What is Fear Food?

The term ‘fear food’ is used to describe certain foods a person is afraid to eat, possibly because of negative thoughts and feelings about the nutritional content. It might not be confined to particular items but can include whole food groups. When sufferers eat these foods, they may experience guilt and shame, so they avoid them.

Ellern Mede offer treatment to help children, teenagers and young adults overcome ‘fear of food’.

How do I know if I have fear of food?

In the context of an eating disorder, the person’s perception of a food being ‘bad’ may relate to the fear that eating it will result in immediate weight gain or in overeating which brings with it a feeling of a loss of control.

Attempting to follow a ‘perfect’ diet can lead someone to become rigid and inflexible about food. This often results in social isolation as they choose not to take part in social gatherings in case they encounter fear foods.

Signs and symptoms of fear of food include:

  • Anxiety or obsessive thinking about certain foods
  • Lack of variety in diet
  • Inability to participate in social activities
  • Isolation
  • Bingeing

What are the causes and effects of fear of food?

There are a number of reasons fear of foods develop, including: bad memories attached to a certain food; comments and views of family and friends about that food; messages from the media; fashionable or cultural ideas. Fear food has even been triggered by nutritional material which is intended to be informative and valuable, for example, a public health campaign intended to counter obesity in children could trigger eating disorders, including fear food.

Fear of food treatment

We usually treat fear food with CBT or another talking therapy, at the same time as focusing on nutrition and better eating behaviour in order to encourage a healthy relationship with food.



We wanted to write to tell you all that our daughter has maintained weight since her discharge and has also recently been discharged by the local CAMHS team. She is positive and settled. Thank you for all your help and support during her stay at Ellern Mede.

NHS referrals

Ellern Mede has provided specialist Tier 4 eating disorder services to the NHS since 2000. We respond to referrals within 24 hours.

Private referrals

Call now for immediate access to Ellern Mede specialist private eating disorder services. Accepted referrals begin treatment within two weeks or faster in emergencies.