March 27, 2017

Orthorexia: The Eating Disorder that Isn’t.

* Editor’s note: This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. Always consult a health professional.


Orthorexia nervosa is not currently recognized as an official diagnosis.

It is characterized by an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.

I may not be able to finish writing this paragraph because I may have to run to the bathroom. I do mean run, too. At the last minute. I mean it.

I don’t have an eating disorder. I did when I was a teenager. I am so over that though. I don’t even have a scale! I just check my weight at the gym. Once in the morning. Five days a week. Before I eat anything. Or drink. I’ve always wanted to do that “drink 20 ounces of water first thing in the morning” thing, but I can’t. Got to weigh in first.

My weight should be precisely between 89 and 92 pounds—is perfect. Between 90 and 91, I am good. Between 91 and 92, I need to be more disciplined. If I’m over 92, I am bad.

These rules, by the way, only apply to me.

I do eat. Boy, do I eat! Everyone around me knows I eat. I eat a lot, too. I’m just careful about what I eat. I eat whole foods—from natural sources, always. And never before noon. That way I can be sure to have at least 12 hours of fasting overnight. So, no nibbling before noon, just in case. Ever.

I’m not hungry, anyway—at least not physically.

When I had that eating disorder thing, 15 years ago, there were three things my doctors would say I would have to deal with for the rest of my life:

First of all, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for me to have children—not something a 15-year-old cares much about, anyway.

Secondly, I would always deal with digestive distress. (I didn’t even know what that meant.)

Finally, there was a high probability that I would relapse.

Well, at least they were wrong about the third one.

I work in the fitness industry. We are all careful about what we eat. We have to be. GMOs, hormones, chemicals—it is a wonder anyone can eat anything at all.

I just eat particular things, at particular times, in particular ways. It’s not something I advertise, but that doesn’t mean it is disordered or anything. That seems a bit dramatic.

Sometimes, I begin to wonder if the way that I am living is actually unhealthy.

Indeed, I do suffer from digestive distress. My stomach and everything above it seems fine. The difficulties occur once food passes my stomach.

I don’t take conventional laxatives, prescribed or over-the-counter. I am wary of big pharma, and I do not trust the FDA. However, I do take a herbal supplement to assist digestion three times a day. It seems to help. Most of the time.

I cannot stand feeling full. Many people say they cannot stand things that they actually can, and do. I mean this, though. I cannot stand feeling full. I panic. I take more of the herbal laxative, I drink bottles of Kombucha, I swallow pro-biotic pills, and I eat a cup of fermented vegetables.

I tell myself this is normal. Okay, if not normal, normal for a paleo-turned-vegan-turned-raw-food-herbalist-yoga teacher. I wait. I pray. I pray harder, and then I wait.

SometimesI wonder if it is always my body that is the problem, or if perhaps, it is actually my intolerance for feeling full.

I feel full a lot, too. Most people would if they ate a whole cantaloupe. That is normal for me. Yet, I haven’t had bread in over 10 years.

I’m never hungry. I’m always full. But I’m also starving. All we have to do is look at the many Americans who are obese, yet nutrition-deprived, to know that it is possible to starve with a full belly.

It is difficult to think. Sometimes, it is even difficult to move. Life is a series of meals punctuated by actual living. Caffeine is my hero. It helps me focus. It helps me work and learn and socialize. It helps me do the things that I do when I am not eating.

Part of me is optimistic, though. I’m starting a new “way of eating” next week. (I don’t say diet because that implies that I am trying to lose weight, and I am not.) Maybe it will fix things. Maybe it will fix me.

Part of me is skeptical. I have been here so many times before. This time I mean it. This will be the last diet. This time I will be able to eat to live, not live to eat.

Honestly, part of me needs this. I need the madness so that the world can make more sense. I need to know that if I renounce all additives, if I purge all preservatives, if my fridge is full and my stomach is empty, everything will be okay. I need something that will take the edge off.

And I’m not sure I’m done hurting myself.

Believe it or not, I am a pretty cool person. I have a wonderful life. I am married to my best friend. I am very good at the work I do. A life-long student—I love to learn. I am politically and socially active. I have a lot of friends.

They don’t know about this part of my life.

I may not be able to finish writing this paragraph because I may have to run to the bathroom. Last night I ate organic Fair Trade vegan chocolate. It was divine.

It was so good that today I have downed three tablespoons of herbal laxative and Senna tea just to make it go away.

That’s normal, right?


Relephant bonus:



Author: Shellie Crow

Image: flickr/schnappischnap

Editor: Lieselle Davidson


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