Honesty Post – When Healthy Eating Becomes Unhealthy

(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). 

Choice Cafe Kyoto

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?

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  • Reply Lesq

    Your the best Lauren. I know how honest, genuine, sincere, sweet-hearted and intelligent you are. You are warm and caring and your loveliness is enhanced by your kind manner. You showed me that first hand. We all have some of this in us when we suffer with IBS and other digestive issues. The times we live in push crazy with how food heals which can lead us down a negative path. Your half-way on the right foot already just recognizing it. I had fallen into this rut of good/bad and my husband is pulling me out of it.

    May 31, 2016 at 6:34 am
    • Reply thebrightfulllife

      Thank you, your words are so kind and appreciated 🙂
      Exactly, its a big step to recognising its not healthy to be like this. I think lots of people are in this space of fear without being aware of it. Our lives can be so much more free 🙂
      I wish you all the best on your journey on coming away from it too, here if you need support! Lauren x

      June 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm
  • Reply Megan

    Love this so much! I agree with all of this 100%. I’m a nutrition student right now too and I’ve definitely struggled with this as well. When you have to know EVERYTHING about food and nutrition, it’s hard to look at food as being morally neutral and not “good” or “bad”. Throughout this past year though I’ve definitely learned that I too want to work with others with EDs/disordered eating tendencies, because it’s such a big problem in our “dieting” society. Which is sadly often caused by dietitians. So glad I found your blog because I can relate to all of this 🙂

    June 4, 2016 at 8:30 am
    • Reply thebrightfulllife

      Thank you so much Megan and thank you for stopping by! I have learned that too over the past year that this is what I want to help with too. It is such a huge issue in society at the moment and if we can make a little positive change that would be awesome 🙂
      Heading over to your blog now 🙂

      June 4, 2016 at 8:54 am
  • Reply Laura Agar Wilson

    YES to all of this! You know I’m with you 100% on everything here and can absolutely relate. It still takes me some focus to stay balanced each day, but it’s worth it 🙂

    June 6, 2016 at 11:03 pm
    • Reply thebrightfulllife

      Thank you Laura. It is so nice to have the support of other bloggers out there who seek and live a balanced healthy life 🙂

      June 7, 2016 at 6:36 pm
  • Reply Julia @ Drops of Jules

    I’m so late to the game on this. I’m sorry for that. I just want you to know how lovely this post was to read. While I’m grateful to feel strong in my recovery, posts like these serve as a reminder of how diligent I need to remain in my own journey. However, I want to commend you on the courage and strength I feel within this post. I cannot wait to keep following and see where you thrive! I’m here anytime you need me.
    Julia @ Drops of Jules recently posted…I am not my past. Mental Health Monday MHM #4My Profile

    June 8, 2016 at 12:52 pm
    • Reply thebrightfulllife

      Don’t worry lovely! I do not expect comments when I write, so when I see one its just a bonus 🙂
      Thank you for the lovely words and support, I appreciate it. I am also here for you too!

      June 8, 2016 at 8:52 pm
  • Reply Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes

    Beautifully written post and a lot of it resonates with me. I’m all about balance and listening to my body but sometimes it can be a struggle and I think it’s really important to document such things to give a realistic viewpoint. I think we owe that to anyone that happens to read our blogs.

    June 10, 2016 at 8:55 pm
    • Reply thebrightfulllife

      Thank you so much Jemma. I completely agree. We have to be real about it all so we don’t give off any false impression of a perfect life because there is no such thing!

      June 11, 2016 at 8:00 am

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