This Summer, I’ve come to grips with the fact that I have an eating disorder. While I’m not an individual who suffers from anorexia nervosa, my relationship with food and eating, in general, is a complicated one.
Orthorexia is the term for a condition that includes symptoms of obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet. Orthorexia sufferers often display signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders that frequently co-occur with anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders.
A person with orthorexia will be obsessed with defining and maintaining the perfect diet, rather than an ideal weight. She will fixate on eating foods that give her a feeling of being pure and healthy.
Acknowledging that I had a long-standing anxiety disorder was one thing, but acknowledging that I might have Orthorexia was another. I was okay with admitting that I had quite a few stressors in my life that frequently caused unexpected outbursts of panic. What I was not ready to admit was my overwhelming perfectionism.
My therapist’s theory for my condition was that I desperately wanted to be thin.
But for me, cutting out junk foods and eating healthy & overexercising was a way for me to claim the title of “together”. Following a particularly rough Freshman year, I grew increasingly more and more aware of how I had gained weight and fell into a pit of living off of pop tarts, ramen, and any other fast food that I could get my hands on for cheap. What I did not notice was how food started to take over my life; how before Orthorexia had crept up on me I would eat to avoid confronting my feelings or even eat just to do something, rather than getting. Eating allowed me to have a minor escape from reality and when I didn’t like that escape, I switched it to an equally unhealthy escape; self-imposed restriction.
Orthorexia began to ruin my social life. I could no longer go out to eat the occasional Chipotle or pizza because those were “greasy, fatty” foods and I wasn’t “allowed” to eat those things anymore. Despite my campus having a wide range of fresh & healthy foods to eat, my mind had convinced me that everything around me was not healthy enough. Soon, I noticed the weight was quickly coming off of me (due to overexercising and starvation) but I also noticed a return of lethargy. But because I was becoming the slim sophomore who exercised and excelled in classes, I decided to ignore the negative because becoming “close to perfect” was not without its shortcomings, right?
As I look back at the end of my Freshman year (and even today), I’ve become quite aware that I’m far from perfect. And that’s okay. Because while 2017 was a hard year for both me and my body, I’ve taken the steps to work on it. I still actively try to eat healthily but I’ve made it a priority to not obsess over it. I’ve also realized that over-working myself in the gym is not productive and more harmful in the long term. I have made a choice to go out with friends once a week. And although I still struggle with Orthorexia, it’s something that I’m no longer willing to ignore. Especially during this holiday season. I mean, who wants to miss out on latkes?