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How to Cope with Food Anxiety

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Old 02-24-2020, 12:15 AM
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Default How to Cope with Food Anxiety

If you struggle with food anxiety, it can make every meal feel like a struggle. Whether you’re worried about calories, being judged, choking, or something else, you deserve to be able to enjoy eating without experiencing anxiety. Work on identifying the situations and thoughts that come with your anxiety, and then focus on finding ways to combat those things. It may not be easy to break the cycle, but you are worth it!


Reframing Your Relationship to Food
  1. Acknowledge your anxiety and feelings without judging yourself. When you start feeling anxious, you may tend to get upset with yourself that you’re feeling that way in the first place, which in turn makes you more anxious. It’s a vicious shame cycle! Stop the cycle by allowing yourself to feel what you feel in the moment. Acknowledge the feelings and thoughts, and then do your best to let them go.
    • For example, if you’re heading out to dinner and start to get anxiety about the thought of having to order and eat in front of your friends, internally say something like, “I am feeling anxious about going out to eat. It’s okay that I feel this. I don’t have to let it control me, but I acknowledge that it is there.”
    • This will hopefully help you break the shame cycle and interrupt the anxiety.
  2. Use affirmations to help yourself work through a stressful situation. If you find yourself spiraling into panic, it can quickly feel like you are out of control. Affirmations are short phrases you repeat to yourself to focus on positive-thinking rather than negative-thinking. Come up with your own unique phrase or try out one of these:
    • “I am healthy”
    • “I am safe”
    • “I am strong and calm”
    • “I can find peace within myself”
    • “I accept myself and my feelings”
    • “I am capable of making healthy and positive decisions”
  3. Stop labeling foods as “good,” “bad,” “healthy,” or “unhealthy.” Focus on viewing all foods in a positive light and try to refrain from following rules about what you will and will not eat. If you can erase the stigma that you’ve associated with certain foods, it’ll free you up to eat more intuitively.
    • Popular culture and social media can make it hard to see food as just food. If you have a hard time tuning out what others around you (in person or online) are saying about diets and health, stop listening to them altogether. Block or unfollow accounts that promote certain lifestyles, ditch your diet books, and question what message media is telling you about food, your body, and your worth.
    • Overly restricting what you can or can’t eat can make your anxiety around food much worse.
  4. Listen to your body and eat things that make you feel good. This takes lots of practice, so don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to be confident in your food choices. When faced with a situation surrounding food that makes you anxious, choose to focus solely on yourself and what your intuition is telling you sounds good. If that’s a salad, eat a salad. If it’s a burrito, eat a burrito.
    • This sounds simple but it can be really hard to do. Be patient with yourself and take some time to check in with your body before and after an anxiety-inducing situation. Evaluate what went well and where you’d like to make changes in the future.
    • Learning to trust your body and yourself is a big part of overcoming food anxiety.
  5. Plan ahead so you’re aware of situations that might trigger your anxiety. Refer back to your list of anxiety-causing situations. When something is coming up that is going to bring out your food anxieties, take 10-15 minutes to write down a plan of action. For example, you could do any of the following things to help yourself feel more prepared and calm:
    • Look up the menu ahead of time so you can think about what you would like to order
    • Ask someone if there will be foods at a specific event that meet your dietary needs (if not, plan to eat something beforehand)
    • Practice saying your affirmations
    • Take a walk beforehand to clear your head and get some endorphins pumping
    • Mentally talk yourself through how you’d like the event to go
  6. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up over feeling anxious. It’s totally normal if your recovery isn’t smooth and if it’s something you have to work through every day. As much as you can, try to not get upset with yourself when you do experience food anxiety. That could make you spiral into feeling even more anxious!
    • Remember, you can’t control everything, including your anxiety. The goal in recovery isn’t perfectionism, it’s progress.
    • When you start to berate yourself for feeling anxious, pause and count to 10. Take 5 deep breaths, and refocus your attention to the present moment.
Seeking Help for Your Anxiety
  1. Talk to a professional if you think you may have an eating disorder. Sometimes eating disorders and food anxieties go hand in hand, or food anxiety can be a clue that there is something additional going on. A primary care physician or therapist will be able to talk to you more about your situation and determine if you need additional help.
    • Many people have food anxiety but don’t have an eating disorder, so one does not automatically mean you have the other. But eating disorders can be life-threatening, so it’s important to take any concerns you may have very seriously.
  2. Practice being aware of your thoughts when you’re around food. The next time you start experiencing food anxiety, take a few moments to examine your thoughts. This will help you figure out what kinds of thoughts are contributing to your anxiety and will give you some context for how you can begin working through those anxieties. There are many different reasons why people develop food anxieties, and there are no “wrong” or “right” reasons. Consider some of these common fears and anxieties people often have:
    • Worry about gaining weight
    • Fear of being unable to stop eating
    • Fear of choking
    • Worry about others watching or judging you
    • Feeling like your throat is closing
    • Fear of eating “bad” or “unhealthy” foods
  3. Pinpoint the situations in which you feel the most anxious around food. Do you feel anxious when you’re with specific people or in certain situations, like eating out at a restaurant or in front of people you don’t know? Do you feel anxious when you don’t know what will be on the menu? Pay attention to your body when you start experiencing anxiety and take note of what is happening around you.
    • If you can determine which situations bring out your anxiety, you can come up with a plan for the next time you’re in that situation.
    • Even just being aware that a specific situation causes anxiety can help you feel less anxious.
    • On the flip-side, think about times when you don’t feel anxious around food. What are the common denominators there? Perhaps you don’t feel anxious if you’re by yourself or if you’re eating something you cooked at home.
  4. Share your anxieties with someone you trust so you feel less alone. Anxiety often makes you feel like you’re isolated, which in turn makes the anxiety that much worse! Know that a lot of people experience food anxiety and it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. Talk to a friend or support person about your feelings—you may find that verbalizing your fears makes them seem more manageable.
    • There are support groups both online and in-person for people with food anxieties. Check with your local hospitals and community centers to see if there is a group that would be a good fit for you.
  5. See a therapist to help you work through the roots of your anxieties. Food anxieties generally stem from something other than food—like self-esteem, feeling out of control, body dysmorphia, general anxiety, or even depression. If your food anxiety is keeping you from enjoying your best life, getting professional help is a great step toward understanding yourself better.
    • Finding a therapist can be daunting, but it’s worth it in the end to have someone you can trust and talk to about your situation.
  6. Work with a nutritionist to learn more about food, health, and your body. If your anxieties circle around fearing specific foods, health, or weight gain, a nutritionist could give you great guidance into understanding your body better. They can talk to you about how foods affect your emotions, as well as your actual body. They may also be able to give you some tools so you feel more in control of your diet in a healthful way.
    • Seeing a nutritionist can also be helpful if there are specific foods that make you feel ill—there may be something going on, like an allergy or intolerance, that is making you feel that way.
  • You’re going to have bad days while working through your food anxiety. When they happen, do something kind for yourself, like taking a walk, talking to a friend, journaling about your feelings, or doing some self-care activities. Remember, tomorrow is a new day!
  1. ? https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-p...uitive-eating/
  2. ? https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/b...-social-events
  3. ? https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-p...uitive-eating/
  4. ? https://adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress
  5. ? https://healthfully.com/287271-how-t...d-anxiety.html
  6. ? https://adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress
  7. ? https://foodandnutrition.org/blogs/s...y-around-food/
  8. ? https://healthfully.com/287271-how-t...d-anxiety.html
  9. ? https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/b...-social-events
  10. ? https://youtu.be/aKp1HgRfY7U?t=633
  11. ? https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-ab...ting-disorders
  12. ? https://foodandnutrition.org/blogs/s...y-around-food/
  13. Ref: https://confidenceheadquarters.com/h...tive-thoughts/

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