Taking on your fears

Many people with eating disorder have ‘fear foods’, ‘unsafe foods’ or ‘trigger foods’ and an important part of eating disorder recovery is normalising your relationship with food and facing up to the foods that you have been fearful of.

This can be a very difficult task as it’s hard to know where to start and this itself can feel quite overwhelming. But, Rome was not built in a day and no matter how small your first step is, it’s a step in the right direction to regaining your freedom back.

When thinking about your fear foods and beginning to contemplate possibly doing something different it can be a good idea to write a list of your fear foods from the least ‘scary’ to the most, or rate each food out of ten for the anxiety it causes you. This way you can start to think about tackling the less difficult foods first and gain some ground back from your eating disorder and work up to exposing yourself and taking bigger steps to challenge the most anxiety-provoking foods.

The next step is deciding to face a fear. There is no easy way to start, nor the right time to try. In fact, unfortunately, there will never be a convenient or best time to start facing your fears because it will always be uncomfortable. However, there is a lot to be said for sitting with the discomfort, as the feelings will eventually pass and you will get through this! Facing your fears is likely to always be difficult at first, although, ironically the only way to overcome this is to gradually expose yourself to what you’re afraid of.

It’s important to note here that fear is to be expected. We don’t expect to do something that scares us without fear, but with fear. In this case, it is possible to feel fearful and do the action anyway. You are in control and you can make new and different decisions against your eating disorder and for your actual, true authentic self.

There’s no way that this is expected to be easy, but it is possible and you can do this. The more that you ‘challenge, repeat!’, the less fearful you will become and the more familiar and confident you will feel with that food, because you’ve not only done it once in one situation, you have done it again and again and again in plenty others!

Are you ready to consider facing your fears?

1. Why not try and make a list of the foods that cause you anxiety and fear.

2. Why not pair the ‘fear’ food with a less challenging food? For example, having a ‘fear’ food with another food that you feel comfortable with and eat regularly.

3. Is there a way that you can gradually introduce this ‘fear’ food?

4. Find a friend, family member, support person to come alongside you and face your fear with you to overcome it together.

5. Prepare a distraction activity for afterwards, perhaps watching a film, playing a board game, playing with a pet, puzzles, colouring or going to see a friend.

Still feeling anxious? It is okay. You’re doing something that scares you and might feel terrified – you certainly would be the first. Try to remember, you’re challenging yourself to overcome your fears and that shows so much courage and strength. Try not to give yourself a hard time if you still feeling very anxious before, during or afterwards. This is a journey and you can and will get through this, don’t give up!