Saturday, 28 March 2015


Guys, I'd grab some snacks and a cuppa, this is gonna be a long one!!

When I originally thought about writing this blog post, I was unsure of what to call it. After receiving such a positive response from my previous posts detailing my issues with eating and phobia of vomit, I knew I wanted to revisit the subject and offer my advice for those who have gone through, or are still going through, a similar situation. Upon googling "Food Phobias" with hopes of finding an image to go along with this post (as you can see I ended up just taking one myself), I came across a lot of links with the title "ARFID". Unbeknown to me, it was just introduced in 2013 as a new type of eating disorder and much to my excitement, it describes EXACTLY what I went through as a child/continue to go through as a young adult!

The ARFID diagnosis describes individuals whose symptoms do not match the criteria for traditional eating disorder diagnoses, but who, nonetheless, experience clinically significant struggles with eating and food. The most significant trigger that stood out to me in the list of causes was described as "being afraid to eat after a frightening episode of choking or vomiting". Holy smokes they've got it in one!!  FINALLY, a food issue that has nothing to do with body image has been classified as an eating disorder, is fully diagnosable and treatable! (This feels like a wonderful FU to all of the doctors who believed I was anorexic and couldn't fathom that I was starving myself because I was afraid!)

Anyway, I digress. This post was supposed to be a helpful nugget of information on how I deal with my food troubles and it has turned into a sort of ARFID online information point!! Back to it!

Food phobia survivors, ARFID survivors, Anorexia survivors, Bulimia survivors...
they tell you it's going to be wonderful when you defeat your disorder and come back out the other side, however what they don't tell you is that it can be just as difficult to not let your mind fall back into the vicious cycle you were in when at the height of your illness. Although my eating issues are no where near as severe as they were in the past, I still very often get pangs of anxiety when it comes to mealtimes and my mind still has difficulty distinguishing between feeling intense anxiety and feeling physically nauseous! So, I wanted to share a few of my tips and tricks on how I keep on top of my food anxieties in day to day life.

1. Cook for yourself: I often find having that control of what I'm eating helps to relieve some of the anxiety I experience around mealtimes. I like the feeling of choosing what to eat and especially choosing a potion size that I am comfortable with. I also find if I've cooked a meal from scratch, I'm actually excited about eating it, rather than eating it being a chore.

2. Eat on your own time schedule: This is another thing that I find really helps control my anxiety. It's as simple as eat when you're hungry, don't eat when you're not. Now, i'm not talking about skipping meals here, but if you're not hungry for dinner at 5, wait a couple of hours until you are! Forcing yourself to eat when you aren't hungry, from experience, only causes more anxiety and that isn't going to help at all now is it?

3. "Safe foods" are okay: I'm sure anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder will know what I mean by the term "safe foods", and despite what I've been told, I think that it's okay to stick to the foods you are comfortable with when feeling anxious! Better eating something "safe" than eating nothing at all! Although this is not something that should be done every day, a couple of times a week does no harm in my eyes!

4. Eating out vs Staying in: Eating out is still something I find really difficult and often gets in the way when making plans with friends. My advice on this one is to try and step out of your comfort zone - if you and your friends have made plans to go out to eat, join them, missing out on activities just makes you feel rubbish. So, my tip here, if you're feeling anxious, order a starter and eat it as a main! That way the portion size is more than manageable and you can just pick away at what you feel comfortable eating (starters tend to be picky foods anyway!). Just make sure the waiter knows to bring your portion when everyone else gets their main!

5. Talk to people: This was a difficult thing for me to do, but in the long run it really does help to speak out when you feel like you are struggling or have taken a turn for the worst. Parents, friends, doctor, whoever you feel most comfortable talking to...SPEAK OUT! There is nothing worse than suffering in silence. As this is something I've been dealing with since childhood, it's always my parents I go to when I'm having a difficult time. Since they've been through the whole ordeal (twice) I feel like they are the ones that give me the best advice on how to tackle things! Way to go mum and dad!! 

6. Take a walk: Taking a walk is good for clearing your head, calming your mind and working up an appetite (bonus!). If things are getting a bit too much for me, the thing that I find calms me down the most is going for a walk - just me and my iPod! And I often find that when I get home I begin to feel peckish anyway, eliminating a good chunk of my anxiety!

7. Manageable portion sizes: I feel like this is an obvious one but manageable portion sizes are key in battling mealtime anxiety. With the exception of Christmas Day, if I'm faced with a plate overloaded with food I just freak out and don't want to touch any of it! When cooking for yourself, pay attention to the amount of ingredients you're using and if you make too much, just pop the excess in the fridge and eat it the next day! Make sure if someone else is cooking for you that they know you'll probably be eating a smaller portion than them, or would prefer a smaller portion size in general.

8. Don't let the anxiety consume you: Ugh, the words that make any anxiety sufferer roll their eyes and think "If only it was that easy!" But something I've learned from my years of CBT is that I am the one who is in control of my mind and I have the power to determine how much I let my anxiety consume me. Only I have the ability to regain control of my mind and calm myself down. These are the things I like to think to myself when I feel panic. It's like a gentle reminder that I'm fine, I can cope and I will get through it!

Well, I hope this has been of help to anyone who may have needed it. Food anxiety is tough but remember you are not alone and you don't have to deal with it alone. If anyone has any questions they'd like to ask me, public or private, you can find all the details on the "contact me" page right here on my blog, or feel free to leave a comment below!

S.B x


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