By Megan Samuels, MSW, LMSW, Outreach Coordinator
Challenging fear foods can be a crucial part of eating disorder recovery. In order to help your brain and body understand that all foods fit, we have to include all types of foods into what we are eating (barring medical concerns or allergies). This often includes incorporating carbs and foods with fat into our daily life to make them not as scary.
All Foods Fit?
Yup, you read that right! Despite what the media says, all foods can fit into our lives! Check out this guide that explains more about this concept. Diet culture often demonizes certain groups of food, in an effort to perpetuate diet culture and support the weight loss industry. It’s important to know that all food groups play an important part of our physical, mental, and emotional lives. Also, check out this blog post with a helpful video explaining that all foods fit!
Where do I start?
Usually, you would start by talking to your therapist or coach about foods that the eating disorder has told you that you can’t eat. Eating disorders often limit people of eating carbs and foods that are high in fat (such as bread, cookies, candy, etc.). You can also make a list of all of the foods that you feel like you cannot eat because of the eating disorder.
Your therapist or coach would help you to create a fear food hierarchy, which is essentially a list of the fear foods from most distressing (really scary to eat) to least distressing (not as scary to eat). Typically, a therapist or coach will start with the foods that are the least distressing. Your therapist or coach will work with you to create coping skills and ways to handle emotions that may come up during a food challenge.
It’s a continuous process!
Oftentimes, clients will think that because they have challenged a food one time, let’s say that food is a donut, that it’s over with and they don’t need to challenge it again. The thing about exposing yourself to something that is scary is that it needs to be done again and again and again until it’s not scary anymore. This concept is known in therapy as habituation, which is essentially the scary thing becoming less scary. Habituation comes from learning theory, or behavioral theory, where we can change our behaviors through learning, modeling, punishment, and reinforcement. That being said, challenging the fear food of a donut may look like having a donut in session with your therapist or coach every week for awhile, until the thought of having a donut is not as anxiety producing. And everyone is different - so there is no expected timeline to know when you will be able to eat donuts without anxiety or eating disorder thoughts.
Want more? All of our therapists and coaches at the Eating Disorder Center have experience and training when it comes to challenging fear foods with clients.
The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also provide eating disorder therapy in Arlington, Virginia and virtually throughout Virginia. Additionally, we offer eating disorder therapy virtually in New York (NYC), Florida, and California, serving those in cities including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, San Jose, and Beverly Hills. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.