Fear foods.

While eating snack today I realized just how far I have come since the beginning of my recovery. You see, like many people suffering from an eating disorder I had very rigid food rules and guidelines. I would never eat more then a certain amount of meals a day, or later then a certain time, or in certain situations. Not only that, but my food choices were very, very limited. I have exactly what I was “allowed” to eat written down in a diary that I kept from the beginning of my recovery. I don’t read it much these days but basically it was:

–          Fruits (except for bananas which were off limits)

–          Vegetables (particularly lettuce, cucumbers and spinach – a,k,a anything low calorie)

–          Beans (but only ½ cup servings)

–          Egg whites

–          Oats (1/4 cup servings)

–          Rice crackers

–          Non-fat cream cheese or cottage cheese

–          Coffee

So basically this was my usual lunch - yummy huh?

And that was pretty much it. Occasionally the rare slice of dark bread or small serving of brown rice would find it’s way in there, but those occasions were few and pretty far between. The truth is there were so many foods I craved, so many foods I wanted to eat so badly I could almost taste them – but I couldn’t eat them. Why? Because of an unfounded, yet terrifying fear. Fear they would make me fat the second I put them in my mouth, fear that once I started eating them I’d never be able to stop, fear of the horrible feelings of self loathing and panic I would experience the second I had taken my first bite. This fear was so overwhelming that it practically controlled my entire life. And thankfully that all-encompassing, oppressing fear is no longer with me.

In times past just seeing a picture like this was enough to send me into a panic attack - sad, but true

Overcoming this fear was a step by step process. During my hospital recovery I was forced to eat everything straight off the bat – or I would be force fed. White bread, sickeningly sweet desserts, French fries and full fat cheese – all these became a regular part of my diet. But forcing me to eat these things did not destroy my fear of them – it did little more then strengthen my resolve never to let them touch my lips again. Obviously this was not an approach that worked for me.

During my “home resovery” things progressed a lot slower. I started off eating more and varied foods- but was still completely terrified of certain ones. Cheese, chocolate, nuts, avocados – practically anything with a high fat or calorie content was still off limits. My diet, although more varied, was still severly lacking in healthy fats- things my body desperately craved.

Slowly, but surely, as I began reading more about health and nutrition. I started letting go of my pre-conceived ideas of what was “healthy” and began slowly experimenting with different foods. In the beginning it was tiny servings (think 5 almonds, ½ banana, ¼ an avocado). When I realized that these foods would not kill me and/or make me fat overnight I became more bold and started incorporating them in more and more. This actually went hand in hand with my letting go of calorie counting (you can read more about that here) and portion control. I started listening to my body and discovered that when I allowed myself to eat what I truly craved – those intense and often scary cravings disappeared. In their place I achieved a feeling of satisfaction and power over my ED. Fear no longer controlled me, and I was free.

Food was no longer something to be feared – but something to be enjoyed.

Another thing I had to let go of is the idea of a perfectly “healthy” diet. Such a thing doesn’t exist, but it made me into an obsessive person who would not eat anything that had a gram of artificial sugar in it, or some ingredient I didn’t recognized. It also made me sit out of any and all social occasions, because I wasn’t aware of what was in the food I was served. This mentality also took a while to break out of, but it was SO worth it. Again I took small steps- a bite of dessert, a little serving of wine, one chip. But slowly I became more confident and in doing so – much freer.

I am at a point now where I eat whatever I crave. I genuinely enjoy the clean style of eating, so I eat primarily healthy food. But ice-cream, chocolate, and a glass of wine are a part of my diet whenever I want it. I no longer fear healthy fats, in fact I quite enjoy them :P. And I enjoy my food, and the health benefits of eating a varied diet infinitely more than I did the supposed “control ” I attained during my ED. I still feel uneasy eating certain foods, but it’s an area of my life that I am constantly making steps of progress in. And it feels great.

Life’s too short to spend obsessing about things that really don’t matter all that much. What really matters are friends, memories and love – these things last a lifetime and are worth much more than the “perfect diet”.

Any thoughts on the matter?

Have you ever had any experiences with “fear foods”? How did you overcome those fears?

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10 comments

  1. The “perfect diet” ideal is so nervewracking and irritating, but there’s always social pressure to eat like that. I’ve been considering the cessation of reading certain food blogs just because I’m sick of seeing food pictures followed by recipe ingredients like “Eggs – I only use organic, fresh, humane; fresh corn off of the cob, organic, non-GMO, from a local farmer travelling no more than 20 miles only!” etc. It’s kind of belittling, especially to those who don’t have access to the best food opportunities.

    I have the same relationship with eating foods that are “more” and “less” healthy – I eat both but I prefer the former much more. I’m still working on eating the occasional processed good and I’m glad to hear you take on that challenge quite nicely!

  2. Thanks for such a thoughful, honest post! I love the point you made about letting go of the idea of a perfect diet – I think letting go of perfection in general is something I’m working on in all aspects of my life, not just health and food related. I think that beyond perfection, what’s most important is being at peace with yourself and being able to accept that things and life in general are not perfect and do not need to be. I also think that in the end it really just comes down to what you value in life – is it worth the mental energy obsessing over minutiae or would that energy be better spent elsewhere, like on relationships, on new experiences? I think I’ve always just been a fearful, worrisome person in general (and a perfectionist), so this post definitely resonated with me!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m definitely a lot like you in the fact that I also tend to be a worrysome perfectionist. But I descovered that life is a whole lot more fun if you live in the moment and just enjoy life.

  3. What a great post! ED’s can cause so many issues, I know exactly what you mean about the restrictive “perfect diet.” I’m so happy that you’re in a much better state of mind now, isn’t it just awesome to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come? 🙂 Keep up the great fight and keep on enjoying the delicious flavors of life!!

  4. Great post and so true! I have far from what might be considered a “perfect diet” – yes, I do love “healthy” things like kale, oats, and fresh fruit, but I also enjoy desserts and white bread and bacon! It all balances out in the end. I do still have certain foods that I’m uncomfortable with, but I’m working on it. Glad to hear your doing so well!

  5. This is such a great post. The whole “ideal diet” thing has bothered me so much, both when it concerned me and now when I just want people to understand that there is no such thing. I love healthy things, and I love what some people classify as “unhealthy” too. I still have some trouble, but my boyfriend will often give me no other option but to eat it and then I enjoy it and feel okay.
    I’m glad to hear you’re doing well.

    • It took me a while as well before I realized that “unhealthy” foods are ok to eat as well. I will be honest and say that the first few times I forced myself into it because of a social situation. But with time things got easier and now I’m at a point where I can eat something “unhealthy” if I want even if noone else is doing. These things just take time.

      Take care girlie!

  6. I have struggled so much with finding the “perfect diet” but you are so right that it doesn’t exist and even if it did, it would be impossible to follow 100%! I consider myself a healthy eater, but does that mean everything that passes my lips is totally healthy? Um, no way! It’s just too hard to do that and it led to an eating disorder in my case. It really is all about finding balance. I still have a lot of fear foods, but they don’t control my life anymore.

  7. This is such a great post with so much truth.

    Oil was a big fear food of mine. Even when I “recovered” in a weight sense and tbh, mostly mentally too, if I saw oil in the pan before a stir-fry or something, I would freak. I was so frightened of it. In my ed mind it was the biggest waste of calories. It’s funny what can happen to our minds when we are in that state.
    Nowadays, I can use oil healthily without tablespoons and things but I always feel like it may be lingering, like if I’m having a bad day, I’ll skimp on it or go a bit crazy over seeing it in my food. I think most ed sufferers, after recovery, probably have one or two food which hold such bad memories and power over us. I guess OUR power comes from seeing it, dealing with it and then moving on. Getting on with our lives, not dedicating hours of stress and sleepless nights over a food stuff. Life is too short, you are 100% right.


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