Confession: I am Afraid Of Food

December 15, 2018

All growing up, I was a foodie. I am extremely thankful that I have a fast metabolism, because I ate three meals a day and snacks every hour or two my entire life. I loved trying new foods. I ate fruit and vegetables almost exclusively all of summer, and was healthy all throughout the year. I had a sense of an iron stomach, the only thing to bother me would be if I ate out at a fast food restaurant twice in one week. I loved spicy food, I loved food from other cultures, I loved seafood, and really just about anything.

When I Started Restricting My Food

The reasons behind my food restriction are two-fold. First of all, anxiety has caused me to experience a decent bit of stomach upset problems. In the high of my anxiety in the winter and spring of 2018, my doctor went as far as to say that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Therefore, the beginning of my food restriction was that I started to not eat foods that were too rich or spicy, and began fearing food that I had never tried. Most of this was just due to the fact that if I ate something that was not going to agree with me I was going to put myself into excruciating pain (coffee I am looking at you!). 

The second (and biggest) reason that I restrict my food is my emetophobia. Last winter, due to my large fear of Norovirus (aka the stomach bug, aka the devil), I stopped eating food with my hands. That’s right. I eat nothing with my hands. I cannot even remember the last time I touched food with my hands and then ate it, but it was over a year ago. Everything is eaten with paper towels or silverware. It was at this same time that I stopped eating out. My last memory of eating out was in September of 2017 when I had pizza. Since then I have had nothing that was prepared by a public place. 

Most of that I could live with. People restrict their diet all  the time due to digestive issues, and not eating out is not the end of the world. The part of my relationship with food that my emetophobia really ruins is how restrictive it truly has made me. 

What Food I Restrict and Why

At this point, I eat no fresh fruit that is exposed. If you bought an apple from the store and asked me to eat it, I would laugh in your face. I will eat bananas, oranges (though it is hard to eat those without touching them), frozen fruit (do not ask me why I think this is safe, since others are preparing the fruit, I try not to think of it too much so I don’t restrict that as well), and canned fruit/applesauce. The same goes for vegetables. I will eat veggies if they are boiled or baked (though depending on my anxiety that is questionable). Thankfully, vegetables are baked quite frequently, even if they normally taste better raw. I will never touch lettuce. Lettuce is one of the biggest foods that causes norovirus outbreaks.

Recently, I have begun to fear meat. I am trying to work against that as hard as I can, because I absolutely love meat. My issue with meat is that I have grown up my entire life with my mom who makes home-cooked meals. I would trust my mother with my life when it comes to cleanliness and safety in the kitchen. In 25 years of having a family she has never caused anyone to be ill, she has caught many cuts of meat that were spoiled, even when the rest of us did not. I fear my ability to do the same. My husband is also extremely unhelpful. He has the scent and palate of a literal pig. He has been known to eat rotten leftovers, with no idea that they are rotten until someone else points it out. Thankfully, he has the most iron stomach I have ever met. On one of our first “get togethers” before we were dating at 15, he showed up at the pool and nonchalantly announced he had just eaten extremely spoiled ham loaf (I waited the entire time for him to start throwing up, not even a hint of nausea). 

Technically there is a word for this type of behavior: avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. The basis of this eating disorder is that it does not come from the fear of gaining weight or a body image issue. It comes from the fear of food textures or the consequences of eating food (such as choking or getting sick). I have not been officially diagnosed with this eating disorder, because my therapist believes there are just too many variables to why I do not eat. Also, even if I was diagnosed, the goal would still be in curing my emetophobia, which is already diagnosed. 

Where Does This Leave Me?

I eat a lot of pasta, a lot of sandwiches, a lot of frozen foods, and a lot of snacks. On one hand, sometimes that is helpful to meet my calorie count for the day, which can help me to maintain my weight and hope to one day gain weight back. Yet at the same time, I am a health freak. I love my fruits, vegetables, and meat. Without them, sometimes I feel sluggish and even more anxious. There are also times when I am brought to tears with frustration because my husband will be eating fruit or enjoying a food that is questionable to me. I want to go back to loving food and eating. My struggle with food is infuriating, saddening, and mentally and physically unhealthy. If you are struggling with food in any way, and are doing anything but loving tucking into a good dish because of mental health, please seek help. Food is a gift that is meant to be enjoyed, not matter who you are or what your situation is. 


  • Dessy Markova January 6, 2019 at 9:59 am

    I feel your story so much. I have an eating disorder too, different than yours though. I hope you stay healthy! xoxo

  • Sandra Tanner January 28, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Thank you for being transparent and talking ABOUT THIS. This is so true in many ways .

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