Orthorexia – Are You Obsessed With Healthy Eating?

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body confidence

A few months ago I took an online course on Body Trust at Be Nourished. It has had a huge impact on how I think about my body, weight, diet and exercise. I had gained quite a bit of weight in my early 40’s and no matter what I did nothing would stop me. But I learned a lot about nutrition and exercise.

I was very ashamed of my weight and my looks and it really affected my ability to be in the world and be seen. My thoughts that day were on exercise and I took as many steps as possible. I had a Fitbit and the Fitbit scale, 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 lose weight.

I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in 2016 and had to go for blood tests for my thyroid and liver for 6 weeks. Two of the tests for my liver showed that my enzymes were elevated.

When I took the Body Trust course, I realized how truly controlling my relationship with my body is. One of the memes they have on their page is “We cannot hate ourselves into a version of ourselves that we can love.” The shame I felt was because we live in a fat phobic society and we believe that through dieting we can put ourselves on our path to losing weight and becoming the size we want to be AND at the same time have a loving relationship have our body. We can not.

fat shaming

We’re not the problem, our society has dysfunctional values ​​and leads us to believe that we can control our weight if we put in the right effort.

I wanted to fit in so I wouldn’t feel ashamed. I wanted to be invisible and unobtrusive, and being overweight made me feel too conspicuous. I thought I was attracting too much negative attention.

To eat healthy food

I knew so much about food. I had tried many diets, all of which seemed to focus on healthy eating. The Wheat Belly Diet, Paleo, Plant Paradox, Eat What’s Right for Your Blood Type. I’ve tried them all. Nothing made a difference, but I told myself that I was eating healthy, so I must have a slow metabolism, or it’s my thyroid affecting my weight, or its high cortisol levels from the stress of the earthquakes.

I had very good self control. I could go sugar-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, and I was always trying a new way to eat, or importing food from overseas, or trying to source ingredients from around the country. I’ve had tons and tons of vitamins and supplements. My body was like an obsession, I wanted to change it, control it through what I ate and how I moved.

orthorexia

Orthorexia is the other end of the spectrum of eating disorders. It’s an obsession with eating healthy. It can be virtuous and elitist and shame anyone who doesn’t eat healthily. It’s very covert because it just seems like you’re taking really good care of yourself. I told myself I was just keeping up with the trends, with the various chefs who wrote healthy cookbooks. I have optimized my health. I put a lot of pressure on myself to eat perfectly. My best friend had died of pancreatic cancer and it scared me a lot. I gave the food a lot of power to hurt me and I was very rigid about what I ate.

In fact, I think the way I ate contributed to my thyroid disease. I’ve since read that low carb intake can unbalance your thyroid.

steering

I learned all about taking the shame out of food, my obsession with my height and weight, in the class. I realized that I was also obsessed with exercise in an unhealthy way. I sold my dentures and scales. I was terrified of not thinking about exercise and eating anymore. I feared I would become a fat guy, that I would eat everything in sight, that I would have no self-control.

But really it was about self-control. It was all fear based and very rigid. When you restrict your food intake, and that can even be just a strictly healthy diet, then your body goes into survival mode, and part of that is your brain making you obsess about food and all those foods you’re after you crave. It ensures you survive and you start eating more than a restricted diet.

Intuitive Eating

With intuitive eating, you trust your body to guide you to what you eat. All foods are equal, you can eat whatever you want, when you want. And you can eat for emotional reasons. You guessed it, I ate all the things I’d denied myself, it was great. And I felt so content. So fed up. In fact, I ate a lot less food because I was happy, because I was eating what I wanted. I didn’t try to fill up on anything I didn’t want, but I think I should eat it.

So the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. Then it slowly started coming back to center. I started to see that I didn’t like eating ice cream, it made me sluggish and slimy. That I didn’t like eating so much sugar that it didn’t have the same appeal to me. That I wanted to train more naturally instead of struggling on a piece of equipment.

freedom

I went for a blood test and lo and behold, my liver enzymes were in range. I started focusing on other things because my mind wasn’t busy thinking about food and exercise and controlling my body. I got a haircut and got reading glasses, all things I was too scared of because I didn’t want to think about my body and my looks.

I now feel much more comfortable talking to people and no longer feel self-conscious about my weight. I used to be obsessed with 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 major thing that really impacted my relationship with food was the realization that when we find joy in food, we absorb more nutrients. So all that holding your nose to eat broad beans made no difference.

Our body’s intelligence is much smarter than us, so it’s time to listen and trust our body.

Thanks to Kate Strong

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