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  • Helly Barnes

"I Just Can't Decide What to Eat!" Food Decisions & Eating Disorders

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Having to decide what to eat is something that most people with eating disorders struggle with when they are finally allowing themselves to eat more and abstain from the restriction that has been a powerful part of their addiction to energy deficit. They might now look at all the food options available and express overwhelm with a,

"I just can't decide what to eat!"
A young couple choosing foods in a diner

And it's understandable that when you have been eating restrictively for years and then open your mind to unlimited food options and amounts, that this can leave you feeling exhilarated but with an excitement that's coupled with anxiety, agitation and feelings of wrong-doing about eating more. All of this can then culminate in feelings of overwhelm and decision paralysis when it comes to food choices, be that what foods, how much, where, when, who with and so on and so forth.

Many of you reading this are perhaps nodding your heads in recognition of daily scenarios such as,

"Do I eat the doughnut or the muffin? Arrghh, I can't decide!!"….

But if that is you, then let me put a question to you:

Do you really need to decide?

We all have to make a lot of decisions every day and for some decisions, the path we choose can have important, even life-changing consequences. But when it comes to decisions about food during the process of abstaining from restriction, deciding between two or more options might just be proving so difficult because you are allowing yourself to believe that you have to decide on one OR the other. When you are overcoming a restrictive eating disorder, abstaining from restriction and eating to gain your life back, perhaps any decision paralysis you are facing with food needs some reframing.

Food Decisions - What Does It Mean To 'Decide'?

The origin of the word, decide, is from Latin and it means, to cut off.

If you consider other words that end with -cide, you have words such as homicide and suicide, which mean to cut off or kill another person (homicide) or oneself (suicide). So when you are having to decide on something, it literally means to cut off or kill the alternatives and only take the chosen path.

Naturally, there are many situations in life where we do have to decide on a chosen path, cutting off the alternatives. What house we are going to buy is a decision that can be hard because when you choose one, you are really having to say that you will go with it, accepting the risk that another, more perfect option could be put up for sale tomorrow. When we choose a big life path, such as investing in a new career or choosing a life partner, we are accepting any FOMO that might arise(!) and committing in ways that can be challenging… because what if it doesn't work out or something or someone else would have been a better fit?!?

But when we do decide on one option, for example we decide we will buy this house, we will accept this job, we will marry this person—and so we cut off all the other options that are already present or any that might arise in the immediate future, then it can be a relief and that's when we can just let excitement set in about the path we have chosen and how incredible it will be.

And this can be the case too when you do decide to commit to overcoming an eating disorder because when it comes to eating disorders, deciding to jump into the process of overcoming it and all that's entailed with that is a huge decision that you make. When you decide to abstain from the pursuit of energy deficit and finally disengage from the, 'yes but...' arguments that your brain creates in an attempt to persuade you not to, then that too can feel a relief and even quite exciting when you start to plan what your process to bash the eating disorder out your life could look like and imagine how it will feel to let yourself eat and rest in ways you haven't for so long.

A bakery display of cakes, muffins and donuts

So, you do have to decide to commit to overcoming an eating disorder and sometimes you might have to decide to stay committed several times a day, even several times an hour….

But I'm going to propose that you DON'T have to decide between food choices….

When you are trying to decide between more than one food option in a given moment and it feels overwhelming, distressing and frustrating, it's only feeling this way because you are imagining that you have to cut off some of the available options when you really want them all or the restrictive side of your brain is trying to persuade you to cut off options that are more terrifying but that the real you really wants.

Then it's also likely that you will be thinking to yourself,

What if I pick one and it's sub-standard and maybe the other option would have been better and I missed out on it?!?

But you don't have to miss out on this or any foods any longer. You are overcoming a restrictive eating disorder. No foods are off limits anymore. You don't have to choose between the doughnut or the muffin because you really can have both. Yes, you have to pick what to have first but just grab the closest one and then have the next.

The more you can do this and show your brain that foods are no longer off limits or rationed, the sooner your brain will lose this food scarcity mindset that creates this challenge with food decisions and understands that all the foods are now there to be eaten—now and in the future. In time your brain will feel calmer that it's ok to just pick something quickly because the other options and even more options than these will still be there whenever you want them.

When you are next struggling with decision paralysis when it comes to food and it's feeling more emotional, hard and important than any food decision in life should, take a step back and decide that you don't need to decide.

You don't need to cut off any food options ever again if you don't want to.

You can have what you want, when you want, starting right now with as many of the foods that you have been forcing yourself to decide between as the real you really wants!

Decide on just one thing—to overcome this eating disorder, using all the support you can find and taking your own true empowerment to abstain from restriction and open your mind to unlimited food potential and with it, incredible life potential!!

**For more information on eating disorders and how to overcome one, please don't miss my newly available books,


If you like to listen, as well as (or instead of read!) then this blog post is the transcript of a podcast episode which you will find on my podcast series,

available on this website, all mainstream podcast platforms and on YouTube.


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