Food Avoidance & Sensitivity Trap (FAST)

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Author: Wendy Busse, MSc, RD
Updated: October 2020

The Food Avoidance & Sensitivity Trap is a model that I developed to summarize how worry, beliefs and avoidance create additional sensitivities (conditioned food hypersensitivity).

The Simplified FAST Model

The Food Avoidance & Sensitivity Trap is a vicious cycle. It often starts with a few food restrictions but continues to worsen with time. Eventually, you find yourself stuck deep in the trap and cannot see a way out.

It is easy to get trapped and not recognize the impact the FAST has had on your symptoms and life. Our self-assessment tool will shed some light on your struggles.

The Complete FAST Model

The complete model provides a more detailed explanation.

You can enter the cycle from any point. The arrows indicate the most common route, but everyone’s experience is different. Here are examples of how four people got stuck in the Food Avoidance & Sensitivity Trap.  

Beth was worried about her stomach pains (1&2). She did not get any help from her doctor, so she searched the internet for answers (3). Instead, Beth found several contradicting theories about the role of inflammatory foods (4) and started to suspect something in her diet was the cause (2), so she eliminated milk and wheat (5). “I can’t eat that! It has milk/wheat” was continually going through her head (2). Beth associated milk/wheat with her symptoms (6,) and this fear was eventually generalized to all grains. She experienced stomach pains and a headache, even with small servings (7).

Janelle’s doctor said that her nasal congestion was diet-related and would improve with a low histamine diet (5). The nasal congestion was terrible, and she was happy to finally have an answer. She started the elimination diet with enthusiasm. Her symptoms improved, and she felt this was proof that she was histamine intolerant (2). Janelle did further research (3) and inaccurately learned that her faulty digestive system was the root cause of her histamine intolerance (4). When her nasal congestion flared-up, she assumed other food in her diet was problematic, and further restricted her intake (5). Eventually, she was down to eating three foods and started having digestive symptoms when she tried to expand her diet (7).

Jim had a severe reaction (nausea, hives and flushing) after eating at a restaurant. He associated the symptoms with broiled tuna (6). Thinking about eating fish or even eating in a restaurant brought on similar symptoms (7).

Sally did not have any specific symptoms but started the year with a resolution to get healthy and eat “clean.” She went on a two-week juice cleanse (5) and joined an internet support group that promoted juice fasting (3). She learned inaccurate information about how her every-day foods were slowing her metabolism (4). She decided to stick with grass-fed, organic meat, non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats (5). But then she joined a vegan, online group (4) and eliminated meat. With just non-starchy vegetables and healthy fat, she lost fifteen pounds in two months.

Freedom from the FAST

Get started on your road to recovery with Wendy’s top seven strategies to calm your limbic system’s overreaction to food. If you want additional guidance and support, book a Discovery Call with a FAST Freedom Coach