By now you’ve probably read this article, or something like it. I’ve been digesting it (hah!) and looking at my own eating habits and drawing my own (unprofessional but informed) opinions.
Here’s my conclusion:
I am not orthorexic.
Whew! Now let’s get on with the rest of the post.
*Disclaimer – This is the closest you’ll ever get to “before” and “after” photos on this blog. And you’ll notice I left out my body. It’s on purpose. Pay attention to the eyes, because that’s where the story takes place.
Several years ago, I went hardcore paleo. I made a huge shift in my diet because as it turns out, eating sugar, most grains and processed foods when you have PCOS can be detrimental to your health.
I made a change to help heal my body, balance my hormones and reduce inflammation. I also wanted to lose weight, and possibly boost my fertility. After two years on the paleo diet, I felt amazing. In fact, I felt better at 32 than I did at 22. It was a very positive change for me, and I felt committed to continuing the lifestyle.
When I became pregnant, my body revolted. Food was torturous. I was puking 10 times a day and stepping foot in the kitchen caused me to retch uncontrollably. I agonized over giving up my paleo ways, even though 1/2 a croissant and a few sips of a latte were the only thing I could keep down for several weeks. A woman who I greatly respected and admired in my professional life saw me eat a bite of croissant one day at work. I was down 17 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight, and struggled to keep even a little food in my stomach. She scolded me in front of my co-workers and within earshot of clients and impassionately proclaimed, “Your baby doesn’t need carbs!”. That was it. My wake up call. MY BABY NEEDED CARBS. And so did I if we were going to get through this pregnancy.
After that point, I gave exactly zero f*cks about eating grains. As it turned out, my body needed grains to make milk for my son and I continued to eat them with abandon and without an ounce of guilt. I tuned out the women who openly spoke to me about my food choices and weight (both positively and negatively) during pregnancy and after. Their opinions weren’t helpful to me either way.
A formerly vegan friend told me a story about when she decided to no longer be a vegan. She was part of her local herbivore community and found great support there. After five years of vigilant veganism, she broadened her daily menu to include animal protein. She agonized over it, but her body needed more than plants to survive. She told her vegan community. Some were accepting and wished her well. Others were not. Sentiments like, “I’m sorry your body craves the flesh of dead animals” and “How can you sleep at night?” and “Enjoy eating that chicken’s period” were volleyed back at her.
We can all tune into what feels good in our bodies. And what feels good isn’t necessarily what is good, but only you are qualified to make that distinction. I am an advocate of eating whatever food makes you feel good. Not what other people tell you to eat, or Dr. Oz, or your grandma, or The Internet, or Big Ag. And especially not what judgy people with no professional experience tell you to eat.
We eat “clean” at our house. We eat properly raised animal proteins. We eat mostly organic produce when we can afford it, and get creative in order to make that possible. We eat grains in moderation and avoid wheat and refined sugar altogether. We feel better when we make conscious decisions about what we fuel our bodies with. We eat junk food occasionally and have seasons where we eat it way too much. Then we feel terrible and go back to our clean eating because it works for us. We are nicer, kinder, less stressed, and our bodies function better when we are consistent with our right-for-us food choices.
Orthorexia exists. I’m certain it is a real disorder that affects people in profound ways, and I’ve seen it in my industry and in my community. I came (too) close to it. I struggled with an eating disorder during my teens and early 20’s, so I’m extra vigilant about not making food my religion.
With that said, there’s another side to this story.
Please don’t mistake eating what makes your body feel good with a disorder. Unless you are a doctor or licensed mental health professional, you have no business judging people’s food choices.
And for the rest of us?
Eat with awareness.
- If you feel more energetic after eating something, take notice.
- If something you eat makes you feel guilty, take notice.
- If you feel more satisfied when you eat certain foods, take notice.
- If you are terrified to eat something when you’re not certain of the source, and you don’t have a legit allergy or intolerance, take notice.
- If you eat a certain way because someone told you to and it doesn’t line up with your values or current needs, take notice.
- If your body feels inflamed, painful, or achy after eating something, take notice.
- If you eat in secret, take notice.
- If you feel shame around food, take notice.
- If people shame you about what you are eating, take notice. (And tell them to mind their own damn business.)
It’s easy to make a judgment and slap a label on disordered eating. Tabloids and busybodies do it all the time. It’s also easy to judge people based on physical appearance. And guess what? Those are acts of emotional brutality. Unless it is personally causing you harm or bringing serious harm to a minor or elderly person, knock it off. It’s not your business what somebody looks like or what they eat. Leave that up to trained professionals.
I’m returning to my paleo ways for a while because it works for me again at this stage in my life. But we are going to Texas next month and you’d better believe I’m going to murder some chips and queso and maybe a taco or two. I will feel zero guilt about it.
We are more than our bodies. We are more than a number on the scale. We are more than our food.