ORTHOREXIA= correct appetite.
Orthorexia is an ever increasing mental illness wherein the quest to be healthy goes too far resulting in a decline of wellbeing. Those with orthorexia become obsessed with eating "pure" + "clean" foods. While not necessarily preoccupied with weight loss, rather one becomes consumed with achieving the perfect diet.
Eating "clean" foods gives an orthorexic a euphoric sense of greatness and pride in their ability to stick to a rigid dietary regime. Control is an orthorexics favorite word. Diligently counting each grain of rice and perfectly measuring out the exact portion of fats makes everything in life seem better. I associate it with that feeling a smoker gets when they take that first puff. A sense of relief floods over them and they are finally at ease.
With social media influencers, health magazines, and wellness blogs galore Orthorexia is unfortunately not only on the rise buts it's praised. You're a "good girl" if you eat a salad for lunch and skip the bread basket and a "bad girl" for eating a doughnut for breakfast. Social media highly values strict diets and rigid exercise routines over a balanced way of living, making girls all around the globe feel that they are unworthy.
Everyday new articles and books claiming the benefits of certain foods and the downside of others flood the internet and book shelves all around the world. These books are fuel for the orthorexic mind for being told that their way of eating is BEST perpetuates them to keep going on their religious routine.
Below I share a brief look into my Orthorexia journey that I wrote for a blog contest. The prompt was-- When did you first know you had a problem and what was your first step to healing.
When I was 14 I would sneak into the kitchen, open the fridge, and grab what I needed to begin cooking before my mom got home. I wasn't being nice and cooking for my family...I was cooking for myself. Once done, I would zealously place each perfectly steamed asparagus in a Tupperware tucked between the four-day, twice-rinsed, sprouted quinoa and dry spinach leaves. I would then run out the front door, refusing to return until later that evening when my family had already enjoyed a meal together.
I couldn’t possibly eat the food my Momma lovingly prepared for the family, because it was filled with ingredients that I irrationally feared would give me cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and a long list of other diseases. So, I would escape to a hidden place outside where I could get away with my secret diet, one that was superior and sacred, albeit tasteless and lonely.
I vividly remember one night that I was caught outside in a torrential downpour without a jacket. Instead of walking home, taking a shower, and putting on dry clothes, I sat in the rain waiting for enough time to pass until I could go home. I looked at my watch and sighed, “2 more minutes”. Two more minutes until I could go home!? No, 2 more minutes until I could open up my Tupperware and eat. I had calculated the “perfect” time for me to eat in regards to breakfast the next day so that I would be in a fasted state for X amount of hours. It had to be perfect.This is when I knew I had an issue.
The behavior spiraled for the next 10 years to things such as panic attacks around eating sugar, hiding food in napkins, and rejecting meals friends made for me because 1 ingredient was on my “bad” list. The efforts it took to maintain this strict and secretive way of underfeeding myself were incessant and became more and more elaborate over time.
I took my idea of what healthy eating was to an extreme and it became my drug of choice, giving me a euphoric high each time my diet went perfectly according to plan. As my disordered eating went on, I needed an ever-stricter diet and a greater sense of control to achieve the same levels of satisfaction and self-worth.
While kids my age were dating, going to concerts, and enjoying life, I spent my time asking google, “What are the health benefits of (insert food)?”, needing constant validation that what I was eating was indeed “healthy”. I thought I was above everyone else and taking good care of my body. I look back on these thought patterns and wish that I had instead headed my Mom’s advice when she would tell me, “Every virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice”.
I missed out on countless opportunities to connect with others in my family and circle of friends because I refused to gather around the dinner table and commune through sharing food. I couldn’t take this disordered way of thinking and living anymore. I wanted to experience the sensory pleasures in life beyond vegan cheese and almond meal pancakes. I needed help.
My sister was my saving grace. I began my healing process by emulating her “Joie de Vie” around food. It was her appreciation for the simple pleasures that food brings that encouraged me to see food in a light beyond than macronutrients and fat grams. She made elaborate meals out of her desire to make the food taste good, not from a self-imposed moral obligation to follow a diet. It was the spirit of aliveness and freedom I witnessed in her that determined the amount of cheese she lavishly sprinkled on top of braised scallops submersed in a cream sauce.
And so we traveled to Paris, and for the first time in my life I reveled over how good and nourishing chocolate croissants are. Letting go of diet perfection was hard, but with each bite of delicious food I felt the chains of disordered eating slowly loosen their grip. I may not be “perfect” anymore but I have something greater-- freedom.
Do you find yourself preoccupied with food, saying no to things you deem "unhealthy" and anxious about eating food at potlucks? Reach out for your free breakthrough session to find food freedom.