Health & Happiness: Battling Mild Food Anxiety

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Today I had banana, yoghurt and honey for breakfast while I read some business articles online. It may not seem like anything of note to you, but earlier this year I honestly hadn’t eaten a banana for at least 16 years.

I struggle to eat some foods, mostly ones that are good for me. Simply put, some foods freak me out. Usually the ones that are processed to hell are fine, but that’s not great for my body. When I had counselling earlier this year we spoke briefly about food anxiety. I was apprehensive to bring it up in our sessions because I thought it sounded silly, but I was so relieved to hear it’s a real, genuine issue.

Sadly some people have it in the extreme for which I can only recommend therapy (honestly, it’s not as scary as you think!). However if you’re battling mild food anxiety like myself, you’re not alone. Here’s how I’m making progress to improve my diet:

// Why. To start with we discussed why I wouldn’t eat certain things and the resounding problem was that I thought some foods were gross. Fruits and vegetables are grown in such an environment that I deem them to be dirty and tainted. It might help you to chat with someone about why you won’t eat an item, get them to ask you open ended questions so you can’t avoid the answers.

// Write a list. Create the ‘banished list’ from your head onto a piece of paper. Order it with the things you find the most difficult at the top so you can attack it from below, the easiest.

// “So what?” Pick an item from your list and tell a specific story out loud and go into detail to really dig into the problem. I told my banana story and my counsellor asked me a great question, it was, “So what?!” So what if I ate it and the worst thing I imagined happened, what would that mean? I would eat something dirty, something that shouldn’t have been there. “So what?!” I would have something foreign in my body, something gross. “So what?” Whatever it was it would probably be destroyed by my stomach acids, digested and become a waste product. It probably happens all the time without us knowing. There’s something about following the thought through that makes it less scary. The idea of something is often worse than the reality, for me anyway.

// Avoiding it is your first mistake. Digging in to the problem, thinking about the negative thought that I’d usually try my best to avoid, really made me see how unnecessary it was. How the big dark storm cloud really was just a fine rain shower. It didn’t leave anything unsaid to linger in my mind and grow into a monster. All my cards were on the table.
So we wrote a list and I started with salad as the easiest. We set a challenge for me to grab a handful of salad and stick it in my sandwich, instead of picking out individual leaves that I deemed appropriate to eat. Avoiding it forever will not solve the problem, the act of doing it anyway is often the only way to combat this type (and many types!) of anxiety.

// Create a distraction. It’s not an easy task, but the advice I was given was to not think about what I was eating, to not inspect it to see if it was OK like I usually would, to eat while distracting myself like watching TV or using my phone to check Instagram for example.
It works on and off, the war isn’t totally fought and won yet and I still have many items on my list; I haven’t even begun to tackle meat related products yet, but I’ve made progress. It’s important to separate the things you’d like to be able to start eating and the things you just really don’t like. Banana is one of my favourite flavours, so it seemed bizarre that I wouldn’t eat the actual piece of fruit.

// Back to bananas. Somewhere in the middle of my list lay bananas. For 16+ years I wouldn’t eat bananas because my Nan once told me a gross, potentially made up, story about them. Sure the first time I tried it, I choked on a bite. It’s incredible that my mind was so closed down it made my body physically reject what it thought I didn’t want to swallow. Now I cut them into tiny pieces and cover them with yoghurt and honey, it’s so tasty and makes the whole task easier.

This morning I ate bananas for breakfast without breaking a sweat, didn’t even think about what I was eating until half way through. The banana battle is won and I’m determined to win the war.

Loves x xx

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