top of page

3 Tips to Rid Yourself of Food AnxietY

Hi Friend,

Summer officially starts this week. With warmer weather, food anxiety can often ramp up due to increased body pressures around bathing suit season. When your food thoughts become heightened, this often leads to temptation to fall back into old coping mechanisms like restricting or jumping on the most current diet craze.

In life you always have options. You could choose to cave to societal norms and splurge on Optavia products. Or you could recognize that these prepackaged foods are not sustainable and won't lead you to where you wish to be come winter.

Today, I want to share a few ways you can work through food anxiety struggles and give you tips on how to overcome them. If you've been reading my emails for any length of times, the first two are going to be no surprise to you. But the lat one, might contain some new information!

#1. Challenge Fear Foods.

Diet culture will try to trick you into thinking that never touching dessert again is a normal goal to have. However, it is highly unlikely that you will never have a bite of a sweet food again. The problem with saying that you'll never have sweets again is that when you do have them, you might feel like a failure or that you've done something wrong. When included in an active and balanced lifestyle, there can be a place for sweetened foods. Instead of avoiding sweets like the plague, slow down when you eat them, savor the flavor, and enjoy every bite thoroughly. Allow yourself to have treats on a semi-regular to regular basis in accompaniment with high protein meals and high fiber food choices. The more exposure you have to a food, the less scary it becomes and the less control it has over you.

#2 Incorporate variety.

If you find yourself eating the same thing everyday, you might have a limited food acceptance and a very poignant pallet. From a nutritional standpoint this can be concerning because limited food variety means limited micronutrient intake. When you only eat a handful of foods, you are only getting the vitamins and minerals contained in the handful of foods you regularly consume. The best way to achieve a balanced diet is to incorporate as much variety as possible in your food choices.

Maybe you find yourself with limited food variety for a different reason, like fear of branching out or anxiety in eating new foods. You might choose to eat the same thing most days of the week because it feels "safe." Perhaps you know you won't binge on certain foods or you saw a foods list promoted on social media as "low calorie" so you stick to a small selection of "approved" foods. The problem in this is that the more you avoid a food, the more it confirms to your brain that avoidance is necessary in order to be successful. In reality, you would be better off breaking your food rule and adding in different foods.

Regardless of the reason behind low food variety, it is important to involve as much texture, flavor, and color in your diet to promote longevity. Having variety in your diet is a true sign of food peace. Branch out and try something outside your regular routines this week.

#3. Stop Tracking.

If you're noticing that you are feeling anxious about eating out or worried about eating foods without knowing the calorie amount in them, tracking your food intake might not be the best choice for you. There are times in which I will use this tool to bring awareness to people, but it is not right for everyone.

There was an interesting study conducted amongst college-aged girls who were utilizing food tracking apps. Though it was a small sample size, the narration from the participants is insightful.

Overall, the study found that food tracking causes several major themes to develop in its users. They were:

  • fixation on numbers

  • rigid diet

  • obsession

  • app dependency

  • high sense of achievement (Feeling extremely rewarded for eating under calorie and nutrient budget, engaging in compensatory behaviors and inputting them on the app)

  • extreme negative emotions (if they ate above allotted amounts)

  • motivation from negative messages (using the calorie deficit portion of the app to continue to under-eat)

  • excess competition

Below are the quotes from the study participants. These quotes bring perspective on how food tracking affected participant lives. Perhaps they will give you personal enlightenment on whether tracking is right for you.

"There was one time my parents wanted to go out to dinner… So, I called the [restaurant] so I could already track it and have it as close as possible. And then my parents get here, and they're like, “Oh, we're going go to [this other restaurant] instead”. And I was literally having anxiety about going. I didn't want to go to dinner. I was like, “No. I already had everything perfectly planned for my day”, and that was probably a bad moment… I feel like eating disorders stem from people trying to be perfect, and with this, you're hitting numbers trying to be perfect, so I think that could be kind of bad"
"I love how it could scan a label… That was my favorite thing in the world… It got to the point where I would never buy something that didn't have a label on it ‘cause I couldn't track it… And I would be very secretive about just having a picture and being able to successfully find it on the app. If I couldn't find it on the app, I wasn't going to eat it ‘cause… It wouldn't have been correct… You start to eat the same things… "
"In the moment, I didn't care. I knew it [the app] was harming my brain because I knew it was messing with my head mentally, but I just wanted to keep it because I felt like that was the one thing I could control. Because when you have an eating disorder, that's the one thing you want, is control. And I knew this app gave me control over what my parents wanted me to eat, just in that sense. I never really told them ‘cause I didn't want to lose that control I had. Because being forced to eat a sandwich or being forced to eat, to go see a therapist, I had no control over those, but with the app, I felt like I had control over one part of my life that I really wanted to change"

If you find yourself relating to these quotes, it might be a good idea to take a break from tracking. In the end, you are the only one who can truly know what tracking triggers within your thought life. Some people find it best to wean from tracking because it feels too scary to give up all at once. If you're religiously tracking every bite that goes into your mouth, see how you do with skipping a meal or only tracking every other day.

Overall, tracking should be used as a tool to notice patterns and learn. It is not the end goal or meant to be something that you do for the rest of your life. If it is causing you more anxiety, it might be time to ditch it.

If you'd like to reference the study further you can do so here.

No matter if you struggle to incorporate all foods in moderation, fight to include varied food choices, or need to relinquish some control, there is always something better waiting to fill your life when you let go of unhealthy control over something. Challenging anxious thoughts is not for the weak, but the reward it brings will change your life.

Heaps of blessings,

Mikyah, RDN, LD, CD


bottom of page