6 Ways to Stop Feeling So Anxious Around the Food

For some people, the word “diet” is enough to trigger anxiety, fear of failure, desire for the queso tilt and Nutella-filled donuts in one you should not eat. Even if you are not saying that you are on a diet, you may try to see what you eat or reduce the sugar before that regret the pain from eating a piece of red after another colleague’s birthday cake. The unhealthy pattern of guilt is Melissa Hartwig cocreator Whole30’s plan to help you fight in her book food forever free: give up bad habits, guilty, anxious in food.

The thing is like this: you should be able to occasionally eat donuts and love every furry bite after not humiliating yourself. Happy to have the weight loss goals and hope to have a healthy you, but mental health is just as important as physics, so finding peace with your eating habits is key to long-term success. Food is always free, Hartwig outlines how to reset your eating habits and regain control of your food choices. Here are six of her tips that you can use to stop stressing at all your meals to start enjoying it.


Eliminate “shame” from your food vocabulary.

“The words you choose to describe your food and yourself have real power,” Hartwig says. “Treating yourself like a child who needs to ‘be good’ on their diet is misguided. What happens when a child misbehaves? They are punished. Food should never be associated with punishment.” And try to stop categorizing the foods you eat as “good” or “bad.” Doing so only heightens the guilt you feel when you eat something from your “bad” list.

Hartwig writes, “Someone asked me on Facebook recently, ‘I ate a Whole30-inspired diet all day, and I know what to call that—I just say I ate Whole30. But what should I call it when later, I eat some pizza? Cheat? Slip? Fail?’” Her reply: “What if you just called it ‘eating pizza?’”


Take deep breaths.

It sounds silly, but it’s effective. When you start obsessing over whether or not to eat one of the cupcakes at your friend’s party, your stress has the power to alter your breathing—“kind of like panic breathing,” says Hartwig. So “by changing your breathing pattern, you can send a signal to your nervous system that you’re actually DOING JUST FINE, which helps you activate the willpower center of your brain and feel more in control.” There’s no need to stop what you’re doing to meditate; simply focus on slowing down your breathing to a 2:1 ratio of exhale to inhale, Hartwig advises.

Celebrate “non-scale victories.”

Cleaning up your diet can bring more benefits than just weight loss. For instance, more energy, clearer skin, fuller hair, or fewer joint aches. “At Whole30, we call these types of improvements ‘non-scale victories,’” Hartwig says. Whether you’re trying the Whole30 or simply focusing on making better food choices, these extra perks can help keep you on track. “Free yourself from the preoccupation with body weight and allow yourself the space to focus on all the other things that are changing as the result of your healthy eating efforts,” says Hartwig.


Put your temptation in timeout.

When that second beer or plate of brownies is sitting on the table right in front of you, it’s hard to resist grabbing another. But first, ask yourself if you really want it—and push that food aside before answering, says Hartwig. “Tell yourself you’re not going to eat it now, but if you still really want it 15 minutes from now (or an hour from now, or tomorrow), you’ll allow yourself to enjoy it then,” she says. “This gives your brain the space it needs to evaluate whether you truly want it, whether you’re just feeling bored/anxious/lonely, etc., and whether or not it will actually be worth it.”

Savor your favorite foods.

Taking your time lets you truly enjoy what you’re eating. Why buy that cookie from your favorite bakery if you scarf it down so quickly you hardly taste it? In Hartwig’s words: “Get downright romantic with that cookie.” On the flipside, if that cronut is not nearly as delicious as you imagined before biting into it (hey, maybe they’re just not your thing), don’t hesitate to stop eating. “The only reason to indulge in a less-healthy treat in the first place is if it’s so incredibly, deliriously worth it that you’re willing to accept the less-healthy consequences,” Hartwig says.


Press pause.

When eating, “put down the fork of the habit or the glass between each bite,” Hartwig said. This little trick will help you like the taste in your fork, give your brain time to catch hunger signals from your digestive system. Is also “the physical clue that you eat what and how it makes you feel.”

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