My Exposure Therapy Challenge

I love food. It is something I have been trying to deny for a very long time. It has been the biggest lie I ever told to myself probably, and I realised it after my beloved Cantonese opened my eyes to the beauty of food again.

I experienced this reality since the very first day we were together. Yes first time he invited me to eat something, I couldn’t have a single bite of the sizzling hot and spicy frog legs that I had never imagined were available in the university canteen.

“Cantonese will eat anything in the sky but airplanes, anything in the sea but submarines, and anything with four legs but the table.”

– Amanda Bennet

I admire Cantonese for this. They laugh about it and feel proud that we see them like that.

They don’t really practice mindful eating (I am still amazed by their eating speed and chopstick abilities) but for sure they excel in the slow food movement. They are grateful to the world for providing them with the natural resources necessary for food preparation and they take pleasure on eating.

In Guangdong, no money is too much if it is to buy high quality foods. No time is wasted if it is to artistically plate the colourful vegetables, meats and dim sum. No day is too hot to drink tea with carefully selected leaves.

One of the first activity we enjoyed together was watching a documentary series, called A Bite of China. It is absolutely wonderful and eye opening. During each episode I was so hungry and anxious that sometimes I had to stop mid-way. Or I cried regretting not being able to indulge myself with it. It also made me hopeful, imagining us enjoying it together, someday. The series show harvesting and the seasons, family and festive meals and also devotion of people preparing food, with love and incredible skills. For example, people go to cooking schools to learn how to prepare cute buns with animal shapes, how to master the art of cutting, that is a fundamental of any meal preparation.

I am not in that step yet. I just acknowledge my love of food but I am still terrible scared of it. Some foods skyrocket my anxiety levels and my stomach roars only by reading their names.

Right now I am listing and rating my feared foods. I will go through them individually, by exposing myself to them everyday for at least once a week, until I get rid of the distress they represent.

Of course, the rest of the meals during the exposure time should not be modified, as otherwise I would just fall again in the compensation spiral. And also, once a food has been taken out of the black list,  the meal plan should be adapted to include them in a normal basis.

“Anything worth having is worth fighting for.”

– Susan Elizabeth Philips


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