Email from a reader: How to lose your fear of food

by Andie Mitchell on January 5, 2012

Read the rest of this series: Email from a Reader: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

“Andie,
First and foremost, let me tell you that your blog has given me faith that I can look at food in a healthy and happy way  in the future. Thank you for that! Your thoughts and view of all the yummies in life have me inspired. Now to introduce myself! I’m 20 years old and a recovering anorexic who previously LOVED food (and still do, but need to overcome that dang fear!). I would love a response on how you managed to regain your comfort and diminish that fear of food (that I’m still struggling with). Although my situation is different than yours, I feel like I can relate so much to your experience. Any advice or words from you would be endlessly appreciated!
Thanks so much,
T”

…….

Dearest T,

Thanks so much for your email! You are very, very kind.

I overcame my intense fear of regaining the 135lbs I lost in 2006 by focusing on these 3 things:

1. Taking risks. 
Go against that nervous voice in your head a few times a week (don’t count, don’t measure, don’t even consider the nutritional value in the treat you want). You will see that the world does not end, you do not gain pounds immediately upon eating, and you will honestly feel stronger after having wandered out of your comfort zone. You will never learn that you can eat the foods you love in moderation and not gain weight if you don’t experiment. Trust me here: you are the most worthwhile experiment.

2. Stay present.
Take each day as it comes and live in each moment. Assess what you’re craving in a given dining circumstance and don’t let your mind wander to what you’ve already eaten, how you’ll eat later, what you should eat. Just stay focused on the now. You will feel a world less overwhelmed and you’ll notice that your choices become easier, clearer even. I find that being mindful makes for a more in tune connection between mind and body. Yes, cake tastes like heaven all the time, but ask yourself- is cake what I’m wanting in this very moment? Yes, it’s been ages since I’ve had oreos (not even close to true), and goodness they’re nostalgic, but are oreos what I’m jonesing for right now?

You’ll see how your preferences change with the breeze. You’ll learn trust in your cravings.

3. Living a fuller, happier life requires you to be fuller, happier.
If you want to live a life that includes sweets and random slices of pizza and cake, you have to eat them occasionally and sit with the fear, the feelings. If you want to be freer from food obsession, you have to be a little looser, perhaps less calculated and planned. If you want to be the type of person who goes to a party and doesn’t fret about what will be served, you have to go to parties and learn to nibble, learn to socialize rather than isolate.

You have to make these wants a reality by acting in the ways you aim to be, little by little, every single day. It’s not easy; it’s hard. It will take time. It’s a journey. To be the kind of person you want to be and to have the peace of mind that you crave, you have to make those your primary focuses day in and day out. You have to wake up and recommit to taking risks and challenging that negative voice in your head. Take risks. Leap.

andie

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh January 6, 2012 at 5:09 am

As always, you’re my hero.

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Kelly B. January 6, 2012 at 6:26 am

Andie,
How, oh how did you become so wise at such a young age?

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colette January 6, 2012 at 6:38 am

“You have to make these wants a reality by acting in the ways you aim to be, little by little, every single day.” I love this sentence. When I look at my eating habits, sometimes all I see are all of very many the ways I need to improve. But if I compare my eating habits today to 10 years ago, they are a hundred times more healthy and balanced now than they were back then. Focusing on the little improvements day by day makes it (life) seem less overwhelming and makes me feel more positive about how far I’ve come and the journey still ahead… I’ll just take it one day at a time. You are awesome Andie!

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Maria January 6, 2012 at 9:08 am

Andie – about six months ago I found your site, just as I was starting to devour (so to speak) Geneen Roth’s books.

I wrote in my journal recently:

“I really benefitted from all the Geneen Roth I read late last year. Her kindness has imbued my attitudes toward food of late. When I was home for Christmas, I ate to satisfy myself and wasn’t off the rails. I enjoyed the sensations of the holiday. I was more conscious. And as I cook for myself, I’ve instinctively removed the bad/good language from my eating. Would you believe – since October – I’ve had a couple boxes of Dad’s Oatmeal cookies, Cadbury Fruit + Nut bars, Lindt Sea Salt chocolate, Reeses’ cups … all sitting in my pantry. Me a year ago couldn’t fathom that situation: to have food there, and eat some of it, and leave the rest for another time. I think more about what will be delicious in this moment, and what my body needs and what nourishes me at all sorts of levels.

I’m slowly on the way to undoing what my short time on Weight Watchers years ago did to my brain – obsessive control issues with and fear of eating… of nourishment. Of seeing calories not as glorious fuel, but as something to be shunned and avoided. Last night, I chowed down a handful of Reeses with my tea after dinner. And they were so delicious and I just enjoyed them. I didn’t think about them or regret them afterward. I just ate.”

You and Roth come from a similar place of acceptance and you’ve done wonders for my relationship with food. Thank you so much for this.

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*Andrea* January 6, 2012 at 9:11 am

beautiful post. absolutely beautiful. you are truly an inspiration. :)

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Parita January 6, 2012 at 9:51 am

You are such an inspiration! I love how you answered this question – and you’re right, you truly have to invest in yourself to see positive change!

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Michelle H January 6, 2012 at 10:52 am

Words of wisdom! Can’t wait to read your book :-)

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Mindy January 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Thanks so much – I needed this right now!

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johnny January 7, 2012 at 3:47 am

Right on target with that advice and not just for the one intended. I love the part about being in the present. It’s making my journey in weight loss a bit more bearable.

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Lethal Astronaut January 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Thanks for such a useful and thoughtful post. That’s what I need – after a two year BLIMPFEST, I need to know I can return to being the person I was, managing food in a healthy and responsible way.

Thanks again.

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Lu January 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I love your outlook on food and life. I can’t say much more than that. You have your stuff together and what you say makes sense to all readers. Not just the ones asking the questions.

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Pom Pom January 9, 2012 at 5:53 am

Wow! You are a beautiful writer and your blog is like a poem.

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Steph January 9, 2012 at 9:22 am

Just what I needed to hear today….love the last paragraph. Can’t wait to read your book!

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raquel January 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I am now addicted to your blog I would love to stay and browse some more about the inspirational post like this.

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Keli M October 4, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Hi Andie,

I just found your blog and have been reading through all of your posts. Your explanation of how you view weight loss, and managing food, have already had a profound impact on how I view my forthcoming weight loss journey, and I’ve only been reading for 15 minutes. Unbelievable.

My most heartfelt thank you…

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Sally July 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

This is amazing. I lost about 20 lbs between my freshman and sophomore year of college, and really struggled with food fear for about a semester. I have moved on now, but I still have moments of struggle and fear. Your writing is beautiful, you truly inspire me.

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