This post is not about natural beauty. It is about food, obsession, mental health and eating disorders. Writing this post was therapeutic and it feels so good to put it in writing. I hope to continue with updates as the journey unfolds.
I have tried most diets on the market. Veganism. Vegetarianism. Pescatariarism. Keto. Gluten free. Dairy free. Sugar free. Candida Diet. Muscle building plan of balanced macronutrients and eating six meals a day on a schedule like clockwork. I am sure there a few I haven't tried like the micronutrient diet and the raw food diet but I have tried most. It's exhausting to think of.
I have carried my meal plans and diet books around with a weight scale on vacations and carefully measured every ounce I put in my body and eaten to the minute of when I was told to. I have gone to many extremes. You would think by reading this that I am overweight. I am not. I am actually quite a healthy weight with 18% body fat on my 5'6" frame. And I am no bikini model either! Then why do I diet all the time you may be asking? The short answer is because I have disordered eating characterized by the obsession with eating healthy, wanting to prevent all disease and illness, and needing to control my environment through my obsessive eating practices. This is called Orthorexia Nervosa ~ meaning "obsession with healthy eating" coupled with extreme guilt and shame when you fall off the wagon and overeat. This starts the cycle again where you restrict food severely, overexercise, and obsess more about what to eat and not eat to get back on track. The problem is that nobody can be so restrictive ALL THE TIME. You are bound to fall off. You cannot be perfect.
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes so I have learned. Just because we can see an anorexic and probably identify them accurately as being severely underweight or the same for an overweight person. But a normal weight person can be disordered in their eating too and many won't recognize it. I am learning a lot about eating disorders through books and also podcasts on this topic of "Diet Culture" and I am finding it fascinating to hear others' stories and their journeys of recovery.
So what happened to get to this point? I believe I started on this journey over a decade ago when I sought alternative health practices to cure things like infertility, inflammation, arthritis, and more. I started taking more and more supplements to cure my ailments and also looking to food as medicine. I have strong beliefs that food is medicine and we need to treat our bodies like a temple. But for someone like myself with extreme tendencies towards perfectionism and control, this can be taken too far and develop into Orthorexia.
I reached my breaking point a month or so ago when I was in a hot yoga class for ninety minutes and spent all ninety of them focused on what I ate for breakfast, what I would make for lunch and dinner (and heck the rest of the weekend too!), calculating my macros and caloric intake and trying to figure out how much I was burning in the yoga class I was "presently" doing. Driving home I burst into tears realizing that I wasn't even present for that class. My mind had been overtaken by my obsession and I needed to get help, badly. You see, I have three daughters and if they noticed me obsessing like this (and trust me, they had!) then for sure they would also possibly be developing bad habits like mine which could be far worse to start off in the teenage years.
I also realized that on a recent trip I took to India, I was so happy and carefree and guess what ~ I wasn't dieting! I was enjoying myself, eating hearty and whole foods meals and not worrying about calories, macros, or working out. I ate carbs three meals a day! I ate until my belly was full and then forgot about food until my next meal. I got home and was exactly the same weight as when I left two weeks prior. Probably because my cortisol had regaining normalcy from not stressing about food 24/7. It felt liberating!!!
I realize that this will be a long journey to recovery just like any other disorder or addiction. I need to have patience with myself and explore what I am feeling that triggers me to eat or have feelings of guilt and shame. I love food and I love the euphoric feeling of eating a fantastic meal that is healthy and does my body good. But I also love to eat when I am bored, upset, and feeling emotional. The guilt comes from my perfectionistic nature of wanting a perfect body and being perfectly healthy all the time. All unrealistic expectations.
My path to recovery is a daily struggle dealt with through meditation and yoga and journalling every day. I have settled on trying to eat without a label. Eating intuitively. I am eating when I am hungry and what my body feels like eating. I am so sick and tired of trying to fit myself into a box, a plan, tracking every bite I take in a diet app that I could actually care less what I am eating. I am following a Mediterranean style, pescatarian diet of eating whole foods but without meat, dairy and gluten 80-90% of the time. However, I am not going to allow myself to be so restricted anymore that I won't have a bite of bacon, a plate of sweet potato fries, an ice cream cone, or a bite of pizza if my heart wants it. It's the 80/20 rule for me now. And I need to allow myself to have it without feeling guilty afterwards or running to the gym to work it off. That's the hard part. The after effects when the meal is done and my brain takes over.
I have much more compassion for others, both men and women, who struggle with their weight and eating. I am tired of trying to fit into an ideal of what a 46 year old body should and should not look like. I want to just feel good and enjoy the abundant goodness that we have here everyday in the form of nourishing food.
If you are also struggling with an eating disorder and wish to share it with us please post your comments. Share this with a friend who you think may also be suffering with Orthorexia. It is a hard journey and since I am just starting out I could use some words of advice!
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