Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: I Don’t Trust Food! I’m Afraid To Eat!

Q&A Wednesday: I Don’t Trust Food! I’m Afraid To Eat!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: I feel like I do not know what to eat to lose weight, so I skip or lessen my intake. I know this is counterproductive. How do I break this bad thinking/behavior to have a healthy-successful-leaner life?

A: What this sounds like, to me, is a general fear of food because of what it’s done to you. It’s a pretty disordered understanding of eating, because eating is your primary form of nourishment. It’s how you cleanse your body, care for your body, love your body. A fear of the very thing that sustains you because of weight… it actually saddens me. I understand it, but it saddens me.

Did I fear food? I don’t know. If I was conscious when I was eating – as opposed to mindlessly eating like a zombie – then I did feel something about it. I almost felt guilty eating, and felt like I shouldn’t be eating until I lost weight (and considering how much weight I would’ve needed to lose, I might’ve never been able to eat again.) Was that borne of fear of food? Perhaps.

To be honest, I had a lot of disordered understandings when it came to food and really, I’d stand to reason that a lot of women do. Just because, in the interest of marketing a product, we’re always being beaten over the head with messages that we’re imperfect and we accept that it has to do with the food. So, in turn, instead of changing the food we eat, we blame the quantity of food we eat… and that somehow translates into a fear of eating.

It’s strange and doesn’t feel logical to me now, but I get it. And it’s hard to embrace any kind of eating when you fear food because you believe food makes you “fat.” If being “less fat” is the goal, you believe – thanks to marketing and stories of models eating carrots and ice cubes – eating less will get it done.

It’s also a part of the mentality that makes dieting so easy to embrace. We believe that dieting works because dieting helps you “eat less,” especially since those carrot-and-ice-cube-eating-models “eat less” and, well, they’re beautiful.

Damn all that.

I’m human. I like food. I’m wired to like food. I’m also not built to compete with a marketing machine with enough money to chemically engineer food in a way that removes my ability to control myself.

Realizing that was part of what set me free of my fear of food.

I don’t feel fear of food, because I now know that food doesn’t have control over me. I don’t fear food because I now know that food is supposed to be enjoyable – fruits were made sweet to compel us to not only nourish ourselves, but repopulate the Earth with their seeds to grow more fruit. Knowing that makes me comfortable with the idea that I can actually enjoy the flavor of “sweet.” I don’t feel held captive when I’m in the presence of sweets.

So, to put it all bluntly, learning that I could make enjoyable meals with fruits and vegetables (and a little meat) and that these meals resulted in weight loss was so exciting for me that my relationship with food was completely changed. I was too busy trying to learn how to cook and tasting new flavors. Being afraid of food was no longer an issue. I could eat, enjoy life and still maintain my weight.

You kind of have to put faith into it. You just have to. You have to understand that the fruits and vegetables that we grow are the things we’re supposed to eat, and should never be distrusted in a fashion that makes you not want to eat.

And what makes this “counter-productive,” as she called it?

Because stress about the inability to eat is the only source of stress for man, his body became used to the eventual chain of events. His body knows: Lots of stress = lack of food coming in. How did his body react? His body decided to hold on to what it had – by way of diminishing the amount of energy his body could exert all at one time, by way of making sure his body took a very long time to lose weight, by way of making sure it held onto every pound and fat cell it could. This bodily reaction would only further compel man to step up his hunting skills… why? Because he didn’t want to feel that way! He didn’t want his family to feel that way! He had to get his caveman hustle on! When man was finally able to tackle that antelope or whatever-what-have-you, the fats and salts in the meat were sooooo satisfying that they would cure man of the bodily reaction to stress.

Even though that post talked mainly about stress, the body’s reaction to “there’s no food coming in” is always the same. It results in weight loss becoming more difficult.

What would I suggest? I’d suggest embracing a lifestyle that consists of primarily fruits and vegetables, with whichever meats you prefer served in portions no larger than the size of your hand. Make yourself nice dishes that taste wonderfully, and keep yourself from feeling too hungry. Pace yourself – don’t expect overnight success – and you will do just fine.

Is there anyone else out there who has felt this way? How are you dealing with it? How did you cope with your fear?


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LN April 13, 2011 - 12:28 PM

I can TOTALLY relate to this! Let me preface first by saying that BBG2WL has helped me to lost 10 pounds since January 1! I gained 16 pounds last year when the stress of the recession and planning a wedding really got to me.

But back to the post. I can TOTALLY relate to a fear of food. When I first started my weight loss journey in January, I did as this blog suggested — I cleaned up my eating! As a result of eating better foods, I found myself eating less often (because I felt fuller) and the pounds just melted off.

Then I got busy and started substituting home cooked meals for eating out. (Can I just say — even if you’re eating out at a good restaurant — the calories/fat/carbs in stuff is SO MUCH HIGHER than just cooking at home!) So I was eating out… and still eating the same [decreased] amount as I was before. But I found that I was feeling hungrier, slowly re-gaining weight and feeling more irritated/sluggish.

I feel back into my old, bad habits, and started starving myself. I’d wake up, drink a cup of tea. Nibble on some chips. And then — when by 6 pm. I was ravenously hungry — I would cave and eat some pizza. It was terrible! My old distrust/hatred of food crept in and I became angry, confused, upset and depressed.

About a week ago I realized that the food itself wasn’t the enemy. It was both the TIMING and the CONTENT. So I went back to eating a big, hearty breakfast. Feeling full well past noon. And eating small, high grain, high protein, low carb meals for lunch and dinner.

I’m happy to say that my weight loss is back! My energy is up and I’m feeling great.

One of the things I love about this website and one of the things I myself have realized is that analyzing and understanding my relationship with food is just as important as what I DO in terms of diet and exercise.

Food is not just a means of gaining or losing weight. As mentioned it is a source of sustenance, energy and cleansing.

milaxx August 24, 2011 - 9:21 PM

OMG I could have written this reply. I just weighed myself earlier this week and just as I suspected I gained a pound. Why? Because I went on a family vacation, followed by having friends visiting from out of town and then being just plain tired and lazy. So even though I managed to eat well for breakfast and lunch, dinner was restaurant food nearly every night for 2 weeks straight. Then when I got some rest, I was too lay/tired to shop or do food prep for the week. The scale told me all I needed to know.

LN April 13, 2011 - 12:29 PM

Oops… Meant to say, “because I felt fuller” in my second paragraph. Erika could you correct it for me?

Erika Nicole Kendall April 13, 2011 - 12:47 PM

For a comment as awesome as that? You bet, mama. 🙂

Bxbutterfly April 13, 2011 - 12:41 PM

WOW… thought i was the only one who was afraid to eat. For me it is easier not to eat instead of eating something “bad”. What i’m currently doing at home is eating oatmeal if i don’t have something readily available and healthy to eat at home.

Kathryn April 13, 2011 - 1:05 PM

I totally feel this. A month ago, I started working with a trainer and a nutritionist. I was committed to succeeding so I followed the diet my nutritionist gave me to a “T” and kept a food diary. Basically, it is just clean eating. Nothing crazy, totally fulfilling and made me feel amazing. But I could never shake off this nagging feeling of guilt each time I ate. For me, successful weight loss equaled starvation. Because I have struggled with eating disorders in the past, I believe that to be one of my barriers to my previous weight loss attempts. In the past, whenever I had decided to lose weight, that meant I must essentially exist on nothing. Sadly, that idea was reinforced when I dropped weight fast with little sustenance. Ultimately though, this is unsustainable so I would always regain the weight. As I got older, that idea depressed me and stopped me cold of any new diet program. This time, however, I realized that my plan — clearly not working. So, I trusted the nutritionist and fought the thought process of, “If I’m eating, I cannot lose weight”. After the first two weeks and my first weigh-in, I had lost 7 pounds. I was floored. This, to me, was amazing progress and chipped away at my flawed belief system. I realized that this endeavor was as much about changing my relationship with food as it was becoming healthy. They must co-exist, because I cannot become healthy if I still believe that starvation is a must for success. I am still in the beginning throes of re-teaching myself about food and nutrition, so I still have this little self-sabotaging voice that tries to throw me off track, but each day I get stronger and the little voice gets quieter. Good luck to all. Erika – love, love, love your site.

Malpha April 13, 2011 - 1:22 PM

Dealing with it right now in a way. When I first started back in November, I didn’t really fear food so much, I was making healthier choices, cooking more, watching my calories, and losing weight. Now that the weight loss has kind of stopped, I do wonder: should I eat less? Eat differently? Lessen carbs/fat/protein or should I even eat more? At a BMR of 1500, I can’t really chop down to 1000 calories a day, so I try to do some form of aerobics 2h a day and weights 5x a week, so I can eat around 1400 calories. So when you know you’re at least putting forth the effort in the exercise, the only culprits left are the food (which you can change) and your own body chemistry/type (not so much).

Personally, I try to just eat things I like that I know are okay. I’m a big broccoli, apples, strawberries, and banana fan. They taste great, so they’re kind of a like a dessert in a way. Also, pile up on things that are easy to make, but healthy, which frankly are…frozen veggies and fruit. Some people look cooking, but I can’t be in the kitchen slaving over a stove (or NuWave) all day, plus I don’t have access to a lot of ingredients. I mean, I have to eat something – not eating or eating too little makes me grumpy, not up for exercise, and starts me craving things I shouldn’t (like french fries), which are major incentives to put fork to food. 🙂

Shana April 13, 2011 - 1:43 PM

This article came just in time. Recently, I started to change the way I eat. Instead of eating on large meal a day, I now eat 3-5 “small” meals throughout the day. I can feel a big difference within my body, however, I am scared that I am not losing weight because I am actually eating, and I am enjoying the meals that I fix. Well, now I can say that I was scared because this blog post reassured me that food is not my enemy, and that I should not feel guilty about doing something that keeps me alive and healthy.

Sarah April 13, 2011 - 3:50 PM

My first thought is to write about it–write about those feelings of fear, get it out so you can see clearly. And, also, to write your own thoughts around this question: “What would your life look like if food wasn’t ‘the enemy?””

Lily Fluffbottom April 13, 2011 - 5:57 PM

For me, once I stopped associating guilt and rewards with food (which I still occasionally deal with), the weight came off easier. I try to not eat out as much, and I try to be as mindful about my meals as possible. Again, removing guilt from the equation makes a huge difference.

Iris April 15, 2011 - 11:04 AM

A few months ago I was grousing to myself about how tired I was of feeling guilty about everything I eat, and how I wished I could just relax and enjoy food. Then I had a big realization that the only time I feel so guilty and uptight about food is when I *don’t* have a plan. When I put some time into planning what I’m going to eat, I actually can relax and truly ENJOY what I eat.

Another thing that has really helped me has been to educate myself about nutrition so I understand the impact a food might have on my body & my weight loss. I scrupulously read nutrition labels, web sites, and books about food. I feel like I have a decent handle on this now, so it helps me to make better food decisions.

Riley April 17, 2011 - 9:13 PM

I recently found your blog and I’m learning so much. I am currently on my own weight loss journey. I am trying to shed some weight but I also feel that every time I eat I am doing something really wrong. I think its something embedded in my psyche about eating and weight loss. Being plus sized is something that I have always been, but I am trying to change that. Its been a very difficult journey, and I’m trying to fix it. I’ve never been an eater so trying to get in those small meals during the day is tough. Thanks for the good words that you’ve been putting out there.. Its been helping!

Donna July 20, 2011 - 2:35 PM

I can relate, but in the reverse. I was afraid to eat in the sense that i’d read so much about food and combinations. One trainer, person, blog, study said this, another said that. I had so much information until it was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. I was also afraid that letting go of my food habits in the short run would result in long term failure because my cravings would eventually drive me up a wall until I finally caved, binged, felt so bad from bad eating that I missed a day of working out that would turn into a week and then a month.

As a matter of fact I had an emotional outburst on here in regards to my frustration with this cycle. So for me, I didn’t stop eating. I remained a slave to the same sad cycle of bad eating and sedantarnism. Feeling like food had control over me. Much like a drug.

Honestly my help came from empowering myself with information and understanding. Casting out everthing I learned and beginning from scratc worked for me. I started to read alot here and in other places about things I knew but had forgotten. I began to reeducate myself about caloric deficits, caloric expenditures. I began focusing on what the whole spirit of this blog focuses on; health as opposed to loosing weight.

We gain weight by virtue of our unhealthy realtionship with food and failure to move our bodies. See, there it is again, the health word. And that’s what I had to realize. This isn’t about my waistline or fitting an ideal. This is about my insides being so well, so clean, and so finely conditioned that they can stand anything, anywhere anytime.

All that said, your mind has to change. Food isn’t the enemy. Its life, its fuel, its an ally in provoking the body to be the best it can; pushing it to levels you never realized it could go.

Don’t despair. Just change your MIND. Focus on health and being well, not being slender. Not being perfect in an asethetic sense. But being beautiful and shining internally from your heart to your kidneys down to your soul!

Donna July 20, 2011 - 2:36 PM

Side question: How I get my image to appear?

Erika Nicole Kendall July 21, 2011 - 6:12 AM

Sign up at gravatar.com.

Stefanie August 4, 2011 - 6:01 PM

Wow, this is a post I needed to read. I’m feeling like that, now. I have been exercising very well for the last year with small weight loss success. I will be honest – I want to lose weight – i do want to be healthier for the rest of my life, yes. But I want to not be 200+ pounds at 5’3″.
So, now, that I have made efforts in the last 2 weeks to change my eating habits, I feel like anything I eat will make me fat. If I have too much salt, I’ll hold weight. If I eat too much meat (which I’ve only had beef once in the last 2 weeks), I will not lose weight. If I have one cup of lemondade, oh hell, it’s over….I could go on and on. The point is: I’m scared that I need more than a nice healthy lifestyle change to lose weight. How do I cope, I keep researching. I have faith in myself and God. I keep reading this site. And I keep living…

Kells August 13, 2011 - 2:28 PM

Wow I am going through this right now. I have lost 52 lbs this year and am totally terrified about putting the weight back on. I have been eating no more that 1200 calories a day and some days even less. I just can’t bring myself to eat more without feeling guilty. I hope this phase i am going through will pass so that i may enjoy sensible meals instead of feeling terrified by them.

Chundra September 14, 2011 - 3:38 PM

@Stephanie. Be honest sweety if you work out 5 days a week you would be out of the 200lbs by now. Can u admot to your self that you have not been eating healthy? When i did it I got out of the 200lbs by reducing my portions and getting rid of process food. It tooked 2months I am 188lbs now. 40lbs to go! Now I am incorporating exercise so I can drop it faster. I am learning to eat to survive not for enjoyment. Since I am switching birth control I really have to exercise.

Stefanie September 14, 2011 - 8:36 PM

Hi Chundra,
I am honest – that’s why I’m here. I have admitted to myself that I do not eat as I should to make the fat move quickly. My highest weight was 262 and I am now under 230. So yes, I did make some changes over the years, but I know that there are other elements that I have yet to reduce/cut out of my daily diet. So working out 5 days a week and eating the same foods as I did years ago is keeping me at the same weight now. And I accept that. I know that I need to make changes in my life. And I guess when I’m read to do that, I will, honestly. The point of the issue was about being afraid of food. And that is what I was being honest about.

Stefanie September 14, 2011 - 8:39 PM

And thanks for your response. I am taking all of the encouragement I can get. I’m not giving up and I evaluate myself often. Congrats on your weight loss efforts.

Costrell June 12, 2013 - 10:29 PM

Hi Stefanie,

I cant relate to you, Ive been working out for two years and my body did not change, I know it was my food intake. I can be honest, Im afraid of food, food has made me over 200 lbs. Ive just started working out with a trainer and I made an appointment with my doctor to make sure Im ok internally. Im afraid, my waist is to big, I feel as if Im wasting time going to gym. After I had my baby in 2005 I got back smaller just working out at home, then I started going to the y and really got small but now that I look back I was just a smaller fat girl. I stress eat a lot, and now Im afraid to eat anything. Keep your head up you can do this.

Naomi February 1, 2012 - 7:55 PM

This is the truth. I’m sort of afraid to eat. I did low carb and lost a significant amount of weight. Avocados really helped this because the fat made me feel full and gave me a lot of energy, as did cheese and celery. But as hormones would have it, the sight of an avocado or smell of celery now makes me nauseous or want to hurl just 2 weeks later and I ended up eating carbs after feeling dizzy after a work out. Now, I’ve been adding more and more back….whole wheat bread – 1 slice, whole wheat pasta penne – about 14….but I’m terrified of gaining weight, so I don’t eat as much and the protein and fat is a lot less just cause I’m not craving it anymore – so naturally, I’m dizzy. For a few days, I didn’t even want to eat cause I either was feeling grossed by any veggie but spinach or too scared to eat a carb. Dizzy for most of those days, I gave in. Low carbing made me feel so much better energy wise. I need to get back there.

LBrooke May 16, 2012 - 5:35 PM

Love this post! I can definitely relate to being afraid to eat– in fact, I feel like this made a huge problem for me that I had in my life, even more clear. I was always overweight growing up, and because I could no longer deal with bullying and annoying comments about my weight from family, I started purging & starving myself (becoming very thin). Bring it to 7 years later, and now I’m super overweight again. That’s obviously the extreme side of fear of food, but it was that bad.

The upside? Since reading this blog, and since around the end of February.. I’ve lost around 7lbs! Just from changing my eating (haven’t incorporated working out yet (slacker)– but I’m about to invest in an elliptical. It’s slow progress, which kills me at times; but I know it’s better than nothing, and that my mind is constantly changing: becoming better & healthier- and I know that that’s the most important thing to change at first.

Viva la BGG2WL revolution!!

Odessa August 14, 2012 - 10:53 PM

I get so flustered over trying to eat healthy that I usually dont eat until 3 or 4 pm and I wake usually at 7am. Honestly the thought of having to decide what to make, if I have all the EXPENSIVE ingedients, will it look appealing and more even taste appealing is enought to make me go to bed hungry. I usually start snapping at my boyfriend and daughter cause im hungry, frustrated, tired from no food, still have to maintain a home and all the while ice cream, doughnuts, pudding cups, oreos are calling me.

Kamea August 15, 2012 - 7:29 AM

After dealing with a bad ralationship with food in the past and moving towards trusting myself. I am learning more about my body in relations to weight loss. I am very happy that I found your blog. Even though I am making progress it is very slow I lost lost 1.5 pounds for the month of July. My doctor insulted me and said that I need to eat less than 1200 calories. Since she wants me to lose 4 pounds this month. For the past day after that information I almost was afraid to eat. circuit tarining 5 days at epic hybrid training center under 1200 is not a smart idea. Luckily I found help with a vegetarian nutritionists I am as well who put me on 1400 calories this is more realistic for
me with a meal plan where I consume more fruits and vegetables and not depend on grains.

Tatiana December 14, 2012 - 11:21 AM

I recently loss some weight although I am not completely at my target goal, but I have noticed this anxiety of eating fearing that all the weight will just come back on instantly. I felt that when I gained weight over the course of four years it just crept up, and I feel like one morning I woke up overweight, but I think that I am coping with this by understanding that my perspective on food is different than four years ago, I understand the purpose of food and I am not just mindlessly eating, I am eating for health, for fuel and to be healthy. Every now and then I have to remind myself about that.

Tracy May 21, 2014 - 10:20 PM

Wow! This describes me to a T. I am on a ‘diet’ or shall I say low calorie diet because I feel that if I eat 3 meals a deal even low calorie or diet meals, I wont lose any weight, and while in the beginning I was doing fine, seeing the pounds come off was glorifying. Now I’m afraid to eat or I will gain a lb back. I guess its time for me to get a reality check and go back to eating 3 meals a day and a snack or 2. I will lose the weight still and my body (that is probably starving) will thank me for it!

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