For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with food. My weight has fluctuated a lot, I’ve been obese, overweight, but never a “normal weight”. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with any eating disorders, but I absolutely have a bad relationship with food. I go through cycles of binge eating, not eating enough, and I almost always have food anxiety. But it’s getting better.
What is food anxiety? If I’m dieting, I overthink every single thing I eat. If I’m watching my calories, I’m worrying about how many calories I’m putting into my body. Everyone does this, you may be saying to yourself. But people with food anxiety stress about this to the point where they might not eat at all, for a long period of time, so it is extremely common for people who are suffering or have suffered with an eating disorder. For me, I will stress out about my food and I might not eat for a bit, but if one tiny stressor gets piled on top, I end up binging. It’s an endless cycle, and I have to actively work on it, so it doesn’t spiral out of control. What are the things I do to work on this?
Keep occupied. I will admit, the keto diet has been like god’s gift to me for my food anxiety because it curbs cravings which leads to less thinking about food, but when I was doing any other kind of diet, it was all I thought of. I mean really, I woke up thinking about what I could eat that day, and I went to bed usually feeling guilty about what I ate. It was awful, and the only thing I could do to sway it even for a while was to keep myself occupied. I would write, or read, or clean, or work out. When I was working I was so preoccupied by kids swinging at me, or things getting thrown at me that I didn’t think about food which was good, but when I was home it was always a struggle. This phrase is outdated and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in this context, but it came to mind: “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” Think of that, but more like “an idle mind is intrusive thought’s plaything” If that makes any sense at all.
Meal prep. One thing that cuts down worrying about your next meal, is knowing what your next meal is. Having meals already prepared and in your fridge takes a lot of the stress away of having to make food every single meal. I often made my meals for three days in advance because I get bored and an entire week of the same thing sounds extremely boring.
Don’t under eat. This seems so tempting when you have food anxiety, you think it will tame the thoughts wondering if you ate too much. It doesn’t, not for me at least. If I under eat, I worry that I’m not eating enough. Besides the obvious reason that you need to eat because it will lead to hunger; which leads to binging, eating too little can cause anxiety too.
Manage your anxiety in other ways. Food anxiety doesn’t usually exist on its own. If you have anxiety surrounding food, chances are you have anxiety surrounding other things as well. If I’m doing well with my social anxiety, or my work anxiety, or my LIFE anxiety, my food anxiety doesn’t bother me as much. I think my food anxiety is just a spill-over from my general anxiety and that could be the way it is for you too. If you take meds, take your meds. If you meditate, meditate. For me, I read, I write, I clean my house. Whatever works for your other anxieties, might help tame your food anxiety too.
Find a diet/lifestyle that works for you. Like I said above, keto has been a god send. It curbs my cravings, I’m hungry less, I get to eat steak and bacon! And most of all, I don’t ever feel guilty for what I eat. You can be on the keto diet and not plan to lose any weight, with some fancy math equation regarding calories I don’t understand. I just try to eat under 20 grams of carbs, and I still get so much options with food. I eat until I’m full, I’m never worried about if I mess up and if I’m going to weigh 5 pounds extra tomorrow, and I’m satisfied. Whatever diet works for you, own it, live by it, and don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes because they happen.
I still struggle with food anxiety a lot of the time, but with eating keto, meal planning, and managing my other mental illnesses, it makes the food anxiety easier. I’m living more and thinking about food less, and that’s the way I hope you all can be. Because it’s a breath of fresh air being able to go to a restaurant and not having a panic attack because the calories aren’t on the menu.