Orthorexia Nervosa – Taking Healthy Eating to the Extreme

The following is a post that I made in February of 2011 on my Tumblr account. I wrote this when I was heading in the direction of a food and health obsession. Everything I wrote is still accurate and relevant, except my emotional and mental connection to eating has changed since then. I no longer worry that what I put in my mouth will immediately cause pimples to spring up. I now recognize that that’s not a healthy or realistic way to think. It’s better to focus on the big picture. I try to eat as healthy as possible, but I don’t allow myself to feel guilty if I have Nutella for breakfast. I don’t scold myself for not eating organic, because it’s not in my price range. I try my best. I’m conscious of what I eat, but not obsessive. I never buy white bread because the whole wheat and multigrain cost the exact same and taste just as delicious. I do eat regular white pasta because it’s significantly cheaper than healthier alternatives. I eat what I want when I’m out. I eat treats and most of them contain white sugar. I realize it’s important to just enjoy myself! I’m sure some people can go all out and not become utterly obsessed to the point of being unhealthy, but my personality doesn’t allow for that. For me, it’s important to always find a healthy medium, even when it comes to eating healthy. I hope you enjoy this insight on eating healthy for your body AND mind:

Lately I’ve been really inspired by Tracy from The Love Vitamin. She believes really strongly that emotional turmoil can have a lot to do with your skin. She also believes in a multi-faceted approach to holistic healing, which consists of a well-rounded combination of healthy diet, exercise, emotional wellbeing, along with sunshine, sleep and, lastly, skincare (she believes that less is more… she washes her face with water, and sometimes honey and aloe).

She has a free ebook called Roadmap to Clear Skin where she gives 7 steps to help you get on the clear skin bandwagon. Her last section, diet, really struck a chord with me—especially when she wrote about how, while eating healthy food is important, some people take it to the extreme and restrict their diet to the extent that they almost have a phobia of what they consider “bad foods.”

She points out, it’s kind of like an eating disorder, right? Well, not just kind of… it is an eating disorder called Orthorexia Nervosa. It’s pretty crazy because I can see myself heading in that direction. I decided that eating healthy to clear my skin meant no dairy, no sugar, no white flour. And to top it off, I was a vegetarian for a few years before my skin started freaking out so since I eliminated dairy, I decided, hey, might as well become a full vegan. I’m actually not fully vegan right now. I call myself a vegan flirt (a Kind Diet term) because I still eat fish and some eggs.

The more research I did, the more I discovered that different sources said different things and I started adding and subtracting whole food groups. I read that grains could be bad so I decided to eliminate all grains to see what happens. Now, that is a nearly impossible feat for a vegan so it didn’t last long (luckily). I’m a naturally thin girl and I never really worry about my weight, but in the past few months I’ve been getting so many comments that I look too thin and it looks like I’ve lost weight. When I weighed myself, I was shocked to see that I lost more than 10 pounds. I know I need to figure out how to get enough plant-based fats into my diet, but I don’t actually know enough about the nutritional content of food to plan out my meals accordingly—at the moment, I just eat what I’m in the mood for when I’m hungry.

I don’t think that I have an eating disorder, but I do think that it’s important that I realize that I have to stop taking this healthy eating thing to the extreme before it gets to the point of being a serious issue. I will continue to avoid white flour and refined sugar at home because I have access to amazing, delicious alternatives like buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, agave nectar, maple syrup and honey. BUT I do realize  need to loosen up a little, especially when I go out with friends. I have to stop feeling guilty if I decide to treat my self once in a while. One little piece of this or that won’t cause my to break out all over my face. So, maybe it will cause one pimple, but probably not.

I went out for my mom’s birthday last night and she ordered this amazing chocolate molten lava cake… it’s actually heavenly. Obviously this is not a healthy food. It has white sugar and white flour… and lots of it. But I decided to have two bites of it and not feel guilty. It was totally worth it. You may think “two bites, wow that’s nothing, why would she even care about two bites,” but I think having some self-control is a good thing. Also, it was a tiny little cake to share between four people so everyone had only two bites anyway. I don’t worry about eating too much food (I always eat until I’m totally full), I just worry (sometimes too much) about eating excessively bad food. And anyway, those two bites were enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t even want to go out to a restaurant with friends because I don’t like the idea of eating somewhere where I can’t control what I’m putting in my mouth… who knows what this or that is made of. I realize now that this thought process causes me stress, and therefore more harm than good. I’m realizing how important it is to keep my stress and emotions in check. Emotions and acne have a stronger link than I ever thought.

That connection is one of the most important lessons I learned in my whole journey and I wouldn’t be where I am right now without it. Pure happiness and self-confidence are two goals I am constantly striving to achieve. I’m not 100% there yet, but I’m unbelievably closer than I was this time last year. It was only when I started to focus on being in the moment and being happy that I noticed everything started to change – albeit slowly, but that’s what you get when you decide to take the natural route. I think it’s totally worth the wait.




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