Overcoming Food Fears

Some families become embroiled in controls, rules and fears about food. Their beliefs are gathered from various places, and can be built of fright and fiction as much as fact.

One unschooling mom who made a change wrote this, and asked to keep her name separate:

I am certified to teach prenatal and family nutrition classes. I don't teach anymore because I can't in good concious now that I've experienced life from a radical unschooling perspective.

So one of the things I was trained and taught in classes was the dangers of certain ingredients such as artificial colours. "EXCITOTOXINS" is what we called them, because of the alleged effects on the brain. Especially young brains who were supposed to be "four times more susceptible."

I used to fall into the nocebo effect for sure and would look for, and therefore see these terrible effects when certain ingredients were ingested. In me and in children. It evoked so much fear and anxiety that was truly damaging all around.

Fast forward to today... my son had watched a YouTube video to make a rainbow my little ponies cake. Old me would never have the colours available. New me always has colours for using in play-doh, ad hoc experiments or in baking. So we made the cake and interestingly, my son licked lots of icing of various colours and ate about 1/8 of a piece of cake (maybe 3 bites, not that it matters except to illustrate that had I feared it and given the opportunity outside the home, there would have likely been more desperation to finish it versus life where he knows we could make one every day if we wanted to!).

There were none of the scary immediate side effects. We had cake and had an ordinary and beautiful day together. Later on he had a green bubble bath (his favourite colour) with more food colouring in the tub. He went to bed early and is sleeping soundly and peacefully, with a filled tank on all accounts.

Today was awesome. Thank you once again Sandra, I probably think of you daily and thank you in mind. And your book is on my coffee table and I read a bit now and then in little moments.


The nocebo effect to which she refers has been discussed at Radical Unschooling Info. (I couldn't find that link, so added two below.)

The "Nocebo" effect:

Smithsonian article: What Is the Nocebo Effect? For some patients, the mere suggestion of side effects is enough to bring on negative symptoms

Psychology Today: The Nocebo effect: Negative Thoughts Can Harm Your Health


At first this won't seem to be about eating, but relax into it. When he gets to the five foundations of morality, one is about purity and this applies to an us-vs.-them situation that affects diet and the morality regarding what is ingested.


Joyce Fetteroll's introduction to a link (at right, here):
Why people make the choices they do fascinates me. Too often it seems the choices are driven by fear. Except it doesn't seem like fear! It seems like a solution to a problem. But the current level of fear in our society seems to be morphing hangnails into problems that require cutting off the hand.

Once a fear has created a movement, it's easy to cynically say, "Follow the money." And it's not that fear hasn't been created then exploited to make money. But sometimes it begins with a circle of fear and comfort that supports the fear. Only later does it lead to money.

I have ZERO interest in debating clean eating. (I do delete comments if I FEAR it will derail the conversation! ;-) ) It's the fear driving choices I'm more interested in. The fear seems to come from uncertainty and a sense of powerlessness. Then once the fear takes root, fear drives people to *confirm* their fears. Anything that refutes their fears feels like propaganda. Which means they reject both biased information and the more moderate thoughtful information.

NOTE: the beginning of the article is some history of the clean eating movement. That can be skipped if you're interested in Why? The Why part starts at the paragraph before the big W. ("Why has clean eating proved so difficult to kill off?")

orginal discussion on her page on facebook

More on fear in general and some on food Facts (how can "a fact" be problem?)

Beautiful story of the recovery of a trained, certified nutritionist

Problems with thinking about food Foodrules (When to say "no")

Happier stories of unschoolers and food