NOTE // The eating disorder taking media by storm is formally known as Orthorexia, but one that I (Emily) am sure many many many in our world experience -- myself included. Those of you body, mind, and health conscious, I'm here to educate you on this disorder with zero judgment, only compassion, and a desire to help you and others. The signs may trigger a lot of emotions for you. If you would like help navigating this awareness, reach out to me, and I am more than happy to be your guide through this time.
(an affinity to keep you up to date & scrunch up my face, apparently)
Wait, what? I thought there were only two kinds of eating disorders? How did they suddenly find another one?
You are probably very familiar with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, two eating disorders that are commonly covered in health text books, found in TV shows, and murmured with somewhat concern but misunderstanding if encountered socially. What is now making waves in the public eye is an eating disorder to which a lot of the health focused individuals out there can relate. I wanted to help you spot some of the signs of Orthorexia, whether it be for yourself or a loved one. I write about my own path to healing over on There's Beauty in Recovery, a blog dedicated to helping others through their own recovery and journey. We all deserve to approach our health with an ease and understanding rather than a militant focus. I hope I can set you on that path. If not, like I mentioned above, please reach out to me if you need help or guidance along the way. There is never shame in finding peace with yourself. Let's get started. Okay, so what is it?
Orthorexia is the fixation on perfect diet and eating. One might spend an unreasonable amount of time on the quality and the purity of food, or he or she might fixate on nutrition as a means to avoid other life situations, often feeling guilt, self-loathing, and/or experience social isolation as a result.
Intense, huh? Yes. Yes it is.
So Here's Why It Might be Happening:
For some, there is a heightened sense of fear in conjunction with unhealthy eating habits. Think of it like this, that saying "once on the lips, a lifetime on the hips" is rooting that one innocent bite of food with the fear that it will be visible to the world for the rest of your life. Are you kidding me???!!!!! It makes me outraged to hear statements like the aforementioned or words on plates that say "big mistake". What does it do but immediately bring about fear. When fear and anxiety are not addressed, healthy eating can turn into a quest, taking over thoughts and time.
Traumatic events, even just one in particular, can also trigger this kind of eating behavior. When control is taken away from a person, as in most traumatic events is the case, the need to command other aspects of life becomes very important and necessary. Some forms of control are productive, but disordered eating habits like attempted perfectionism of food is disruptive to the mind, the body, and the soul. This need for complete control using food can be a way to shape an identity that seems to be corrupted or tainted. In the same light, someone who feels that they are on no path in particular may try to shape their lives around this controlled eating.
These kinds of habits can come about from personally experiencing a serious illness such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, or even watching someone you love suffer over time due to poor food choices. While certain illness, especially those listed above, can be managed (and often can be healed) by certain food choices, there is a point where conscientious planning can turn dangerous.
Signs Orthorexia May Be a Part of Your Life
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Has food turned into a real 'Fear Factor' for you or become a number one concern in a negative/ anxiety-ridden way? - Do you associate healthy eating as a meter by which people judge you, or do you have fear that if you make an 'eating mistake' that people won't love or respect you? - Do you spend most of the day worrying about the quality or purity of the food you eat -- or do you have feelings of dread, anxiety, or fear surrounding meal time and food in general? - Do your concerns around healthy eating limit where you go, where you socialize, and/or put a damper on your social life in general? - Do your 'punish' yourself when you've eaten some 'unhealthy food' by not eating the next day or restricting your diet the following day? - Does your fear about the purity of your food limit you trying new foods that you're curious about or think you may really enjoy? - Do you judge others who don't eat the way you do, or do you refuse to socialize with others who don't have a clean diet?
How Does One Heal from This?
Above all else, know that you are not alone. I repeat, you are not alone. There are millions of individuals, men and women, who are discovering, processing, or recovering from his or her eating disorder. You are not the first one to say, 'oh, s***, how did it get this bad? what do I do? how will I ever get past this?'. Here are some tried and true strategies for self-healing. Any that don't make sense, feel free to send me a little message or if comfortable, comment and I'll respond as soon as possible.
+ Meditation + Focus more on your relationships, career, exercise that lights your spirit, and your spirituality + Shop, cook, eat, and share it all with those you love + Incorporate a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods into your diet + Find the little things that make you enjoy your life
While you might think there is nothing you can do, know that there are resources out there designed to support you. There are recovery blogs like There's Beauty in Recovery and hotlines like NEDA's, 1-800-931-2237. I am happy to guide you, along with a recovery coach, to find a relaxed path to total healing in all things love, life, and food. Head over to the work with me tab at the top of the page to learn more about that particular route.
Life is more. It's more than what we put on our plates or in our mouths. It's the emotions, the memories, the celebrations that we remember in our end. Not the decisions between chocolate cake or iceberg lettuce. What we will remember, though, if that is where our focus lies, is the frustration and anger and sadness that lived within our hearts because we told ourselves we weren't worthy to be lit up by the energies around us. Instead we will have tampered down our light, cut into our dreams, and lived an unfulfilled life. Now that doesn't sound like something I want to be feeling or thinking when I'm nearing the end of my time on this planet. It sounds like something I want to change and figure out how to heal from now on out. It's something I have done, and also something that is a continuous process every day. Do not discount what starting small can do for you. I started by ditching the scale, writing 'I love you. You are beautiful.' on the mirror, and telling myself that my collarbones were sexy (eyebrow waggle). How can you start? If not you, do you recognize these habits in another person? Can you kindly suggest some of these solutions to them? Let's change the world from determining our worth by if our hand can wrap around and reach our belly button or not toward the volume of our laughter and the light in our eyes as we love the moments we're living in right this very second.
+ do you or someone else you know struggle with this newly named eating disorder? what are your thoughts after reading this piece? Comment below or on Facebook (or privately contact me if you'd like to chat)!