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Do You Have Food Fear? Here’s How to Feel Confident In Eating Again

As a functional medicine doctor, a major discussion topic in virtually every appointment is around food.  What to eat, what not to eat, pros of this diet, cons of this diet, etc.  At the end of the day, we always want to create a plan that fits each individual.  A growing trend I’ve seen in recent years is food fear. What’s food fear? It’s when you’re too afraid to eat anything because you’re worried it’s not healthy. They are so worried about not eating the right foods, that it actually makes it hard for them to get enough nutrition every day. I want to put your mind at ease that if you can’t get optimal food every meal of the day, it won’t keep you from leading a healthy life. 

It’s great that you are reading labels and choosing wholesome foods. Making the right diet changes are the key to gut health and beyond, but you can just as quickly develop an unhealthy relationship with healthy foods!

orthorexia nervosa

What Food Fear Looks Like

In my practice here in Toronto, I see patients every day that are ready to start on their health journey. It’s actually why I created the Health Gut Institute, to support my patients in their life-long changes. But, when my patients get to the point that they are too afraid to eat anything for fear that it isn’t healthy enough, there is a problem. 

It’s normal to spend extra time figuring out how to cook, what to buy at the grocery store, and what to order from a restaurant when you first change your diet. However, you have to round the corner at some point and settle into your new normal. If you find that you are completely fixated on your diet and restricting more and more foods, then it’s time for help. If clean eating has become such a priority that it rules your life, there is a disconnect here.

Orthorexia – An Obsession With Eating The Right Foods.

While Orthorexia is not a recognized eating disorder yet, it is on it’s way to becoming a clinical diagnosis. Dr. Steven Bratman named the disorder “Orthorexia Nervosa” in 1996 because the patients in his alternative medicine clinic were developing an unhealthy relationship with eating the right foods.  

Dr. Bratman noticed that his patients were becoming overly obsessed with the foods they consumed. Those that deal with this disorder are fixated on food purity, rather than losing weight like other eating disorders.

Symptoms of Orthorexia


How do you spot orthorexia in your own life or someone else you love? Here are a few things to watch out for. 

  • Eating emotionally
  • Allowing self-esteem to be based on what healthy foods you consume
  • Feeling guilty when deviating from your strict diet guidelines
  • Consumed with thoughts of food
  • Being critical of others that are not adhering to rigorous diets
  • Breaking friendships and family relationships because of your point of view
  • Increased depression, anxiety, or mood swings

These are a few signs that you have an unhealthy relationship with food. If you are experiencing these symptoms, let’s talk! I want to help you work through your fear of food.

How to Develop a Healthy Relationship With Food

What’s most important to me is that my patients develop a healthy relationship with food. A good relationship means that you will consistently nourish yourself

1. Mindful Eating

A woman is eating a bowl of food

Practice mindfulness when you eat. Pay attention to how your body reacts or responds to the foods you are eating. You’re simply acknowledging whether you are still hungry or are full after you eat.

2. Remove Shame and Guilt From Your Mindset

Don’t give in to shame or guilt when you eat something that isn’t up to your ideals. Giving into shame or guilt can actually lead to punishing behaviors like binging or emotionally eating. Rather, commit to enjoying the foods you eat and savoring it.

3. Nourish Your Body Everyday

eat more eat less chart

Ultimately, you want to nourish your body every single day. Focus on eating healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables. Do the best you can with what you have available.

4. Get Guidance on Your Diet

Here at The Dempster Clinic, we see patients that are struggling with a wide variety of health issues, including poor gut health every day. Our goal is to provide them with the confidence they need to make the right choices and walk beside them through their journey. Dr. Dempster focuses on helping you put lifestyle changes in place to help you heal.

heal method

5.  It’s Not About Perfection

It’s important to understand the 80:20 rule when you are working on a healthy diet. This means that you don’t have to eat the right foods 100% of the time to be healthy. Rather, eating the right things 80% of the time will still get you where you want to be. Always focus on progress in your diet, not perfection.

Schedule Your Discovery Session Today

If you want to know if Dr. Dempster can help you, then schedule your complimentary discovery session today. He’ll meet with you for 15 minutes over the phone or in the clinic. Sign-up here and we’ll get back to you right away to schedule an appointment. We look forward to working with you!