are the foods that, during restriction, you may avoid avoid with every fiber of your being. If you’re a binge eater or in a binge/purge cycle, these may be foods that have caused you to binge in the past.  You may think these foods are going to derail your health. You may think these foods are instantly going to add 10 pounds to your body. You may think these foods are going to cause an unavoidable, never-ending binge. You may think these foods are going to totally unravel your life and ruin your chance for happiness

Guess what?

They’re not.

Food fears differ for everyone- for some people, it can be pizza. For some people, it can be ice cream or bananas or potatoes or candy bars or milkshakes or pasta or pretty much any food out there. For the years I restricted my eating, my fear food list was long and extensive. I avoided a lot- almost all desserts, pasta, packaged foods, pastries, juice, pizza. I could go on and on.

When I started recovery, I made a list of all these foods and went about crossing them off one by one. My first big fear food win was ordering banana stuffed french toast when I went out to breakfast with my partner. I was anxious, of course, but having someone who loved me there as a source of support was immensely helpful. A few weeks after that, him and I went out for a mid-afternoon snack of McDonald’s fries and vanilla milkshake. Up until that point, I simply could not have imagined a time in my life where I could snack on fries and a milkshake. A “snack” like that would have caused me to restrict for days. It would have immediately caused a surge of guilt and shame that would have swirled around and consumed me like flames in a fire. In the beginning of recovery, these wins took a lot of effort, a lot of strength and took up a lot of mental space.

A few weeks ago, my boss (conveniently my sister) brought in donuts for a staff meeting at work. Guess what? I ate one and thought so little of it, that it didn’t occur to me that I had eaten a fear food until later in the day. I was on a walk on my favorite trail when it occurred to me and I nearly laughed with joy when I realized that if that happened a year before, I would have been running on that same trail to “work off” the donut I had eaten earlier in the day. In fact, it was such a non-event that I didn’t even stop to take a picture like I normally do when I have an ED win. It was simply not a big deal.

Last week, my sister and I made a plan to go shopping. She asked me if I wanted to grab lunch before. A year ago, I would have made up every excuse so I wouldn’t have to eat out. I used to dread eating out. I used to despise lunch and think that only certain foods could be eaten at certain times of the day. But that is also immensely false. There is no reason to fear eating at certain times. There is no right or wrong time to eat.

My point here is this: fear foods exist for most people with disordered eating or lifelong dieters or binge eaters  or anyone who has ever been on a diet. There’s usually some foods that are labeled “bad” or “off-limits”. But the truth is that no foods are bad. No foods are good. All foods have nutrients in them- the amounts and the types vary but every food you eat offers your body something. And your body needs different nutrients all the time- and sometimes it needs food for the soul, not just for the physiological need of keeping your body alive.

No foods should be feared. No foods should be labeled “good” or “bad”. All foods are food and that’s that. All foods can be eaten at all times. All foods can be eaten without compensating with restriction or exercise. All foods can be eaten without compromising your health or your idea of health. I eat (full-fat, full-sugar) ice cream nearly every night and I am arguably the healthiest I have ever been in my life. I ordered pizza at dinner the other night just because I felt like it- it was delicious, satisfying and in that moment, the healthy decision for me.

 

The bottom line is that all foods fit. There will be times in your life you crave the foods that are considered “healthy”- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc etc. There will be times in your life that you crave the foods that are considered “unhealthy”- ice cream, chips, sugary cereals. And that’s okay. That’s life. And guess what? Your body knows what you need even if your mind disagrees.

In fact, just this morning, I was perusing Whole Foods before work. I was still a little hungry after my breakfast and discovered chocolate chip hazelnut biscotti in the bakery section. Immediately, I thought that I couldn’t have that so early in the day. I walked around trying to find something else that would fill me up but be “healthier”, my ED voice momentarily taking over before I realized that there was nothing else I really wanted. I marched myself back over to the bakery, grabbed a biscotti and ate in my car with my coffee before work. And guess what? It was great- there was no guilt, there was no compensation, there was no nothing except for delicious biscotti goodness. I tell this story for two reasons: 1) your body knows what you need (really it does) and 2) you may still struggle with fear foods long after you start recovery. I’ve been in recovery for almost 6 months and my ED voice still pops her head in every now and then to tell me to restrict or to choose something “healthier” And that will happen at some point to most people in recovery. No one chooses to recover and is immediately better. That’s just not the way it works. But conquering fear foods is an essential part of recovery and it is something that is worth fighting for.  I challenge each and every one of you to eat something that scares you, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that you may not “allow” yourself to eat. If you feel so inclined, write about it in the comments below- I want to hear!

Wishing you all a happy week ahead!

Questions:
Do you have any fear foods?
What helps you to conquer fear foods?
Any plans (good or bad) for the week?

July Favorites: Link Love

Hello and happy July to all! Can you believe that it is officially halfway through the year already?! I sure can’t. July is one of my favorite months because it’s warm but also because it’s birthday month, baby! Hopefully by then,

Before I get into my favorite reads of the month, I’m going to take a minute to shameless promote something I wrote this week. For those of you who listen to the Recovery Warriors podcast (and you should), you know that every month there is a different challenge to strength your recovery muscles. This month, the challenge was to find and create 4 different recipes throughout the month. I participated in this challenge, as I do every month, and wrote about my experience HERE. Plus if you read it, you’ll get a recipe to a delicious spaghetti squash bake!

Enjoy the reads everyone and let me know what you think!

What does healthy even mean?
THIS is awesome. This is so good guys. Seriously. Written by another RD and I swear, I want to print it out to keep in my office some day because it is so real. If you read any of these, read this one!

This Comic Strip on Privilege will Humble You
I see this circulating around this internet quite a bit but it’s so, so, so important. Privilege exists whether people want to acknowledge it or not- it’s not good or bad but it is real and people acting like it doesn’t exist keeps us stuck in a dangerous place.

Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
This article GETS me. This is me 100%. I used to think that being overly sensitive was a bad thing and some people certainly think of it as a weakness, but I’ve definitely learned to embrace mine.

The Reason Your Intuitive Eating Won’t Work
I think intuitive eating is great. But it’s very easy to convince yourself your “intuitively eating” when you’re really restricting your eating. It takes a long time before you can get to truly intuitive eating. Also, I really love Caroline Dooner so I’m on top of any opportunity to share her work.

The not-so-secret truth about emotional eating
Everyone emotional eats. You feel emotions every minute of the day. You also have to eat multiple times a day. You can’t separate the two. And everyone’s end all emotional eating embargo isn’t helping anyone. Read why it’s really not that bad after all.

Why processed foods aren’t as bad as you think
I love Christy Harrison and I love this article. I’m so over everyone’s endeavors to cut out all “processed foods”. I understand not wanting to eat frozen meals and Chips Ahoy every night (although it’s totally okay to do that), but avoiding all processed foods in our day and age is nearly impossible. Give it a read, particularly if you’ve ever thought that eliminating processed foods is the answer!

HAPPY JULY and happy weekend to you all! Hope you all have a lovely 4th of July!

One Year Later

One year ago yesterday I started this blog and one year ago today I moved to New Hampshire for my dietetic internship.

So much has changed in a year.

At this time last year, I wrote a blog about living in the transition and as fate would have it, I’m in the same position again. I’m living in the transition between the end of my internship and the beginning of whatever is coming next.

Since last year when I started this blog, I have….

Started my dietetic internship.

Finished my dietetic internship.

Become a Registered Dietitian.

Started the recovery process.

Discovered (and joined) the body positive community.

Started a recovery Instagram and gained a lot of friends and support that way.

Found the things I’m really passionate about like sustainable food systems, food security, eating disorder recovery, body positivity, the Health at Every Size movement and so much more.

Moved back home (which isn’t as sad as it sounds because my parents are super cool).

Strengthened the relationships in my life.

Gained a whole lot of happiness.

I thought I was recovered last year, really, I did. I thought that I was recovered as I was going to get. I thought I was just going to be the kind of person who would always have to carefully watch what she eats. I couldn’t even imagine a time where I would not have to run every day. I couldn’t imagine a time where I didn’t feel guilt after eating. I couldn’t imagine a time where the goal wasn’t to eat as little as possible. I was stuck in a quasi-recovery without even realizing it.

Last year at this time, I isolated myself because hanging out with friends usually meant food or drinks or skipping workouts and all those things scared me. I was exhausted all the time, I was grumpy, I was irritable, I cried most days of the week. And the saddest part of all was that I was going to accept that as the way my life was going to be.

In the fall, I went through rotations at a dining hall, I taught health classes to elementary school kids, I worked at the NH Food bank. I was exhausted all the time, I was working a lot, not eating nearly enough and running myself into the ground at the gym every night. I cried on the way to work in the morning and I cried on my way home at night.

This spring, as I’ve shared before, I started recovery from anorexia and I’m happy to say I haven’t turned back. The road to recovery is bumpy and I struggle at times, but it is so much better than the alternative.

My life was heavy at this time last year. I was weighed down by shame, anxiety, guilt, insecurity. These days, my being is filled with an inexplicable lightness. It’s a new feeling, one that I haven’t felt in years. One I welcome with open arms. I laugh more. I cry less. I’m less scared of everything. I have better relationships with people. I have a better relationship with my boyfriend. I’m less anxious. I wake up grateful in the morning and I go to bed grateful at night.

I’m so thankful for my life, for the progress I’m made and for the people who continue to read this blog and follow along on my journey. I’m thankful for all the people who reach out to me, whether it’s to ask advice or to tell me that I’m an inspiration (something that humbles me every time someone says it). I can’t thank you all enough for the support you’ve given me this past year. I never imagined I would tell my story to the world, but never have I ever regretted it. I’m thankful everyday for the wonderful community I’ve immersed myself in. I don’t know what’s coming next for me as far as my career or location goes but I’m also not going to stress myself out about it. Whatever comes will come and I’ll be ready for it when it does. For now, I’m going to keep living this crazy, wonderful, beautiful life.