Chapter 11: Food anxiety

Anyone who goes on a strict diet has a list of foods they fear.

These fears turn into inflexible diet rules that force you to avoid these foods at all costs.

And if you break one of these diet rules, then things tend to spiral out of control, leaving you to binge on the very foods you were trying to avoid in the first place.

Before tackling these diet rules head-on, it is important to understand why they exist in the first place.

Although understandable, the belief that certain foods will cause weight gain and fatness is not correct.

ā˜ļø Not that there’s anything wrong with “fatness”. Please don’t panic at this statement…! More to come in future modules.

It is no wonder why so many people fear certain foods when we are constantly bombarded with media campaigns that demonize these foods, provide mixed messages around their nutritional value, and place a moral tag on them.

A perfect example of this is the Instagram post below. 

I much prefer my reframes…

And this one too…

However, it is very important for you to be aware that there are no inherently fattening foods. And by listening to your body to guide you with what, when and how much to eat, you will always be eating the right foods for YOU at any given time. So relax.

Feelings of anxiety, shame, or guilt that result from eating certain foods can cause you to binge if you are prone to a pattern of dichotomous thinking.

Dichotomous thinking is a dysfunctional form of thinking that means something can only be one of two things:

Right or wrong.

Black or white.

Successful or failure.

Diet rules that encourage you to avoid certain foods are dichotomous in nature. According to these rules, you do not have permission to eat that food, or if you do, then you have to weigh it precisely otherwise you have broken your diet rule. AKA the F-it button! šŸ”“ OOORRR “falling off the wagon”

Your mind will blow this diet “slip-up” completely out of proportion, and more often than not this interpretation can lead to episodes of uncontrollable (reactionary) binge eating.

These diet rules and this pattern of thinking need to be urgently addressed if you are to fully break out of the diet cycle and develop a healthy relationship with food. 

A central goal of this session is to help you be more flexible with your thinking around food. 

After all, you do not want to continue living a life where you avoid certain foods – it is not healthy for your social and emotional health, but you already know that, since you’re here.

This session’s exercise will take a lot of practice to master. 

But once you do, you will be well on your way towards enjoying your favourite foods guilt-free and permanently breaking out of the dangerous diet cycle. 

Do you need to start off slowly?

If introducing all of your once forbidden foods into your life at once is too stressful for you, you can start off slowly.

For example ā€“ I started off with having Nutella in my morning porridge because although it was a highly fearful food for me -because I literally used to put it in the microwave and drink the whole jar in one sitting (Iā€™m not joking!) ā€“ it felt good to have this food in my oats. It also made my oats more delicious and helped me to see Nutella in a different light.

Using the forbidden foods worksheet below, categorise your forbidden foods into sections of slightly fearful, moderately fearful and very much feared foods. Then you can start introducing your slightly fearful and moderately fearful foods into your everyday life. When you feel ok with that, you can then move on to adding in your very much feared foods.

Listen to…

What to do when you are comparing your food to others

Your brain on restricted eating


Your trigger foods

Forbidden foods