Taking Certain Foods Out of the Shame Category
A common symptom of anorexia is associating specific foods with shame, fear, or distress.1 In spite of all the progress I've made to heal from my eating disorder, this restrictive outlook on food still remains one of the toughest myths to dispel. But with some encouragement from my personal trainer, I have recently started taking certain foods out of the shame category. Here's what I am discovering in the process.
These Are the Foods I'm Taking Out of the Shame Category
Certain foods scare me—namely, those with sugar. I place these foods in the shame category. For almost 20 years, this ingredient has felt like my evil nemesis. I used to panic if I unknowingly ate a food item with even trace amounts of refined sugar. I would envision it contaminating my insides, poisoning my staunch commitment to health and nutrition. I hated myself for allowing such a careless blunder in the first place. I was consumed by these anxious, restrictive attitudes, but I also had no intention of combatting them.
However, because I ate enough calories to sustain a normal weight, I could justify this behavior without raising concerns. It wasn't until I started to work with a personal trainer that I realized just how extreme, irrational, and suffocating my fears had become. In a recent coaching session, my trainer mentioned the importance of sugar intake to help sustain endurance levels while hiking in strenuous conditions. I felt a visceral reaction to her words. My palms began to sweat. My stomach twisted. My breathing came in shallow bursts. Even the idea of sugar consumption filled me with shame. At this moment, I knew my eating disorder was still in control.
Noticing my visible spike in discomfort, my trainer went on to explain that sugar is not the enemy of health. In fact, the human body requires this ingredient to function. Sugar is basically just the soluble (or simple) form of carbohydrates, which the body converts into fuel and then burns as energy.2 If I want to accomplish intense, vigorous feats—such as the hike I am currently training for—then I need sugar to perform. Otherwise, I might simply run out of steam. As that realization calcified in me, I had to accept it was time to start taking certain foods out of the shame category.
How I Feel About Taking Certain Foods Out of the Shame Category
I never thought I would experience this, but it's an immense relief to take certain foods out of the shame category. I have learned that when I consume the ingredients and nutrients my body craves, I can hike for miles without breaking stride. I feel nourished, strong, capable, resilient, and energetic. I still have some residual fears and anxieties, but I am actively choosing not to let these emotions wield all the power. Food (even sugar) is necessary—there's no shame in that.
- Fitzsimmons-Craft, E., et al (2015). Restrictive eating in anorexia nervosa: Examining maintenance and consequences in the natural environment. International Journal of Eating Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.22439
- Facts about sugar and sugar substitutes. (2022, November 15). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/facts-about-sugar-and-sugar-substitutes
Schurrer, M. (2023, September 20). Taking Certain Foods Out of the Shame Category, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2023/9/taking-certain-foods-out-of-the-shame-category