One of the things I had to overcome during my recovery was to face my anxiety and fear of gaining weight. To get back to my healthy weight, I had to gain 20 kg / 45 pounds to be back at 55 kg / 121 pounds, which was the weight my body was comfortable and healthy at.
Gaining 20 kg was scary, but I learned how to overcome my fearful and anxious thoughts about it.
I was anxious and fearful because I had been living with Ana for 2 years. Ana was familiar, safe, and I felt secure and in control when I was with her. But I had to let Ana go to get my life back. Even though recovery was one of the scariest journey I ever took, recovering from my eating disorder was one of the most rewarding things I gained.
Like embarking on any journey of anything new and unfamiliar, there will be feelings of anxiety and fear. But these feelings will go away.
Trust me when I say that recovery, no matter how difficult or scary it is, it will be worth it!
This post is focused to giving you my 3 tips in how to overcome your anxiety / fear about weight gain and turning it into excitement for the future.
I want to emphasize this as with recovery you will gain so much in understanding your relationship with food, body, and mind. Through understanding, you will gain an awareness of the thinking patterns that is not serving or helpful to you and it will set you free to be able to live the life you want and be healthy to pursue your dreams.
Now isn’t that something to be excited for?!
So here are my 3 tips in how to overcome your Anxiety to Excitement for the Future:
1. Understanding your anxiety
There are 2 types of anxiety that you will be feeling. Initially, these 2 types will be hard to differentiate from another as they do intertwine. But with understanding and the further you are in your path with recovery you will be able to differentiate between the two and choose to not feed your anxiety.
The anxiety you might be feeling is worry, unease, or nervousness about eating more food than usual and how it is going to affect or make your body look like. This anxiety might also be fixed with fear, which is a feeling that is fueled by the belief that something dangerous or unpleasant is going to happen to your body.
In my recovery, I felt a mixture of both anxiety and fear. On some days, the feelings were so intense that I couldn’t do anything else, except count every single calorie and portion control of what was going into my mouth or not eat at all. However, I learned that this was preventing my recovery and I knew that I had to find a way to manage these feelings I was feeling so that I can heal.
So I went and researched in how food nourishes our body’s chemical well-being and helps us feel good.
2 types of anxiety:
-Biological anxiety / fear
Food is nourishment for the body and mind. When we are not eating enough food, we do not have the raw material to fuel our body so that it feels good. Imagine a car, when it does not have enough gas pumping through its system, it starts breaking down, and eventually it’ll stop. Our bodies are similar, in order to feel good, it must have enough food to fuel it so it can function on a healthy level.
Bear with me it’s going to get a bit sciency-
The chemical responsible for making us feel good, calm, happy, and at peace is serotonin. Our brain can produce serotonin when we eat the adequate amounts of the amino acid tryptophan.
Tryptophan can be found in these foods: seeds & nuts, nut butter, bananas, salmon, eggs, oats, chicken, turkey, chocolate. There are other foods, but these foods contain high levels of tryptophan.
These foods are healthy, tasty and will tone down your feelings of anxiety and fear. Instead, you will feel more calm, happy, and at peace.
My favorite among them are bananas, almond butter, and chocolate of course!!
When I was constantly trying to lose weight, I had cut out food groups, namely carbs, meat, eggs, and healthy fats because of their high calorie content. In my recovery, I slowly incorporated these foods back into my diet as I learned that food is no longer a number, but food is healthy and good for you. So if you have cut out entire food groups in an effort to lose weight, I would encourage you to incorporate these foods slowly back into your meals. We need the nutrients in these foods so that we can nourish our body and mind back to health.
I also learned to make tasty recipes that incorporate high tryptophan foods so that food became enjoyable for me to eat again:
Check out some of these fun recipes that are high in tryptophan:
– Mind anxiety / fear:
A big part of what was fueling my fear and anxiety, was from what I was thinking in my mind.
Our thoughts are the seed of our emotions.
When I repeated thought of, ‘If I eat this, it will make me fat, and gain weight.’ I won’t be able to eat anything and be trapped in feeling anxious and fearful. The thoughts often spiral and it will be bigger than it really is.
I had to get real with my thoughts.
And I mean really real.
Instead of letting fear and anxiety take the wheel, I learned to talk back at my own thoughts.
Fearful Anxious thoughts:
‘If I eat this, it will make me fat and gain weight.’
‘Hence, I cannot eat this.’
‘If I get fat, everyone will make fun of me and criticize how I look.’
Loving positive talk back:
‘Really? If I eat healthy, nutritious, balanced meals, it will make me fat? No it will not, I will be nourishing my body with the nutrients that it needs to heal, recover so I can be healthy.’
‘No one is going to criticize me, I will be at a healthy weight that my body feels good at.’
From practicing in talking back at my fearful, anxiety driven thoughts, I had a reality check.
Is it gaining weight that I really fear or is it the criticism that I was afraid of? When I had embarked on my diet from being 7 kg overweight, I had received some hurtful comments about my appearance. So it wasn’t the gaining weight I was afraid of, I was afraid of receiving hurtful comments and this fear had been fueled with my lack of self-esteem from childhood.
Understanding this allowed me to let my fear go of gaining weight, because the truth was that:
-My low weight was at a life threatening level.
-I needed to gain weight so that my body and mind could stop being in pain, stop easily bruising, and have the energy to go about my day-to-day life.
Have a reality check with your thoughts and ask how you can think from a loving and more positive perspective.
2. Make your recovery goals visible
Understanding where my anxiety and fear came from, helped me overcome it and helped me listen to my body’s hunger and eat. So I hoped that the first step is useful for you.
Another helpful tip is that I wrote down my recovery goals on a colourful sheet of paper and stuck it in a place where I would see it everyday. I made multiple copies of it.
Here are the places where I put it:
-On top of the drawer table next to my bed where I would look at it before going to bed.
-In the mirror in my bedroom and bathroom so I would look at it when I wake up.
-In the cupboard of my kitchen so I would see it before everytime I eat a meal.
Some of the goals I put on the list was:
-getting my period back
-being able to eat anything I like without feeling guilty, fearful, or anxious about it
-being able to sit comfortably without my bones sticking through my bum
-being able to play sports again
-being able to do my hobbies (read, paint, bake, etc) without getting interrupted by guilty or food fearful thoughts
-travel and see the world
-graduate from law school
-feeling good and healthy about my body and mind
-pursue my dreams
I also put a photo of what I looked like before I met Ana, and seeing how healthy by body looked and how happy I looked motivated me even more to leave Ana and get my life back.
See my first post of this Be Fre(ed) series where I give the 7 Motivational Milestones to give you ideas of the goals that you might want to gain from recovery.
Seeing my goals everyday helped me keep focus of where I wanted to be with my relationship with food, my body and mind.
I encourage you to write down your goals from recovery and put in in a place where you can see it everyday. I promise, seeing it repeatedly will help you keep motivated and keep pushing through those difficult days where you feel like you want to restrict and not eat.
Seeing your goals will also help turn your feelings of anxiety and fear to feeling excited for the future.
I truly believe that with commitment to your health you can heal.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
I want to close with this quote from Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book ‘Switch on Your Brain’
‘To think positively about our prospects, we must be able to imagine ourselves in the future. Our brains may have stamps from the past, but they are being rewired by our expectation of the future. Imagining a positive future reduces the pain of the past.’
Commit to practice challenging your fearful and anxious thoughts from a loving and positive perspective. The more you do this, the easier it gets. From repeated practice, your anxiety and fears will melt away. And they will be replaced with thoughts that are loving, positive, filled with hope and joy for yourself and the future.
To get more in depth of how you can rewire those fearful and anxious thoughts see here in my post of Miracle Mind II where I provide the 5 steps that I practice daily to maintain my recovery and keep my thoughts healthy.
This is your Wellness to Go for turning your Anxiety to Excitement!
1. Understand your anxiety
The differences between:
-Feeling your anxiety but not feeding it!
2. Make your recovery goals visible!
-Essential to keep you motivated!
3. Practice, practice, practice
-Your anxiety will lessen and it will get easier and better the more you practice from thinking a loving and positive perspective!
Thank you for reading and I hope that my 3 tips in turning your Anxiety to Excitement for the Future is helpful to you!
If you have any questions, or comments about recovery issues, feel free to leave a comment and I would be happy to answer them or do a blog post on it!
If you also have been through recovery and have dealt with overcoming with fear and anxiety, do you have your own tips of managing and overcoming them? I would love to know!
Continue on working on your recovery, no matter how difficult it may seem, believe that you can be FREE from your food, body, and mind struggles and live the life you want.
Coming up for Part IV: Let’s Think about our Thinking! In this post, I will be giving my tips on how to be more aware and mindful of your thinking. One of the most essential tools that helped me through recovery was learning how to see my own thoughts without judgement or criticism.
Much love and connect with you soon!
This Be Fre(ed) series is dedicated to helping those of you who may be struggling with food, or body image, or feel trapped in their minds with negative / harmful thoughts that may be weighing you down.
I want to get to know YOU more, what are some of the struggles that you have with food or body image? If you are recovering from an ED, what are some of the difficulties that you have been encountering?
Feel free to comment below, or send me an email at email@example.com. You can also connect with me via Instagram @wellnesstogo, Facebook, or Twitter @thewellnesstogo. I read every single email, or comment that comes through and will answer to your questions! I am here to serve you so that you can find food, body, and mind freedom, and be the healthiest, happiest and most loving version of yourself!