If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I am firmly against focusing on ‘healthy’, ‘whole’, ‘clean’, ‘wonderfully nutritious’ foods when in recovery from an eating disorder. (While we’re on it, I’m totally against the focus on ‘exercise and muscle gain’ in recovery from an ED too, but that’s for another time.)
Quote from le disclaimer:
This blog focuses on the roots of true recovery, which are flexibility and acceptance, no matter what. It’s all about learning to love your body no matter what foods you ate, and what exercise you’ve done. It’s about completely letting go of any ideas you have about being ‘healthy’ and ‘good’ and learning to live free of any obligations to your disorder of ‘having to exercise’ and having to ‘eat well’. Some people on tumblr really misuse yoga and healthy eating, and it turns into an anaesthetic for them. Oatmeal, PB and avocado become ‘safe’, and running and yoga make it ‘ok’ to eat. I have nothing against yoga and ‘healthy’ eating, but in recovery, they should be the last things on your mind.
The Vegan Debate section is also very good reading, if you’re interested.
Which leads us nicely to:
Orthorexia comes from the word ‘orthodox’ (meaning, clean/pure/righteous), and is somewhat of a slang term for a person suffering from an intense, isolating obsession or ‘preference’ towards having to ‘eat clean’, ‘eat healthy’.
Orthorexia is not a DSM-diagnosable eating disorder, but that’s irrelevant, because 1) I have no time or patience for the DSM, as it triggers/makes so many people miserable, and 2) it’s still a massive, massive problem.
Sadly, however, it’s often a problem that can not only go unnoticed, but also enoucraged. We live in a sick, sick society, where the word ‘healthy’ is not a far cry from ‘saintly’, and where we (mostly women, although nowadays, increasingly, men too) are encouraged to think of ‘unhealthy’ foods as ‘sins’, and to feel shame at our hunger and desire for good-tasting, arguably ‘less nutritious’ foods.
I walked past a confectionary shop yesterday, which was called, lo and behold, SugarSin. Not only that - Slimming World, as far as I’m aware, also had a ‘food accounting system’ which actually uses the word ‘Syn’. (‘Sin’, but more jazzy.)
Yet another Marya Hornbacher quote:
Consider the advertisements for food, the religious lexicon of eating: “sinfully rich,” intones the silky voice announcer, “indulge yourself,” she says, “guilt-free.”
Our fucked-up attitude to food as a society, basically, does nothing to help.
When your mind is already fragile, when you find yourself already turning to food in order to ‘calm yourself’, to ‘keep yourself sane’, no wonder some of us flip to ‘healthy eating’ obsession.
We’ve all heard the phrase. ‘Eat healthy and exercise.’ Yes, it has good intentions, but for an eating-disordered person, it’s the worst thing a doctor or a ‘health professional’, or, in fact, anybody could say.
A link to a brilliant submission post titled ‘FUCK SOCIETY, CHOCOLATE IS HEALTHY' is appropriate here.
A bit of this from my personal experience -
Most memorable moment: me, almost in tears, asking if I’ll gain muscle in recovery even though I’m not allowed to, and anyway don’t do any, exercise. “No exercise?” she says, frowning. “Of course you need to exercise! Otherwise you’ll just get fat!”
“What do you eat?” another female doctor asks me. “Fish, oats, vegetables, you know,” I shrug…“Oh,” she says, surprised. “But that’s really healthy! What’s the problem then?”
First time I told a friend of mine that I was worried my eating disorder was more serious than I’d thought. Her wise words? ‘If you’re worried about getting fat, just exercise and eat healthy!’
Eityqwiuhglfkbdjaglf. No. No no no please no. FYI, ‘exercising and eating healthy’ will not solve your problems, and if you have one, it will most certainly not heal your disordered, weakened mind.
If you really, truly do base your whole diet on wholegrains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables, and feel anxious/bad/guilty when you are unable to do so, then know that you have a problem.
Here is a post I did a while back titled ‘When Healthy Eating is Dangerous’.
Most important thing from it:
Does your diet socially isolate you?
Do you feel anxious about going to the cinema with friends, because you’re scared of looking weird if you don’t have any popcorn? Are sleepovers your worst nightmare, because of takeout pizza and soda? Do you feel the need to always ‘know’ that there’ll be a ‘healthy option’ available?
I feel so, so deeply sad for many people suffering from disordered dependency on ‘healthy’ eating, because it’s so often encouraged, and not recognised for the misery that it can be.
As for recovery from orthorexia or orthorexic tendencies, it’s frustratingly simple. Challenge all the beliefs you’ve grown to have. No, GM ingredients/preservatives will not poison you. Eating a food high in saturated fat will not magically, suddenly clog your organs. Know your own ‘healthy eating boundaries’, and really push them.
No real soda, because of the ‘sugar-raised insulin-diabetes risk-bad teeth’ thing? Challenge that. Fuck that. Only by pushing yourself out of your disordered comfort zone, can you truly break free from every little strand of ‘disorder’.
Restricting your food intake in any way for any reason, no matter how ‘healthy’ the reason may be, is always a danger zone. Always.
After all, it’s when you are able to truly eat any food without anxiety, that’s when you know you’re free. Damn it, that feeling is incredible, trust me.
Remember, if deep down you know your ‘healthy eating’ is restrictive and damaging, then it’s something you really should discontinue. All my love x
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