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Confessions of a food lover: Overcoming Acne-Induced Food Fear

Food Fear - avoiding eating certain foods for fear it will cause a symptom or reaction (like acne)

Let’s be honest, I am a girl who loves food. I am forever taking photos of my meals (yes I’ll make you wait 😉) I’ll prioritise asking you what you ate on your holiday. I’ll always look up the menus of restaurants on my “must try list”. And there’s nothing I love more than cooking a meal for people I love (literally it should be my love language).

But I didn’t always used to be like this.

Having acne ruined my relationship with food. Back when my gut was a complete mess, I was constantly breaking out with certain foods I ate. So I became I a perfectionist, an over-analyser. I was like Sherlock Holmes trying to work out which foods were reacting with me. I restricted foods that I thought were breaking me out. I was only cooking the “cleanest” and healthiest things. If I ate out, I would stress about eating a single ingredient that was on my “no list”. And I was having melt downs when the wrong type of muesli was bought (I must have been a joy to live with…).

I loved food, but I was afraid of food.

what is food fear

Food fear comes when we are afraid of eating certain things for fear it will cause a symptom or a reaction.

It’s not wanting to eat the cupcake because you’re scared you will gain weight. It’s avoiding that tiny slice of cheese because you fear it will cause acne. It’s labelling food as “bad” or “good” and fearing the repercussions of eating anything on that bad list.

This fear of food and breaking out was causing an internal battle in my mind. It was a constant niggling voice questioning whether this ingredient was going to cause acne. I was obsessed for better word and this food fear developed into an obsessive relationship with food known as orthorexiawhich is when a person becomes fixated on eating healthy foods.  

Don’t get me wrong, there are times where you might have to remove certain foods from your diet TEMPORARILY while you heal your gut and skin like I did. But, in saying that, once you heal your gut, it’s so important to start bringing back the foods you once reacted to. When you restrict foods long term because you’re afraid of the reaction, it’ll only be more detrimental to your gut and health in the long run (and rewind all that work you just did).

Once you’ve developed this food fear, the challenge is how to rewire it. This is where the hard work begins…

The Mindset Shift

In my opinion, I think this is the hardest thing to overcome. It’s not taking out the foods that’s the hardest, it’s bringing the foods back in. Changing the mindset around foods I had previously labelled as “bad”, was no easy feat. But the key is to know that you have done the healing work and to trust that your body can handle these foods that once caused acne.

It’s not just your internal mindset, but it also involves filtering out the constant bombardment of information about what foods cause acne. It’s so common in the acne-space to say don’t eat eggs, gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate etc etc. because it will cause acne. But all this is fear based talk is scaring people into thinking they can’t eat those things forever or they’ll break out. What people are failing to mention is that every person is different. Every person has a different tolerance to things. It’s about finding out what your body can handle. Maybe you have to remove certain things for a time while your body calms down, but then you can start work out what you can consume – where your threshold lies.

food reactions may cause acne. So when you remove the food it can go one of 2 ways: cause food fear, avoid food forever, get more acne. OR do some gut healing, reintroduce food and mindset shifts and have less acne.

3 ways to reduce food fear and get your love of eating back

1. Change your Mindset

I can’t eat this because it will break me out.

I can’t go out to dinner, I won’t be able to eat anything.

I have to burn off that chocolate cake.

A lot of our anxiety is the mindset around food or what the food could do to us. So I challenge you, the next time you sit down to eat and you have those thought patterns, I want you to breathe. Take a moment and reframe those fear-based thoughts. I’ll start:

“I’m going to break out” ->  My body knows how to absorb this food perfectly.

“I have to eat healthy or I’ll gain weight” ->  I am fuelling my body with nourishing beautiful foods because I love my body.

“I have to burn more calories” ->  I exercise because I love the way it makes me feel

2. Stop Labeling Food

Don’t label food as “good” or “bad”. It’s not like the villain and the hero. Food is food. It shouldn’t be categorised or demonised as it only perpetuates this thinking. Yes, some foods are less ideal or healthier than others. But it’s about BALANCE. Eating a nourishing unprocessed, wholefood diet, but giving yourself the permission to eat those occasional indulgences too and feel NO guilt for it. That’s the goal.

3. Don’t stress, enjoy it

Say you’re sitting down to a meal at a restaurant, you’re looking down at your plate at something you didn’t realise was in it. Maybe it’s dairy, gluten or something else. You immediately become so stressed about whether these foods are going to break you out – it’s literally all you can think about.

Then what happens is your body switches into the sympathetic nervous system mode – which is basically like your body thinking you’re running from a tiger instead of sitting down for a meal. Your body is not going to digest the food properly at ALL (no one is going to digest food when you’re running from a tiger). And it starts flooding your body with cortisol which is a huge acne trigger. So all the guilt and the stress about eating the food on your plate, is making it harder to digest, releasing cortisol and physically causing the symptoms (like acne) your trying to avoid in the first place. So relax, take a long deep breath and let your body digest.

A healthy relationship with food is a journey. It’s a mental game. But you can take back the power so you can finally start to enjoy food again. No restrictive diets required.

Always here,

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