The other day I had a hot chocolate with whipped cream. I cannot remember the last time I did this. Actually, no, I can: I was probably about twelve, and we were on a family holiday to Scotland, and we’d gone on the chair lifts to the top of Ben Nevis. That was eight years ago, if I’m remembering my age correctly.
For a while now I’ve been stuck somewhere between being very nearly recovered from the issues I have with food. I am at a healthy weight. Physically I am not cold all the time, my nails aren’t brittle, my hair and skin aren’t dull, I have energy, I don’t get bruises on my back and hips from lying on the floor to do yoga or workout in the gym. I am for all intents and purposes physically on top form. I eat a well balanced, healthy diet- yet I’m still effectively scared of eating some foods. These are fear foods, and I’ve been chipping away at them for a long, long time now. They are my last hurdle in my mental recovery. I never used to be able to eat toast with butter. Now, I do it all the time. I never used to add salt, or ketchup, or brown sauce. Now I do. I’d rather not have eaten baked beans, regular potato, rice, or noodles about a year ago, or I’d have eaten them extremely sparingly- now, I eat them with ease. Without trying to find a “healthier” alternative. Because let’s be honest, they’re already pretty damn healthy. Those are the fear foods that I’ve found easiest. Mainly because, they are savoury foods. I struggle much more with sweet foods.
I am a person with little to no sweet tooth. I like certain sweet things. I’ll eat some chocolate and there’s a small handful of desserts I love, but can take or leave the majority. However, I am also scared of some of them, and I don’t want to be scared of any food. To feel completely okay, I want to face these fears.
My issue with sweet foods is this: way back when, when I was deep in binge eating and restricting, sweet foods were my go-to. When my binge eating began I would wait until my family went out, and then raid the cupboards. To this day I still have memories of eating virtually a whole loaf of gingerbread in one sitting – and a lot of other stuff too. When I was spiked in my first year of uni it triggered a massive binge, and amongst the foods I ate were: one Krispy Kreme doughnut, two subway cookies, one Millie’s Cookies muffin, one slice of carrot cake…I never wanted to do that to myself again, and the majority of the foods listed I haven’t been able to bring myself to touch since. Mainly because I don’t actually like them. If someone offered me them, I could turn them down without a second thought as I hate all of them- but anyone who has ever experienced binge eating will know you eat pretty much anything when you’re in that headspace, only to wake up in a daze an hour or two later. Sweet things have always been something I’m not that fussed for- but I was also brought up eating dessert every single night (my mum does have a sweet tooth). And because when you’re younger, you just do what everyone else does, and want to leave the table and play…I would eat sweet food anyway. Hence, from that age I probably began to internalise that it didn’t matter if the flavour was particularly amazing- I could still eat it. And go back for seconds. My fullness signals didn’t really matter.
So here I am. Feeling so close to being normal with food, at a healthy weight- but still cringing around certain foods. Most of them I can’t even remember how they taste, and so I’m unsure if trying them is worth it- would I feel guilty for “wasting” an opportunity to face a fear food I want to enjoy…only to hate it? The answer: I’ll try them anyway. Because otherwise I will never know. Some fear foods I have eaten, and realised I don’t actually like after having them a few times- some of them have not sat well in my stomach at all, but I tried them and I’m not longer scared of them, and I now don’t have to eat them if I don’t like them, or know they genuinely don’t agree with me.
Sometimes I can easily try a fear food. Like the hot chocolate. Other times, I find it very difficult, and have to ask myself if I do actually want it. This is where binge eating clashes with trying such foods, and I find that my recovery is quite complicated: sometimes I know, deep down, that it’s actually emotional eating that’s driving me to eat a certain fear food, not the desire to beat the fear surrounding it. That’s when I have to take a step back and reconsider trying a fear food that day, as in all likelihood it will trigger a binge (I’m very familiar with those feelings now), and if this will instead increase future fear. Instead, I’ll often have to say “on this day we (meaning me) are going to X place, and we are going to try X food”. If it’s planned then I begin to look forward to it- for me, that makes it easier. Sometimes I need someone with me, whether they know they’re providing support or not, and sometimes I need to do it alone, and sometimes I need to text my mum. Sometimes, I just can’t do it. And sometimes I do it with ease. I thought each time it would get easier, but really it depends on my mood, the food, and even who I’m with. But, I can always try another day, because I’m in this for the long run.
So, below I have a little list. Of some of the foods I still want to try- in fact, pretty much all I have left. Some are sweet, some aren’t, some I find just plain odd that I’m scared of them. If I think about each, then I can see my reason, and that helps me logically approach them, understanding that fear.
- Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ( I once ate a whole tub during a binge – I think in the spiking binge I mentioned earlier- so this is a massive fear food)
- Starbuck’s Cinnamon Bun (never ever had one; the sugar content scares me. EDIT: as this post goes up, I have now tried this. Didn’t think it was amazing, but it was okay, and it’s no longer scary at all)
- A freshly made crepe
- Pizza I haven’t made
- Starbuck’s Lemon & Poppyseed muffin
- Homecooked pasta
- Salmon & cream cheese bagel
- Toasties with cheese I haven’t added myself
- Raw pecan pie with dates and loads of whole pecans (even though it’s classed as “healthy”, the idea of this is a bit frightening!)
- Burger & chips (the combination of the two specifically – I’m okay with burgers on their own)
- Coffee with flavoured syrup (I hate sweet coffee, but I’m well aware I’m also scared of the syrup, so just once I need to taste it)
If you’re in a similar situation, do any of them look familiar? If you have any tips for people in a similar situation, or want to share your own story, then be sure to comment…