Anxiety is a natural biological response to any perceived threat. It’s our body’s way of keeping us safe in the face of danger. So, in essence, anxiety isn’t a villain in our life’s story; it’s our trusty bodyguard. But what happens when this vigilant protector starts panicking over something that poses no real threat to our survival, like a slice of pizza? Well, that’s where things get tricky, especially for those on the path to recovery from binge eating.
We’ve all been there, staring at a piece of our once-feared, now-craved trigger food, heart racing, palms sweating, and our minds racing a mile a minute. This isn’t an ideal situation, especially when you’re working hard to rebuild a healthy relationship with food. So, the question is, how can we calm our anxiety when faced with these fear foods? How can we show ourselves that we are safe and that our beloved pizza will not hurt us? Let’s explore some techniques to help you navigate this challenging but essential part of your recovery journey.
One of the most effective ways to calm anxiety is to regulate your breath. Breathing exercises can work wonders in reducing that overwhelming sense of unease. Here are a couple of techniques to try:
Box Breathing: Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for four, exhale for four, and hold your breath again for four. Repeat until you feel more at ease.
Alternate Nostril Breathing: Gently close one nostril with your thumb and inhale through the other. Then close the second nostril with your finger and release the first as you exhale. This alternate breathing can be incredibly calming.
Sometimes, the key to calming your anxiety is to shift your focus away from the source of your distress – in this case, the food. Take a moment to immerse yourself in your surroundings. Look around and notice what you see, listen to the sounds in your environment, and engage with the people you’re with. Shifting your attention in this way can help you reconnect with the present moment and ease your anxiety enough to enjoy the food you once feared.
Anxiety often manifests as racing, distressing thoughts. In the midst of a meal, if calorie counting or other anxiety-inducing thoughts start to creep in, you can choose to disrupt them. Try repeating a random phrase or question in your mind, such as “pink elephant, pink elephant, pink elephant” or “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” This can help divert your focus from anxiety-inducing thoughts and allow you to enjoy your meal without the extra mental baggage.
Grounding exercises are an excellent way to anchor yourself in the present moment, providing a sense of safety and control. One simple grounding exercise involves picking up an object nearby, holding it in your hand, and describing it in your head in as much detail as possible. This exercise can be done anywhere and is an effective way to reconnect with the here and now.
Another helpful technique is to imagine your thoughts as passing clouds. You don’t have to engage with them. Instead, allow them to float on by without attaching judgment or significance to them. By practicing this, you can free yourself from the grip of anxious thoughts and focus on the present moment.
In your journey to recovery from binge eating, facing trigger foods can be a daunting task. However, with patience, self-compassion, and the right tools, you can learn to calm your anxiety and enjoy your favorite foods without fear. Remember, it’s a process, and it’s okay to take small steps on your path to healing your relationship with food.
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Intuitive Eating by Elise Resch and Evelyn Tribole
When it was first published, Intuitive Eating was revolutionary in its anti-dieting approach. The authors, both prominent health professionals in the field of nutrition and eating disorders, urge readers to embrace the goal of developing body positivity and reconnecting with one’s internal wisdom about eating―to unlearn everything they were taught about calorie-counting and other aspects of diet culture and to learn about the harm of weight stigma.
Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon
Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “thin” with “healthy” is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size. Tune in to your body’s expert guidance. Find the joy in movement. Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you to feel good. You too can feel great in your body right now—and Health at Every Size will show you how.
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
In Anti-Diet, Christy Harrison takes on diet culture and the multi-billion-dollar industries that profit from it, exposing all the ways it robs people of their time, money, health, and happiness. It will turn what you think you know about health and wellness upside down, as Harrison explores the history of diet culture, how it’s infiltrated the health and wellness world, how to recognize it in all its sneaky forms, and how letting go of efforts to lose weight or eat “perfectly” actually helps to improve people’s health—no matter their size. Drawing on scientific research, personal experience, and stories from patients and colleagues, Anti-Diet provides a radical alternative to diet culture, and helps readers reclaim their bodies, minds, and lives so they can focus on the things that truly matter.
Just Eat It by Laura Thomas
With a perfect blend of scientific expertise and relatable anecdotes, the author dismantles societal myths around food and body image. Through practical advice, self-reflection exercises, and a touch of humor, Thomas equips readers with the tools to break free from the cycle of diet culture, promoting self-love and nourishment. This book is an essential companion for anyone seeking to redefine their approach to food, fostering a positive and sustainable lifestyle.
Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach
Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.
I understand—it can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin. Let's simplify things and have you start right here:
Why Am I Overeating?
First Steps To Stop Binge Eating
The Food Freedom Lab Podcast
the food freedom lab podcast