Anyone who’s never experienced moments of disordered eating is most likely looking at this title and thinking, “safe foods?” what the heck does that mean? Safe foods, in the simplest terms, are anything considered “clean” or “healthy” that someone with an eating disorder (or the beginning of disordered habits) permits his or herself to eat. Full disclosure, though? There’s nothing simple about safe foods or the inner compulsion that they cause. In order to overcome these dangerous patterns regarding food, it’s important to understand them. So let’s talk about what the heck safe foods really are and why we need to know about them.
Safe Foods 101
You know those tacky stickers that you get to wear at social events that say “Hello, my name is ___”? Well, if safe foods had one of those it would read, Hello, my name is:
- constant anxiety
- terrified of full fat
- won’t go near anything high in calories
- confused for highly motivated
- actually not driven by great will power
Not exactly the best first impression, am I right? And let me assure you that the more you get to know safe foods, the more dysfunctional the relationship becomes. Safe foods are generally associated with Orthorexia, restriction and/or binging caused by intense fear of eating anything unhealthy, but have a significant role in Anorexia and Bulimia as well. At their core, safe foods cause an individual to build up irrational fears surrounding foods that are higher in fat, calories, or carbs. And over time, the list of “safe foods” becomes even more restricted.
Truth? We All Give Safe Foods Some Power
And it’s a problem. Because every time you hear a man or woman say, “Oh I was so bad today, I started with one piece of pizza and I just couldn’t stop!” or something like it, someone listening begins to understand pizza as a fear food, something unsafe to eat because it simply can’t be controlled. This is totally false. Intuitive eating teaches us that no food is inherently dirty or pure, dangerous or safe, when enjoyed in moderation. The trick to striking out safe foods (and the fears that go with them) and returning to a truly healthy, anxiety-free relationship with food is removing the stigma that enjoying something higher in calorie, more processed, or less nutrient dense is wrong.
Permission To Eat Risky
Depending on the severity of the disordered eating habits, safe foods can be limited to just vegetables and lean protein without any seasoning or a range of lower calorie items. Regardless, if you want to improve your relationship with food and get rid of the painful numbers and pressures that safe foods impose, you gotta get a little risky. Meaning that the only way to work through safe foods and fear foods is to challenge them consistently. The free worksheet below is a great resource to help you do just that. You’ll start by listing all the foods you consider to be “safe”. Next, you’ll make a separate list of foods that are not safe, that you avoid for fear of their unhealthy attributes. Don’t hold back, just get it out in the open. In the following sections you’ll think of 3 reasons to challenge “safe foods”, 3 reasons to recover from orthorexia (or whichever disordered eating pattern you follow), and one thing you’ll do daily to make it happen.
Life Can Be Different
I’ve been where you are, or maybe where you hope to never get to. I know what it’s like to be terrified to go out to eat with family and friends, because what if none of my safe foods are on the menu? Do I bring food with me? Will people think there’s something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with me? Those questions and fears are the disorder talking, and let me let you in on a little secret: it’s voice may be loud but yours is louder. Your life doesn’t have to revolve around safe foods, calorie counting, and anxiety. It is possible to eat without obsessing over the contents, have priorities irrelevant to nutrition, and be happy again. I know you can do this. Download the free worksheet above to start really challenging those safe foods, and know that you have what it takes to beat this.
Want Exclusive Videos?
Subscribe to our mailing list to unlock 10 VIP videos!