Living a healthy lifestyle is not something that simply came to me. In fact, I still consider myself to be on the journey of discovering my healthiest and most balanced self. My relationship to food, body image, and exercise has been a very difficult one. Thankfully, life has allowed me to evolve and grow to be at a much more peaceful place with health. My body is no longer a place of hate and fear, it has become my home.
When I was in my darkest moments, reading stories from others who had successfully recovered from a similar place brought me hope and light. Sharing my own story is scary but I know that there are people who may be able to benefit from it. Okay…it is about to get real AF.
The year after I graduated high school, I became interested in exercising and eating “healthy” to make my body look more “fit”. I discovered several free fitness programs and meal plans online and I became obsessed. I have an all or nothing personality, so following these programs wasn’t difficult to do. I stalked healthy bloggers and found myself mimicking what healthy people on Instagram and YouTube were eating. Looking back, I now know that these people I followed on social media had a distorted view of food and health themselves.
Two years of following the fitness programs and meal plans did cause me to lose weight and get toned…but I also lost my period, was suffering from horrible anxiety, had bad skin, and my social relationships were deprived. I received compliments from people on how good I looked, so I kept going. My body was throwing the signs in my face that it needed nourishment but I just did not know how to listen.
The restriction that I made with my food eventually made my body freak out and I started binge eating. Because I was so undernourished, my hind brain thought that I was starving. Binge eating is the scariest and worst thing I have ever been through. It seems as if there is no way to stop or control the eating until the stomach is so full it hurts. The foods that I normally wouldn’t let myself have (ice cream, chips, candy, anything gluten, etc) were the foods that I binged on. I would feel absolutely horrible and disgusting after a binge which made me have a really toxic relationship with my own body. My life just felt like a cycle of restrict —-> binge —-> guilt/shame —–> restrict. This went on for months and months until I finally discovered that I had developed orthorexia and that my binging was a result of not getting enough fuel for my body.
“Orthorexia: an unhealthy fixation on eating only healthy or “pure” foods — was originally defined as a disordered eating behavior in the ’90s, but experts believe it has been gaining steam in recent years, fed by the profusion of foods marketed as healthy and organic, and by the media’s often conflicting dietary advice. Like anorexia nervosa, orthorexia is a disorder rooted in food restriction. Unlike anorexia, for othorexics, the quality instead of the quantity of food is severely restricted.”
With A LOT of self care, help from loved ones, and learning more about how the brain and body work, I was able to stop binge eating and obsessively restricting. It has been 3 years of recovery and still everyday I am faced with challenges. Now, I do not see food as “good” or “bad”. I see food as food. I don’t view exercise as a way to burn off my last meal, I see exercise as a joyful way to play and get stronger. I am nowhere near perfect and I will probably always have struggles with food and body image. But, I strive for making my body my home, a place where I feel at peace. As Katie Dalebout says, “Instead of making your body your masterpiece, make your life your masterpiece”.
If you would like to know specific details on how I was able to recover from both orthorexia and binge eating, let me know! Love you all lots.