My Journey With Orthorexia and Disordered Eating

1

OrthorexiaThis week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) estimates that at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the US. When you think of what a staggering number of people that is, it’s hard to gain perspective on what it’s like for these people on an everyday basis. I am one of those 30 million people. I suffer from disordered eating and orthorexia. 

 

What Is Orthorexia?

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) defines orthorexia as “an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating.” Sounds like a good thing right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be conscious of what they are putting into their bodies. However, orthorexia is when you’re no longer conscious of what you’re eating, but it becomes an obsession. 

The symptoms of orthorexia and the idea of living a healthy lifestyle can be so similar that you may not even realize you have an issue. However, there are some examples of how orthorexia can present:

  • Spend a lot of your time thinking about food that it interferes with other aspects of your life
  • If you eat food that you think is unhealthy, you feel anxious and guilty.
  • Your personal happiness and self-esteem are dependent on the cleanliness of your diet.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, I encourage you to take The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test.  That might your first step in realizing you have a problem and getting help for it.

My Journey

I wrote a blog about how my need for physical health was negatively impacting my mental health. Shortly after, I found a therapist to help me work out some of my food and body image issues. A few weeks into therapy, she gave me a “diagnosis” of orthorexia.  

I use the word “diagnosis” because there isn’t a specific test you take or a blood sample to be analyzed that confirms an eating disorder. The diagnosis comes from behaviors and thoughts around food and your body.

I had conditioned myself for so long into defining food as “good” and “bad.” The good foods would make me feel happy and clean, while if I had the bad foods, I would feel guilty and depressed. I would talk negatively to myself about not executing enough willpower to put the cookie down. The scale became my best friend and my worst enemy. My self-worth and self-esteem were defined by my weight and the size of my clothes. My life literally revolved around food.

Finding Hope

Therapy began for me a few months ago. Recovery is a long process full of peaks and valleys, and I am just at the beginning stages. I had been in a restrictive/binge cycle for so long that it will take me a while to come out of it. Unlearning all those negative behaviors and thoughts is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I have to do for the simple fact that, unlike smoking or drinking alcohol, you need food to survive. I can’t just give it up. So I have to find a healthy balance.

Back in 2015, I lost 30 lbs, and I was deemed “successful.” This is a major problem that I’m trying to work through now because gaining weight is part of my recovery process. So does that mean if I gain weight, I’m “failing?” I have to constantly retrain my brain to believe that food is neither good nor bad. It’s just food. Having a cookie (or 10) at night doesn’t make me a horrible human being. It just makes me human. 

My Next Steps

Recovery from an eating disorder can be just as all-consuming as the disorder itself. Before therapy, I had one voice in my head telling me not to eat that cookie. Now I have that voice AND another voice telling me that if I really want it, to have it.

This recovery process is an exhausting battle between the diseased part of my brain and my logical side. My hope for recovery is that with time the negative voice will get quieter and less frequent until it eventually is silent.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here