Anyone who knows me knows that I’m usually pretty private online. Though I am very communicative in real life, it’s very rare for me to engage online in personal stuff, aside from acknowledging things like the birthdays of loved ones. Oh, I’ll post things about nutrition, Intuitive Eating, and Emotion-Triggers; stuff like that to support people I care about on social media, but that’s about my limit. (You might be thinking that by admitting I don’t share personal details, I actually am sharing a personal detail, and to that, I say, “fair enough.”)
AN EXPERIENCE TO SHARE
The point is, I had a recent experience that I felt I had to share. It struck me so vividly that I actually wrote the first draft of this while in the midst of the experience.
As a Nutrition Therapist, I help people improve their relationships with food by encouraging them to listen to their bodies and use food in a way that nourishes and provides pleasure. And many of my clients struggle with fear around their food choices. I often encourage them to “challenge their fear” by using the logical part of their brain to counter emotional thoughts. Currently, I have a healthy relationship with food and follow an “all foods fit” approach, listening to my hunger and fullness cues. Any issues that I had had about food and self-image concerns are largely in my past, the processes of my professional training guiding me to heal these issues.
WE ALL HAVE FEARS
But I will let you in on a somewhat embarrassing secret—I have fear when it comes to something else. I get scared when I encounter turbulence on an airplane. So on a recent flight, some 30,000 feet above the ground, I wrote this:
When I boarded my flight this morning, the pilot warned us that the three-hour trip was going to be pretty bumpy, and I automatically felt my fear and anxiety elevating. I worked to calm myself, pulling out my mental toolbox of coping strategies (which I’ve spent years assembling.) As I face this situation, I realize that I am reacting to it in a way similar to how some of my clients react when they’re faced with a “scary” food; fear was rising over the bumpy flight for me as I imagine fear rises when I ask a client struggling with food restriction to try eating a piece of pizza or a chocolate chip cookie. While these clients may be—unlike me—cool and calm when told their plane ride will be turbulent, the thought of eating a slice of pizza might induce a great deal of anxiety. (Guess it’s safe to say that most people are afraid of something!)
As I write this, we’re 45 minutes from our destination and it has indeed been an uncomfortably bumpy ride. But with each shake, I’ve been feeling less anxious and more able to handle my fear, which I am realizing is completely irrational. The truth is, planes don’t drop out of the sky because of turbulence any more than a slice of pizza can harm someone’s body (unless they have a medical condition like celiac disease or an allergy to a pizza’s ingredients). One tool I hadn’t had in my toolbox of coping skills—up until today, that is—is the tool of repeated exposure. I now realize that if my job required me to fly all the time, it is pretty clear that constant exposure would help reduce my anxiety. In the same way, the more someone tries a scary food, the easier that challenge will tend to become over time.
WHAT I GAINED FROM THE EXPERIENCE
Needless to say, the plane landed safely. I made it home to finish this blog, and take the lesson of my experience to heart. So, I invite you all to join me in challenging our fears, whether it’s trying a new food or facing a phobia, let’s embrace the opportunity to grow and learn!