(This post contains some words on eating disorders and disordered eating that some readers may feel uncomfortable reading. Please honour your own space and feelings).
Today, I want to talk to you about something personal that I can’t not share on this blog because I am an honest person who does not want to hide anything from you guys.
I have had some issues come to light with my own food journey and relationship to “healthy” food. Whilst some people may think I am crazy to share such personal issues given that I need to be “professional” when I qualify, I personally think it is incredibly important to share our stories, because it shows we are human and we do not know who we might be helping by doing so.
The amount of people in this world (in all different kinds of countries), with eating disorders, disordering eating and an unhealthy relationship to food is crazy and it has to stop. This post shows a particular manifestation of disordered eating and whilst it may seem bizarre to some people (“what being too healthy is a thaaaang!?”), it’s something that needs to be brought to light. I am going to get honest and real with y’all (I never say y’all but it sounds so fitting…). Lets hop to it…
As a Nutritionist, I want to help people be free of disordered eating and have a peaceful relationship with food, their bodies and themselves.
Food freedom, intuitive eating and a peaceful relationship to food is what I believe is healthy.
As you all know, I recovered from an eating disorder when I was 21 and I was in a place where I was mostly free around food. Whilst some body image thoughts still lingered (I am human and we live in a society OBSESSED by outward appearances), I generally came to a point where I accepted my body, I always honoured my hunger, exercised to feel good, never binged, rarely emotionally ate and was totally finished with dieting and restricting. I had, what we call, fully “recovered”. I ate what society said was “well” most of the time, but I had no problem having a few drinks, eating massive burritos and big sunday roasts as well, without feeling horendously guilty about “hurting” my body with eating “non healthy” foods.
During my first graduate job, I became very interested in health, nutrition and wellness. I became passionate about nourishing the body, stopping hating ourselves and our bodies and nourishing ourselves so we can live a great life. This was also off the back of some health issues for example, IBS (I know, classic…). I became so passionate about nutrition and wellness that I decided to go back to school to study it.
Once beginning college to study nutrition, this is where I noticed and believed the issues that may have already been there lingering in the background, accelerated and became a problem. What once was an obsession with restricting for weight, slowly started to creep up and morphed into an obsession with what I could and couldn’t eat to “be healthy”. What started out as an innocent yearn to eat well to help myself feel well and help my IBS, became a black and white approach to labelling food as “good” and “bad” for my conditions. Throw in a scare with malignant melanoma cancer, and all “good” and “bad” foods for health and healing were exacerbated.
I was constantly not eating this and not eating that; gluten, “refined sugar”, dairy, soy, meat, fish, “insert supposed inflammatory food”. I was a nightmare to cook for as people didn’t know what I would be avoiding next, all in the quest for “health”. The thoughts in my head around food were causing me too much anxiety. I would be very worried about the affect of what I deemed “non healthy” foods would be on my body e.g. gluten and sugar. I would sometimes avoid going out socially because I didn’t want to eat another “unhealthy meal” or would try and control the destination or what food was served. If I did eat the food I deemed “unhealthy”, it caused me so much anxiety that I believe this anxiety actually caused me physical health issues, not the bloody food!
I would be almost jealous of the girls at college who could eat so freely from the canteen and didn’t care or worry about the ingredients. I wanted to eat something that I didn’t know the ingredients of without worrying about it. I mean, about a year ago, I once bought a protein ball from the college canteen, and literally had a full blown anxiety attack after eating it because I didn’t know the ingredients. I mean, this is NOT HEALTHY in any way, shape or form.
When something begins to affect your mental health, this is where it is a problem.
Whilst it is not a full blown eating disorder, like it used to be in the past, (I have talked all about it with an amazing counsellor), it is disordered thinking around food and I want to be completely open and honest about this being a problem.
As I have touched on before, our state of minds around food is hugely important, and I believe, more important than the food itself. What I mean by that, is that if we are eating a particular way to heal ourselves or stay healthy, but we feel mentally restricted because we can’t live a normal life and cannot eat a prohibited food without a huge amount of fear, this is hugely toxic and more toxic then just eating said prohibited food with ease, grace, gratitude and love. I truly, truuuuuuly believe this. I know lots of people can eat a “healthy diet” without feeling mentally restricted and feel wonderful physically and mentally, and this is totally awesome. BUT if you have disordered thoughts about any of it, fear any foods or you feel mentally restricted, this is not healthy at all.
The reason I am posting all of this is because I still have that same fire and passion to help women (and men) overcome eating disorders, disordered eating and love themselves for WHO they are and NOT what they LOOK like or the SIZE of them.
That passion and fire is still there. However, I cannot fully do that when I graduate, until I have made peace with these black and white thoughts I am having on food being healing for the body or harmful. Whilst facts on nutrition may be theoretically “true”, if there is a feeling of restriction there, an effect on social life, an effect on mental well-being or fear there around food, this needs to be eradicated or it is more harmful then just eating some “non nutritionally healthy” foods. We need to listen to our own bodies, and not what is said to be “the healthiest”.
I am going to work on this in a variety of ways and this includes seeing a counsellor (which is important for anyone with any kind of eating problem or mental health issue).
I believe the things we need to learn the most are the things we need to teach, so I hope that in being open and honest about this, I can help someone out there struggling too. I know to some people out there they can’t believe anyone could get too obsessed with healthy eating or think it is “ridiculous” and a first world problem, but this is a real issue that is only rising in this #cleaneating yada yada yada world that’s growing and growing.
Eat foods YOUR body likes to eat to feel its best mentally, physically and emotionally.
Because living in any extreme with food is not good for our health.
I fully believe we can all reach a place where we can have a healthy relationship with food. I fully believe we can all get to a point where we love ourselves enough to nourish ourselves fully and that means eating what our bodies guides us to eat and honouring our cravings with grace, ease and no guilty or shameful thoughts.
We can have food freedom.
(Also as I said before, this is not aimed at those who need to avoid certain foods for allergies, intolerances and illnesses. It is aimed at those who are experiencing disordered thoughts when it comes to healthy food and a healthy lifestyle.
I also want to reiterate to anyone struggling with any kind of disordered eating, thinking or eating disorder to seek help from a qualified professional e.g. your GP, Dietitian, Nutritionist etc).
Have you been through a similar journey? Can you understand where I am coming from? Any words of wisdom?