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Have you become scared to eat? Maybe you just fear going out to eat due to cross-contamination or maybe you are so overwhelmed with what to eat that you become anxious at the mear mention of food.
If you answered yes to any of these, then you may be struggling with food anxiety. What, you ask, is food anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
In relation to food, this would mean that you worry or feel nervous about food – whether that pertains to eating it, buying it, or preparing it.
As you can imagine, having food anxiety can be a real problem as we need to eat food to survive.
How it starts
Some people develop food anxiety after receiving a Celiac Diagnosis. We were fortunate enough to not go through this (completely). My daughter struggled with her diagnosis, and I struggled with having to change where I shopped and how I cooked, but we muddled through and came out better for it.
Others have a less fortunate outcome.
We were fortunate to have a good support system and that I was willing to try whatever it took to help my daughter feel better. I’m not trying to discount other’s situations, just noting that after receiving my daughter’s diagnosis I was relieved to know what the issue was and that there was something I could do about it.
I believe one of the biggest culprits is a lack of support. We were fortunate to have a family member that was already diagnosed and the ability to meet with a good dietician (fully covered by our insurance). Without close family or friends who understand and empathize it can be difficult to process a life-changing diagnosis. Unfortunately, some people think eating gluten free is a choice and not something that is done to save your life. They don’t see Celiac Disease as an autoimmune disorder but as a “diet” which is unfortunate.
Additionally, once diagnosed, some doctors give the diagnosis and just tell their patients “don’t eat gluten and you will be fine” and leave it at that. Although that is true, it isn’t overly helpful as gluten is in a lot of things that aren’t even food related. Meeting with a dietician is always recommended IF they are knowledgeable about Celiac Disease. Ours gave lists of local grocery shops that carried a variety of gluten free items along with 100% gluten free bakeries. It was extremely helpful!
Fear of Eating
Some people become so anxious they have a fear of eating and severely restrict their diet. I can understand this. I have seen my daughter get sick on more than one occasion because of something she “thought” was safe. It sucks! I believe that being cautious and reading labels is key, especially if you are a very sensitive Celiac.
You can still have a variety of foods and even your favorites (just make them gluten free). We have slowly done. I even purchased an air fryer just so we could have wings, lol. Let me tell you, wing night has been a huge hit! If you need help, please let me know. I am a firm believer that a Celiac diagnosis is just a way for the person to become healthy and nothing more.
Fear of Eating Out
We struggled with this a lot initially. In fact, we still struggle a bit and definitely do not eat out as frequently but we have managed to do pretty well and not let it negatively impact our travels.
Some people struggle with where to start or which places are truly safe. Instead of asking around, some Celiacs avoid eating out altogether. If that works for you, that’s fine; but if you miss eating out and are avoiding it due to fear, then that is an entirely different issue.
One thing I found helpful was to search Facebook for local groups. I just searched “Celiac and Las Vegas” and found one that was great for local restaurant information. We even have a local gluten free bakery that is awesome!
Another idea, which might be a little scarier, pick a place and just try it. If you live in a more rural area, this may be a little more difficult. However, if you live in or near a city, there are many chain restaurant that is Celiac safe, PF Changs is one. There is always a risk of cross-contamination, even in restaurants that are more knowledgeable. However, I believe the risk is worth taking if you enjoy eating out or traveling.
Maybe you are so overwhelmed with what is safe and what isn’t that the mear thought of going to the grocery store and having to read all the labels have you cowering in the corner.
If you resemble that remark, there are ways to minimize your anxiety. There are many delivery services, such as Amazon and Thrive that carry a wide variety of certified gluten free items. Also, shopping in the outer isles and buying whole foods are always a good place to start too. Just be mindful of packaged foods and the deli.
If you have full blown anxiety, I would definitely recommend looking into talking to a therapist who specializes in anxiety. There is no shame in asking for help. I have struggled with anxiety and know how debilitating it can be and have found therapy extremely helpful.
I have never allowed our daughter’s diagnosis to limit our love of travel or her love of trying new foods.
The main idea to focus on is that food anxiety CAN occur if you don’t deal with your initial feelings after diagnosis. It’s a lot to comprehend initially, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating. You can still live your life the way you want with some minor adjustments.
We still travel, we still eat out, we still eat the things we love – it just takes more planning than it did before. If you think you might be headed down the food anxiety path and want to vent, please feel free to contact me.