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Orthorexia – Are You Obsessed With Healthy Eating?
A few months ago I took an online course on Be Nourished about Body Trust. It had a huge impact on my body image, weight, diet, exercise. I put on quite a bit of weight in my 40s and no matter what I did, nothing would budge. But in the process, I learned a lot about nutrition and exercise.
I was very ashamed of my weight and the way I looked, and it really affected my ability to be out in the world and be noticed. My thoughts during the day were occupied with exercise and walking as many steps as possible. I had a fitbit and fitbit scales and I was constantly thinking about food, exercise and how to lose weight. I hated looking in the mirror and felt like I wasn’t doing enough to keep the weight off.
I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in 2016 and had to have thyroid and liver blood work for 6 weeks. Two liver tests showed that my enzymes were elevated.
When I participated in the Body Trust course, I realized that my relationship with my body was really in control. One of the memes on their website “We cannot hate ourselves into a version of ourselves that we can love.” I felt ashamed because we live in a fat-phobic society where we think we can diet to lose weight and get to the size we want to be AND still have a loving relationship with our bodies. We can’t.
Fat is a shame
We’re not the problem, our society has dysfunctional values that make us believe we can control our weight if we just do the right thing.
I wanted to fit in so I wouldn’t be ashamed. I wanted to be invisible and not stand out, and being overweight made me feel like I stood out too much. I thought I attracted too much negative attention.
I knew so much about food. I tried many diets, all of which seemed to focus on healthy eating. Wheat diet on the stomach, Paleo, Paradox of plants, eat correctly according to blood type. I tried them all. It didn’t change anything, but I told myself I was eating healthy, so I must have a slow metabolism, or my thyroid affecting my weight, or high cortisol from the stress after the earthquakes.
I had very good self-restraint. I couldn’t give up sugar, wheat, or gluten, and I was always trying a new way of eating, or importing food from abroad, or trying to source ingredients across the country. I had tons and tons of vitamins and supplements. My body was like an obsession, wanting to change it, control it through what I ate and how I moved.
Artorexia is the other end of the eating disorder spectrum. It’s an obsession with healthy eating. It can be virtuous, elitist, and shaming those who don’t eat healthy. It’s very hidden because it looks like you take very good care of yourself. I told myself I was just keeping up with the trends, the different chefs writing healthy cookbooks. I optimized my health. I put a lot of pressure on myself to eat perfectly. My best friend died of pancreatic cancer and it really scared me. I gave food a lot of power to harm me and I was very strict with what I ate.
I actually think the way I was eating affected my thyroid so I read that going low carb can throw your thyroid out of whack.
In the course, I learned all about how to get rid of food shame, get rid of the obsession with your size and weight. I realized that I also enjoy exercise in an unhealthy way. I have sold my matching nozzle and scales. I was really scared to stop thinking about exercise and food. I was afraid that I would become a fat bastard, that I would eat everything in sight, that I would have no self-control.
But in reality, self-control was a problem. It was all based on fear and very cruel. When you restrict your food intake, which can even be just healthy foods, then your body goes into survival mode, and part of that is because your brain starts to make you crave food and all those foods that you start to crave. This ensures that you will survive and you will start eating more than the restricted diet.
Intuitive eating is where you trust your body to guide you in what you eat. All foods are of equal value, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. And it can be for emotional reasons. As you can guess, I ate all the things I was denying myself, it was wonderful. And I felt so satisfied. So full. I actually ate a lot less food because I was satisfied because I was eating what I wanted. I didn’t try to fill up on something I didn’t want, but felt I had to eat.
Thus, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. Then it slowly began to return to the middle. I started to see that I didn’t like eating ice cream, I felt lethargic and slimy. That I didn’t like to eat so much sugar that it didn’t have the same appeal for me. The fact that I wanted to exercise in a more natural way, and not stretch on the machines.
I went for blood work and lo and behold, my liver enzymes were in range. I started focusing on other things because my mind wasn’t occupied with thinking about food and exercise and controlling my body. I got a new haircut, went out and got reading glasses, all things I was too afraid to do because I didn’t want to think about my body and how I looked.
Now I feel a lot more comfortable talking to people and I don’t feel bad about my weight. I used to obsess over how big my belly was, but now I don’t even think about it. I don’t know how much I weigh and I’m not ashamed.
One important thing that has really affected my relationship with food is that when we enjoy eating, we absorb more nutrients. So all that holding their noses to eat the beans didn’t matter.
Our body’s intelligence is much wiser than we are, so it’s time to listen to your body and trust it.
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