Today I wanted to talk about ‘hidden fear foods’ in eating disorder recovery and how to identify and challenge them. First things first though, let me explain what they are!
‘Hidden fear foods’ will look slightly different for each person but simply put, they are foods that an individual is unknowingly afraid of. They are often disguised by your ED (eating disorder) as it will convince you that you just don’t like them, when in fact you avoid them as they provoke anxiety. This may seem a bit confusing as surely you would know if this were the case, but ED’s are sneaky and can prevent the rational thoughts from getting through.
Let me give you an example to clear it up…
Personally, anorexia told me I didn’t like cheese and so I always said no to it’s addition and put it down to personal taste. This however, was not the case. Reminders from my family as to my previous love for it prompted me to try cheese and of course I realised that it does in fact taste amazing! Upon this discovery I have thought a lot about the real reasons I have avoided it and it of course comes down to the fear of adding ‘extra calories’ to meals. This was a great moment in my recovery as I have been doing really well recently but still don’t feel fully recovered despite believing I’ve adequately challenged most foods. It therefore showed me the need to examine more deeply any foods that I continue not to eat regardless of what I believe the reason to be. This is because I still have 'hidden fear foods' which I need to tackle in order to progress.
So how to go about it?
If you are struggling to identify these foods you could try making a list of your childhood favourites, or ask a loved one to help jog your memory! You could then pick a few at random to challenge each week, of course continuing to repeat these challenges in different contexts to aid neural rewiring. There may also be items you've never tried before which your ED has told you aren't for you or are not your kind of thing. In the early days of my recovery I found myself obsessing over all the new snacks I could try but never being brave enough to try them in case they didn't live up to my expectations. Now is the time to try them! If they're not your favourite that's okay, you don't have to get them again, but don't hold back from discovering a new staple because you're too scared. Life is too short.
The takeaway from this post I guess is that although you may not want to, or feel it is unnecessary, you need to give those foods you “don’t like” a chance! Maybe you’re thinking it’s pointless as you can function just fine without challenging these additional items and you’d rather eat the things you like, but trust me on this one. I know that I don’t want to recover just to survive, I want to be able to fully enjoy my life and have complete food freedom, and I’m sure you do too. Our ED’s like us to play it safe and stick to what we know we like and this is often due to restriction as we fear ‘wasting calories’ on something which isn’t ‘perfect’. Therefore, by engaging in this challenge you stand not only to discover some foods you really enjoy, but you also get to train your brain to let go of perfectionist standards towards food. It’s a win, win! Yes it may cause some anxiety and discomfort but it'll be temporary I promise, and so worth it. If you genuinely dislike something you haven't wasted calories and it is not the end of the world, you're just learning about your preferences and moving away from the cage of your ED.
I hope this post has inspired some of you to identify and challenge your hidden fear foods today!
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3