That One Time I Took Healthy Too Far and Became Orthorexic
Believe it or not, you can take being healthy a little too far. At least, that is what happened to me.
Back in 2010, I was my heaviest at 150+ lbs struggling through nursing school and working a part time job at GNC. I drank often, smoked cigarettes here and there, and ate nothing but fast food and soda. Literally, my weeknight dinner was a Chik-fil-a kids’ meal with the toy swapped out for ice cream! I did not have a lot of money at the time so it was really all that I could afford while working at the mall. As you can see below, I have come a long way from my heavier days till now.
As time went on, the way my clothes fit started bothering me. I was so fed up that I had decided to make a lifestyle change! I remember going to my pantry and throwing away all the processed/packaged foods and making a clean grocery list for the first time ever. I had graduated nursing school by this point so I had a little more money to work with as I realize clean eating isn’t super affordable. Within the first month or two, I lost 5lbs and I remember feeling so excited seeing the scale budge that I wanted to lose even more. I started my first fitness/health blog at this time to motivate me to lose the weight. My caloric goal during this time of weightloss was 1200 calories a day which is not too bad, depending on what your goals are and what your body fat percentage is like. To put things into perspective, I now eat around 2200 calories a day for maintenance. The problem back then was that I kept lowering my calories when I should’ve started adding some back to maintain the weightloss instead of losing more and more.
At the end of 9 months, I had lost almost 50lbs (if you want a full blog on this, please let me know and I will write one) through dieting alone. But, I had gone too far.. I was around 105lbs at this point, thin, and frail yet I wanted to lose even more. I had gotten so addicted to losing weight that I constantly looked for ways to become even “healthier” in my diet. You see, 120lbs is a perfect and healthy weight for me, but I did not realize this for the longest time. I had gotten so hooked on seeing the number on the scale lower itself that I thought the lower it got, the healthier I got, too. But that was so far from the case.
I worked at a pediatric clinic during this time and stood for 8 hours a day. I literally had no energy left in my body because I was skin and bones. My diet pretty much consisted of soups and salads. I remember even bringing Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine meals to work with me which were only around 250 calories for lunch. Grocery shopping would take literally hours by myself because I felt compelled to read every nutrition label. I would not dare touch a gram of sugar or fat and I would never eat out-ever. One time, my coworkers had gotten me a birthday cake for my birthday and I threw it in the trash because I believed a bite would cause me to become “fat” again. My mind had literally misconstrued what being healthy was.
Let me assure you that I did not have bulimia or anorexia during this time (I suffered from bulimia as a teen), but I was suffering from something called Orthorexia which means an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating. Like anorexia nervosa, orthorexia is a disorder rooted in food restriction. Unlike anorexia, for people with othorexic, the quality instead of the quantity of food is severely restricted.
Someone suffering from orthorexia likely doesn’t enjoy food in the same way that someone with a healthy relationship to food does. Rather, people with orthorexia feel virtuous when they eat the foods they consider to be good or safe, while deviating from their self-imposed food restrictions causes anxiety and self-loathing.
Accoreding to NEDA, the signs and symptoms of Orthorexia are as follows:
- Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
- An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
- Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
- An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
- Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
- Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
- Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
- Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
- Body image concerns may or may not be present
Though I was not throwing up my foods or restricting my foods at this point, I was still suffering from an eating disorder without even knowing. I realized this harmful pattern and my lifestyle truly changed for the better once I married my husband. I had never felt truly beautiful and accepted until him and then I became a mom… things got even better! Motherhood saved me from my unhealthy and disordered view on health. I went on to accept all foods in moderation and discovered lifting weights. Then Diary of a Fit Mommy LLC was born and I passed my personal training certification through NASM!
There are some days that my mind wants to regress back to the old ways, but I know better now. It is nice to find that perfect and healthy middle ground or balance that we all need when it comes to health. But please keep in mind, that there truly is such a thing as taking healthy too far. Health is not my life, but only a part of my life now. And I am the happiest I have ever been.
Your trainer and friend,