Speaking on the Off Menu podcast with Ed Gamble and James Acaster, singer Anne-Marie spoke openly about how her fear of vomit (emetophobia) makes trying new foods a challenge.
Warning: this article contains a discussion of restrictive eating that some readers may find triggering.
No one likes being sick. But for people with emetophobia, the idea of throwing up – or watching someone else be sick – is enough to send them into an anxious spiral.
As a result, many people with emetophobia – aka, a fear of vomit – will engage in avoidance behaviors to try and reduce their risk of being ill, including washing their hands, avoiding eating in restaurants or eating specific foods they know to be ‘safe’.
That latter behaviour was the experience of singer and Voice UK judge Anne-Marie, who recently opened up about her struggles with emetophobia on the Off Menu podcast.
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Speaking to the hosts Ed Gamble and James Acaster, the star revealed how her fear of vomiting stopped her from “experimenting” with food until the last couple of years.
“I grew up on Philadelphia sandwiches,” she said, explaining how her restrictive eating came from a fear of being sick. “My Mum and Dad actually went to the doctors because they were worried that that was the only thing I was eating.
“I’d have a cheese sandwich at lunchtime, come home and have two cheese sandwiches for dinner. I wouldn’t eat any vegetables, no fruit, just cheese sandwiches.”
Highlighting how her emetophobia has affected her eating habits throughout her life, Anne-Marie explained how her vegetarian diet helps to lower her anxiety around food, as she fears getting sick from meat (a common fear among emetophobia sufferers).
“I’m so terrified of [vomit] that I think that’s subconsciously made me not experiment with food, until the past three years,” she said. “I’ve never wanted to try anything. And I think that’s why the vegetarian life works for me as well, because I feel like I won’t get ill.”
She continued: “I tried a tomato about five years ago, and I just started eating onions. They’re a bit weird still, but I think I like them. It’s happened over time.”
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As emetophobia is one of the most common phobias in the world (and one which disproportionately affects women), it’s refreshing to see someone as famous as Anne-Marie speaking about her struggles – especially in such a candid and honest way.
For more information about coping with phobias – including a fear of vomit – you can check out the NHS website or visit Anxiety UK.
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