Food Panic & What To Do About It

Imagine you’re in recovery from an eating disorder. You’ve been working with your therapist and dietitian to challenge some of your ED thoughts. With their input, you’ve decided it’s time to start crossing those fear foods off the list. So, filled with nerves and excitement and anxiety, you decide that today you’re going to try a new fear food. And then…panic. Maybe it happens when you’re getting the ingredients at the grocery store. Maybe it happens when you’re in line at the takeout place. Maybe it happens when you sit down at your dining room table and finally take the first bite. Whenever it happens, it always looks about the same: the panic slowly settles in and then stops you right in your tracks. Suddenly, you feel like this was all a big mistake. You feel like maybe you should just through the whole thing in the trash and hide under a blanket with Netflix until you can forget about the whole thing. But before you go searching for that episode of Gilmore Girls that always makes you feel better, here’s what you can do:


I know this particular piece of advice sounds cliché, but if yoga has taught me anything it’s that your breath is truly the most powerful tool you have. When you get anxious, your breath speeds up and can feel entirely out of your control. But you are always in control of your breathing. So sit back, put down your fork and take a moment to just breathe. One of my favorite breathing techniques is to breathe in to the count of 4, hold it for 4, and breathe out for 4. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat until you can feel your heart rate slow down a few beats.

Show Yourself Compassion

This kind of panic around food in recovery is completely, entirely, 100% normal. Your eating disorder has convinced you that these foods are a threat so of course, introducing them back into your life can be and likely will be a challenge. Be compassionate with yourself. Recovery isn’t linear. Just because you didn’t struggle last time doesn’t mean you won’t struggle this time. And just because you’re struggling this time doesn’t mean you’ll struggle next time. Recovery is full of ebbs and flows and while it’s certainly frustrating and can be discouraging, it is all part of the process.

Write It Down

One of the things I always recommend is bringing a journal to the kitchen table (or wherever you eat) with you. This gives you the ability to write out your feelings before, during and after that particular eating occasion. A lot of people are resistant to this idea at first (or journaling at all) but it really is a healthy way to process your feelings and work through whatever comes up during the time that you’re eating. Also, journaling gives you proof of your progress when you look back over time, which can be super encouraging when you’re feeling down.

Rely on your treatment team!

Your treatment team is there for a reason. If tackling this particular challenge is too overwhelming on your own, that is a-okay. Bring that experience to session with you when you see your therapist, dietitian and/or other professionals. Many dietitians will offer to eat snacks or meals with you during your appointment so you have support in real time but even if they don’t, both an RD and a therapist can help provide you with resources to cope with these feelings and support you in taking that next step.

Ready to work with a non-diet dietitian? I see clients virtually from all over the United States and would love to work with you! You can find more information about that here

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