Home » Food Anxiety: How To Stop Worrying and Obsessing Over Food

Food Anxiety: How To Stop Worrying and Obsessing Over Food

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A young woman worries about her food and diet, struggles with food anxiety.

As you may have discovered in your own life, it’s easy to feel trapped by obsessive, negative thinking about food … otherwise known as food anxiety. 

You might find yourself constantly thinking about food, obsessing over food, feeling guilty about what you ate, being afraid of what you might eat, worrying that your meals are “fattening,” bracing against the possibility of gaining weight because you ate something you “shouldn’t,” and more. 

Constantly worrying and obsessing over food and what to eat can become pretty exhausting. We can easily end up feeling like we’re living in a food prison with no way of ever getting out.

Food anxiety is a silent epidemic that can take over our life and create a constant sense of inner struggle, and a lot of unhappiness.

If you can relate at all to this kind of food and body obsession, then there’s one important thing to know:

It’s not meant to be this way.

You can enjoy a natural, effortless relationship with food that feels good and nourishes you on every level.

With that said, let’s take a deeper look and have a conversation that matters when it comes to constant thinking and obsessing about food.

Specifically, you’ll learn:

  • The brilliant reasons rooted in evolutionary biology as to why the mind is obsessing over food
  • The deeper psychology behind incessant food worry
  • 3 toxic beliefs that trigger food anxiety
  • The unexpected benefit hidden within the challenge of food obsession
  • The #1 strategy to overcome food worry
  • The key questions to ask yourself that can help you break free from eating anxiety

It’s my hope that with some fresh knowledge and wisdom, you can better help yourself or assist others when it comes to having more peace and freedom with food.

Let’s dive in.

The Simple Science That Explains Food Obsession

This may surprise you, but it’s perfectly natural to think about food, to think about it often, and at times, to even obsess about it. 

So exactly how and why could constantly thinking about food be considered normal?

Well, if you consider the natural world, or think about the jungle, or the forests, or the ocean, when it comes to the creatures that live in these realms, so much of life is all about food.

The day-to-day existence for the vast majority of lifeforms on planet Earth is focused on food: finding it, chasing it, killing it, foraging for it, competing for it, and eating it.

The prime directive that’s wired into the physiology of every living organism is to do anything possible to get a good meal. 

Everything must eat. 

The whole of creation is on a constant search for food.

Think of your dog or cat or any animal video you’ve ever seen. Think of any wild animal that’s ever gotten into your garbage. Animals constantly think about food because they are driven to. They must do so. And they do it with consistency, commitment, and gusto.

Somewhere back in time, eons ago, our distant ancestors didn’t have the same instant access to food that so many of us enjoy today. They had to hunt and gather. Our ancestors were, by necessity, deeply attuned to food. 

They were constantly thinking about it, planning for the hunt, foraging through the landscape, and once they found a suitable meal, they had to prepare it, cook it, and do whatever they could to make it edible and digestible. 

Historically, we needed to be constantly focused on food for our survival, and for the survival of the tribe.

Modern humans still retain these evolutionary and genetic instincts. 

We are attuned to food. We plan our next meal. We think about where to shop. We hunt not for animals, but for bargains and sales in the grocery aisles. We meal-plan for the kids. We set the table, prepare food, cook it, and clean up afterwards. We consider good nutrition. We look for great recipes.

Food inherently requires a lot of thought.

So, the constant thinking about food is programmed into our very DNA. 

And at the core of it is this one simple truth:

Incessant thinking about food is perfectly natural and driven by our evolutionary biology.

The challenge is though, that this natural instinct can become problematic. 

Let’s explore how this happens:

The Deeper Psychology Behind Food Anxiety

We live in a world that provides us with an almost instant access to food. For most people, gone are the days when procuring food was a day-to-day survival affair. 

For the most part, we have solved the problem of food being an actual survival issue. We’ve solved the problem of needing to be constantly on the hunt for nourishment.

But we’ve replace it with another problem:

We’ve adopted false beliefs that make us think that our psychic and emotional survival is dependent on food.

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Discover Your Eating Archetype

Ever wondered why it's so hard to eat what you know you "should" eat?

This free self-discovery tool will review the hidden psychology of your eating archetypes - giving you the power to understand what really drives your eating choices.

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Many of us believe that:

  1. Food should make me look beautiful.
  2. Food should make me weigh the perfect amount.
  3. Food should give me perfect health and stop all disease.

When we put our unwavering faith in these false and toxic beliefs, we trigger the process of constant and obsessive thinking about food.

Let’s look at this more closely by breaking down these three false beliefs.

1. Food should make me look beautiful:

In case you haven’t noticed, from the time you were born, the world has been inundating you with images of perfect looking people. It’s been hurling at your brain all kinds of movies, television shows, magazines, and social media platforms that convince you of what beauty should look like, and what you should look like.

And if you don’t measure up to what a “winner” is supposed to be, then you better do something about it. 

Otherwise, you’ll live the most unfortunate life, you won’t find love, no one will approve of you, and all hope will be lost.

In the face of all this unfortunate belief, we quickly figure out that one of the key ways we can improve upon our genetic misfortune of not having impossible perfect good looks is to do this:

Manipulate the food on our plate.

Just find the perfect diet, the perfect way to eat, and follow that perfect diet perfectly, and then all your problems are solved. You’ll be perfectly beautiful.

But the challenge is, perfectionism is a soul killer.

It’s unattainable, it’s unnatural, and it has us looking in the mirror, seeing our imperfect self, and collapsing into self judgment, self hate, and self attack.

And yet, the perfectionist archetype is one of the most common archetypes driving our food and body challenges.

Always around the corner from the quest for perfectionism is self abuse.

It’s 100% predictable.

Show me a perfectionist, and I’ll show you someone who will soon be abusing themselves with words, thoughts, or deeds.

So, the net result of thinking that our emotional survival and our very happiness is dependent on manipulating the food on our plate so we can be perfect is this: 

Constantly thinking and obsessing over food.

We are in a state of obsession because our mind believes that our very life is dependent upon it. The brain does not distinguish between a real or imagined threat.

So we have fooled the brain into believing that we are in an actual life or death situation. 

In this psycho-biological state, we MUST think about food all the time. 

This is how so much of our food anxiety is born.

2. Food should make me weigh the perfect amount.

We’ve been taught to believe that if we are at an ideal weight – a number that we arrive at pretty arbitrarily – then we will truly be on top of the world.

So many of us are dieting so we can enter the exclusive club of weight loss winners. We imagine that when we hit our ideal number, everything in life will be automatically okay. 

No more problems, no more worries, only sunshine, good fortune, tons of adoration, and we will finally be “the real me.”

We put a ton of pressure on our food to make everything in life better.

Is it any secret then, that we would be in a constant state of food worry and food obsession? 

We are quite literally believing that “my life depends on eating the perfect diet and having the perfect weight…”

Because so much is on line, our life’s focus is on all things food:

  • Dieting
  • Keeping score of what we ate
  • Managing our appetite
  • Trying to find more willpower
  • Worrying about sugar
  • Trying to resist forbidden foods
  • Feeling disappointed by the scale
  • Thinking about the clothes we want to fit into 
  • And criticizing ourselves because we haven’t yet reached the promised land of our perfect weight loss number

The net result of all this, whether we realize it or not, is that we are not fully living our real life. 

It’s also helpful to note here that many people who are dieting and food restricting are incessantly thinking about food for another very compelling reason:

They’re hungry. 

It’s no secret that any hungry creature will be focused on food. The more you artificially restrict your food intake, the more you’ll experience your natural hunger, the more the brain will drive you to eat, and the more you’ll be worrying and thinking about food. The act of dieting automatically creates a food-worry factory​ in your brain.

Food Anxiety Exercise #1: 

If you want to begin to liberate yourself from the constant food worry that’s driven by the toxic beliefs that food should make me look beautiful, weigh the perfect amount, and in turn give me the perfect life, here’s some helpful strategies:

  • First, make a list of all the benefits that you expect to happen in your life once you have the ideal looks and the ideal weight. Who will you be? Exactly what in your life will be different? What will change? How will you act differently in your day-to-day life? Will you be more confident? Act more sexy? Dress a certain way? Be more outgoing? Make a thorough and specific list of all the ways that you tell yourself life will change once you have the body and the weight that you desire.
  • From there, notice all the things on your list that you can start doing right now. Notice all the ways where you actually don’t need to wait for the perfect body or perfect looks to begin to reap the benefits you expect. In other words, start acting more confident now. Be more sexy now. Be more social now. Act more fabulous now. Feel lighter about yourself now. This is all about creating the results you expect at the end of your weight loss journey right now. It’s about being the “real you” now.

This will help you take a significant amount of the pressure off of food to make your life perfect. 

In doing so, you won’t need to worry about food so much or think about it so often, because you’ll be putting first things first. 

You’ll be giving yourself the responsibility to create a better life – not your food. 

3. Food should give me perfect health and stop all disease.

When we hold the false belief that food MUST make me healthy and free of disease, we can easily become food obsessed. Psychologists often refer to this as orthorexia.

Of course, we know that nutrition can have a powerful impact on our health and well being. Certain kinds of diets can be very therapeutic for a vast number of disease conditions and unwanted symptoms.

Many of us have had the direct experience of changing our diet for the better and witnessing some very positive benefits.

The challenge, however, is we can once again create an unreasonable and illogical expectation of food.

We can easily fall into the trap of frequently worrying about getting sick, worrying about ill health, and believing that diet could and should either cure everything, or prevent it.

The reality is, no matter what your nutritional approach is, no matter what dietary system you follow, the end result is ultimately the same for everyone:


As far as we know, no one has successfully used nutrition to successfully live forever. 

But still, we might secretly believe that food can help us cheat the inevitable if we can just find the perfect nutritional system and follow it perfectly. 

From this place, it’s easy to set impossible-to-follow dietary standards for ourselves. We might believe that:

  • I should never crave sweets or sugar.
  • I can only eat healthy foods.
  • I must never stray from my chosen nutritional approach.
  • I should never overeat or emotionally eat.

These dietary standards are something I refer to as “food rules” – and we tend to adopt our food rules as an unconscious gospel. Our food rules have us constantly thinking about food, worrying about breaking the rules, punishing ourselves for our violations, and so on.

Are you seeing how our false beliefs can drive us to do eating behaviors that ultimately have us in constant food and body worry?

The key to liberating yourself from this pattern is to notice the power that you give to the belief called “food must give me ideal health.”

Food Anxiety Exercise #2:

  • Make a list of all the benefits you expect from eating a “healthy diet.” Be very specific. Do you believe that your chosen nutritional guidelines should give you abundant energy? A great mood? Do you believe it should prevent you from getting specific diseases, perhaps cancer or diabetes, or heart disease? Do you believe your diet should make you disease free? Give you a long life?
  • Next, ask yourself, what would your life look like if you did have ideal health? How would things be different than they are now? How would you act? How would you spend your days? What would you do with all your abundant energy and good health?
  • Then finally, notice all the things on your list that you can start doing right now. How can you put the life energy you have right now into good use? How can you make your days really count? How can you have a healthier attitude about your life and your body? How can you bring a healthier perspective of your life to the table so you don’t put so much pressure on your food to make everything perfect?

How to Step Out of Food Obsession & Food Anxiety

The good news is, there’s an unexpected benefit hidden within the challenge of food obsession and constant food worry, and it’s this:

The greater our obsession with food, the more untapped power we have available to us.

Here’s what I mean:

On the one hand, obsessive thinking distracts us from our own power and potential. But on the other hand, such thinking is itself a form of power and energy. It has a lot of voltage to it. It’s energy.

We just need to learn how to harness that energy so it’s working for us and not against us.

In other words, your worry and anxiety is a power that can be transformed into energy for living your best life. 

Here’s how you can begin this part of your journey:

First, understand that obsessive thinking is automatic and repetitive. It operates beneath our awareness. It just does itself. You don’t need to wake up in the morning and remind yourself to worry and obsess about food that day. The automatic and unconscious nature of our mind does all that work for us.

The key word here is “unconscious.”

So, to vanquish any unconscious behavior or habit, in this case, incessant worry and thinking about food, there is only one ultimate strategy: 

Introduce consciousness.

This is the #1 strategy to overcome food anxiety:

To invite, evoke, and cultivate consciousness. 

Meaning, become more awake. More aware. Commit to better notice when you go into food worry, choose to catch yourself, and gradually interrupt this old unconscious repetitive pattern.   

Food Anxiety Exercise #3:

Here’s a great place to start. First, make the commitment to yourself to notice whenever you go into food or body worry. Then, do the following:

  1. Don’t fight your thoughts. Simply observe and witness them. 
  2. Ask yourself the question, “Am I truly in danger in this moment? Is this a life or death experience?” The purpose of this question is to demonstrate to your mind that this is NOT a moment where you need to be in a stress response. There is no actual threat. When the mind relaxes a little, we will naturally worry less.
  3. Take a few long slow deep breaths. This helps generate a physiologic relaxation response.
  4. Next, forgive yourself in the moment. Love yourself for being imperfect. Remind yourself that no one or no thing is perfect, and you are doing your best in life, and in this moment.
  5. Lastly, ask yourself “What else? What else is nourishing in my life that I can reflect on or think about in this moment. What am I thankful for? What am I grateful for?”

Thankfulness and gratitude are two of the most powerful antidotes to any kind of worry or obsession.

Bonus Food Anxiety Exercise:

If you’d like to dig even deeper and do some more work to reduce food anxiety and obsessing over food, consider introducing a conscious dialogue into your mind by asking these questions:

  • Who would I be if I didn’t give so much air time to food?
  • What would I do with all that time and energy?
  • What positive and creative activities could I apply this energy to?
  • What is the life I wish to live? The life that has nothing to do with food or body. Describe that life.
  • What kind of relationship do I want?
  • How do I want to show up for the people who are important to me?
  • What are my gifts? Am I giving them? How can I give them more?
  • And what inspires me and makes me happy to be alive? 

Ask these questions every day, and whatever answers come to you, begin to live your best life now. Take baby steps.

Closing thoughts…

As we wrap up our exploration of how to stop constantly thinking about food, here are a few final thoughts:

When it comes to food anxiety or food “obsession,” remember that this isn’t a battle, food isn’t the enemy, and you’re not wrong for focusing on food so much.

Importantly, recall this isn’t about trying to fight against unwanted thoughts. 

Instead, you’re simply introducing other, far more important, meaningful, and powerful thoughts into your life. You’re questioning your belief system and the meanings you give to food, and you’re gradually inviting consciousness to the table – and into your life.

These thoughts, and the actions they inspire, will eventually starve your food worry, and replace it with the kind of life you came here to live.

IPE - 8 Eating Archetypes Infographic_V05_2-lrg

Discover Your Eating Archetype

Ever wondered why it's so hard to eat what you know you "should" eat?

This free self-discovery tool will review the hidden psychology of your eating archetypes - giving you the power to understand what really drives your eating choices.

IPE - 8 Eating Archetypes Infographic_V05_2-lrg

We respect your privacy and do not share your email address without your express permission.

A young woman worries about her food and diet, struggles with food anxiety.

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