Food Shortage Anxieties Can Fuel Eating Disorder Behaviors

November 3, 2021 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

If you have been following the news lately, then chances are, you know about the global supply chain issues projected to loom over this holiday season. And while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms there is no current food shortage in the United States, grocery stores and supermarkets across the nation could experience low inventory of certain items on their shelves.1 So, what does this mean if you have a complicated or difficult relationship with food to begin with? Be conscious of the possibility that food shortage anxieties can fuel eating disorder behaviors.  

A Link Between Eating Disorders and Potential Food Shortage Anxieties

In the early months of this pandemic, when some of the most basic food necessities were selling out of supermarkets, a number of people in eating disorder recovery experienced a resurgence of unhealthy behavioral patterns, The New York Times reports. For some, food scarcity was a real and urgent concern, while for others, the fear was mostly perceived. In both cases, however, many people began to ration their food supply at home in an effort to make it last as long as possible. Even now, almost two years later, that initial response to food shortage fears could still linger and exacerbate restrictive eating habits.2

Here in 2021, as the world collectively braces for another wave of supply chain disruptions, an estimated 44 percent of Americans currently feel anxious or stressed when they shop for groceries.Even in normal, non-pandemic circumstances, this activity can be overwhelming or uncomfortable for those with eating disorders. So, if this describes you, be aware that food shortage anxieties could cause grocery store discomfort to escalate further in these coming months. Moreover, be sure to arm yourself with a strategic action plan and a toolbox full of coping mechanisms to confront the anxiety, rather than allowing it to impact your eating disorder recovery. Below are some ideas to point you in this direction.     

How to Combat Food Shortage Anxieties in Eating Disorder Recovery

If you notice food shortage anxieties starting to fuel your own eating disorder behaviors, it's crucial to have a contingency plan within reach. Thinking ahead as to how you will respond if the anxiety surfaces will minimize the likelihood of impulsively reacting with a harmful or unhealthy behavior in the heat of a tense, fear-driven moment. Here are a few coping mechanisms that help me when I feel an urge to restrict my food intake, both in these uncertain pandemic times and just in general as well. 

  1. Plan trips to the grocery store in advance. Shop during hours when you know the store will not be too congested, so you can take as much time in each aisle as necessary without feeling rushed. Ask a friend or relative you trust to shop with you and offer emotional support if you become overwhelmed. If at all possible, buy enough food to sustain you for one or two weeks, so you will not have to make frequent grocery store returns. 
  2. Choose foods that are healthy and cheap. If you are like me, then chances are you have two main criteria for determining which food items to place in the grocery cart: nutritional value and affordability. While some foods are increasing in price, many wholesome options are easy on the budget. These options include oats, beans, canned fish, tofu, and lentils.4 
  3. Create a weekly menu—and stick with it. When I establish ahead of time what I plan to eat for each meal during the week, I eliminate my own excuses for restricting food intake. Writing out a menu and placing it in a visible area will ensure that I do not conveniently forget a meal. This also removes the anxious guesswork of choosing what to eat on the spot.     

Do food shortage anxieties fuel eating disorder behaviors in you? How have you navigated the recovery process in the midst of this global pandemic? What coping mechanisms and action steps work for you to combat the anxieties or urges to relapse? Please share your feedback in the comment section below.  


  1. United States Department of Agriculture, "Food Supply Chain." Accessed November 1, 2021. 
  2. Sole-Smith, V., "Trapped in the House with an Eating Disorder." The New York Times, March 31, 2021.
  3. Oracle, "Survey: 82% of Americans Scared that Supply Chain Shortages Will Ruin their Life Plans." September 29, 2021. 
  4. McDonald, A., "Grocery Shoppers Say these 5 items Are Cheaper than Meat Right Now." Eat This Not That, November 1, 2021.  

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2021, November 3). Food Shortage Anxieties Can Fuel Eating Disorder Behaviors , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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