On May 30th of last year, I posted about how healthy eating had become unhealthy for me. I finally admitted that I had a problem with being too obsessed with healthy food. It almost sounds ridiculous when you read that sentence. If you told 16 year old Lauren she would have a condition where not eating healthy food gave her crippling anxiety, she would have laughed at you over her chicken korma and chips with extra salt…
But ridiculousness aside, this condition is real, it is serious and whilst it may be a first world problem, it is a problem that needs a rise in awareness. Just like there are so many people out there unconsciously suffering from the pains of diet culture and disordered eating, there are so many people I see who are far too obsessed with healthy eating and the purity of their food.
Now, I am not saying eating healthy is bad. Of course it isn’t. There is a tonne of scientific evidence which guides our nutrition guidelines to teach nutrition that can help to maintain good health. The problem lies in taking healthy eating to the extreme, involving behaviours such as cutting out entire food groups for non medical or non ethical reasons, fearing the health effect of certain foods and putting foods into extreme black and white, “good” and “bad” categories. Unlike a weight concerned eating disorder, orthorexia is an obsession with healthy and righteous eating (but can also lead to unhealthy weight loss).
In the last year and 4 months I have healed so much. I thought that when I stopped anorexic and bulimic behaviour (6 years ago) that I was healed from my eating issues, yet I never fully realised how much I was still stuck in diet mentality. When I started my healthy living blog in early 2014, I didn’t have an eating disorder any more but I always wanted to be thinner. Even in early 2016, when I was doing a whole 30 challenge (cringe…) to help “heal my gut” (double cringe…), I was actually a bit happy when I lost some weight. Deep down, I was still attaching some of my worth to my size. (This is why I made the conscious decision to get rid of all posts before May 30th 2016 as I realised how I still had a long way to go and I didn’t want what I may have written to affect anyone negatively. There was a lot of goodness in those posts and many of them were just life posts or happy lifestyle posts, but it felt right to put it all in the past and move forward into a new space of healing.)
After tackling my issues and behaviours head on, I began to really heal not only the orthorexic behaviour, but also the lingering diet mentality and diet culture that I was still so unconsciously living. Instead, I threw myself into all things full recovery and absorbed myself in books, podcasts and blogs that really, really, really helped me. The book that was essential for my healing was Intuitive Eating (life saver!). Another book that has been wonderful is Health at Every Size. Two bloggers who were essential in my healing were Kylie and Robyn. Luckily from being in the “healthy living blogging world” for a few years, I was reading these blogs on the regs and I can’t even express how much they helped me heal. Other blogs which really helped me were The Fuck It Diet and Isabel Foxen Duke. Podcast wise, Christy Harrison’s work literally was extra therapy for me. I don’t know where I would be with my relationship to food and my body if it wasn’t for this incredible podcast and all her wonderful guests on the show. In addition to all of these fantastic resources, I was seeing a wonderful psychologist in Sydney (where I was living until March 2017), who I talked all the things through with and we got to the roots of my eating issues – GOD send. And last but not least, my amazing BF, JL, of nearly 7 years, who helped me through it all and called bullshit on all my excuses to not tackle it head on.
There was a phase in my healing where I was literally just so excited to be able to eat all the foods again. I began ticking foods off of my list that I hadn’t eaten in years because they were “too unhealthy”. I think I had more gelato in those first fews months than I had done in my entire life ha. But like the Intuitive Eating book teaches, the yearning for these foods subsides as your mind and body realise they can have them whenever they want. When you start eating intuitively, the fear is that you will only ever eat pizza and ice cream and that you will not be able to stop. And in the beginning there may be more pizza and ice cream then there are greens and whole grains. BUT, as your body and mind heal and begin to trust you, you will begin to truly crave what your body wants and guess what, more greens and whole grains pop up again and it all balances out (although this looks different for everyone as we all need different things to feel best!). I am now the girl who could be at a table with a plate full of donuts and not eat one if I have no desire… Or, if I do have the desire, I will eat it until my tastebuds are bored or until I am satisfied whilst being present and enjoying the company and conversation around me. 21 year old, restrictive eating Lauren would have either spent the whole time mentally battling the desire to eat one OR eaten the entire plate full and then purged with some disordered behaviour. Orthorexic Lauren would have been dying to eat one but would not “be allowed” because they were too unhealthy. If Orthorexic Lauren did eat one, she would have had horrendous IBS pains because the mental distress and anxiety, from eating said donut, would have brought on digestive disruption. What place with food sounds best to you!? Oh hayyyyy Intuitive Eating and food peace/freedom!!!
I feel so incredibly happy to say that I am truly in a place where I am at peace with food and have been for pretty much all of 2017. I honour my hunger without any shame, I let my body be the size and shape it wants to be naturally and I eat what I want, when I want, whilst also living the intuitive eating principle of honouring my health and practicing gentle nutrition. I eat gluten and I am fine (shock…) and I eat “junk food” (fun food as IE calls it) whenever I fancy it. Food literally takes a back seat in my life, whilst I get out and live it. I travel without worrying what I am going to eat, I go to restaurants without ever checking the menu, I can let people cook for me without any anxiety and I don’t really think about food until I am hungry or I need to choose something to eat. And let me tell you how LIBERATING it is to be able to live life this way. Life is so much more enjoyable, trust me. I still love food, obvs…but it is just a tiny small part of my life. I still like to post food pics on instagram, but that is mainly in celebration of delicious food and to show you can live a happy and healthy life eating foods that are “non-textbook healthy”.
And just a small note. I still have the odd thought about a food being unhealthy or a quick thought about my body not being thin anymore… BUT these thoughts go as quickly as they come. Recovery doesn’t mean you will never ever get any disordered thoughts again, it just means you do not act on them and you give yourself a tonne of self care, practice healthy ways of coping with life and uncomfortable emotions and remind yourself how worthy and loved you are. Always remember, you don’t have to believe in every thought that pops up.
I really hope that I can help others reach this place of food and body peace. The journey is not always easy, in fact it can be pretty bloody hard not to use food and body means to cope with the uncomfortable parts of life, as it is often an easy option that gives a (false) sense of control. But it is SO WORTH IT.
We deserve to live a FULL, FREE and EXPANSIVE life, that is not dominated by obsession with food and our bodies in any manifestation. We are here for FAR MORE than to chase “perfect health”, “the perfect body” or to live a limited life pained by an obsession by what we eat.
Your purpose is much grander, I promise.
No questions just thoughts.