Orthorexia masks itself as a healthy way to live. When someone starts a new diet (Keto, Whole30, etc.) they usually do so with good intentions. Friends and family may grumble but they usually don’t worry about that person’s well being. Sadly, for some of us, this is the slippery slope into orthorexia’s dungeon.
When we start to cut out certain foods because they may cause weight gain or cancer or headaches, we think we are doing the right thing. But sometimes we take it too far. To be honest, I was nearly two decades into my unhealthy relationship with food before I realized it was much more than a weird obsession with food. I was battling a life-threatening condition that put me at high risk for a sudden cardiac event all the while, robbing me of freedom.
My fear is that there are many others out there just like me. You may feel extreme guilt after eating food on your “bad list.” Or you may avoid certain celebrations because you need to eat clean. Or, like me, have a meltdown at a grocery store or restaurant when the item I had planned all week to get is out of stock. Yes, I’ve had panic attacks and even cried over raw vegetables and organic produce.
Maybe you sit and think about what you can eat all day long. Worrying to yourself that it might not be healthy enough or that just one slice of pizza will cause you to develop a terminal illness. So what? You chalk it up to an unhealthy relationship with food or just anxiety. You figure others probably fear food like you and just don’t say anything. In reality you don’t see the damage you’re allowing orthorexia to do to you physically and mentally.
Loved ones probably admire your amazing willpower when you say no to dessert. They are impressed by your fitness regimen. They don’t see the internal torture. Maybe you don’t either. It’s only been during my recovery that I’m starting to realize the full effects of orthorexia and the many years it haunted me.
Unlike some eating disorders, orthorexia can appear in broad daylight and you don’t even know it. It fools you into thinking you have the control. Perhaps because you’ve never heard of it. I learned about the horrors of anorexia and bulimia in school so I thought I knew what an eating disorder was and how to avoid it. I thought I could outsmart it. I was wrong.
My life changed the moment I stumbled across the term orthorexia. The thief was unmasked and for the first time, it became the prey. I knew I had a real problem but I also knew what I was up against.
Knowledge and awareness are essential to my fight yet I continue to combat orthorexic thoughts on a daily basis. However, now I know it is the disorder talking to me. I’m in charge and have the upper hand. I can tell it to go to hell or block it out completely. Only now that I know the enemy, can I truly charge to victory!
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