Recovery Update: Orthorexia is No Fun
I’m just going to tell you straight… Recovery is extremely hard. I’ve mentioned before that I have an “all or nothing” type of personality, so when I made the decision to acknowledge my eating disorder and begin the recovery process, I was ready for the disorder to just kind of disappear.
I thought if I followed the steps my nutritionist gave me to eat three balanced meals a day and snack on something whole and natural every 2.5-3 hours to keep my blood sugar levels up and get my hormones back into balance, then I could somehow just fall right back into having a healthy relationship with food.
Well, my friends, that has certainly not been the case. (And notice how obsessed I get over any type of instruction in itself – FML.)
The unhealthy habits that I developed over roughly a two-year period are ingrained into my body and my mind, and it’s very challenging to begin unwinding from them. I am still of the mentality that if I eat a large meal, or even a full meal for that matter, that I should pretty much “fast” for the next several meals to balance it back out.
It’s hard to explain why I feel such a need to be empty when it comes to food, but it all stems from my extremely sensitive stomach and the tummy problems I’ve dealt with my whole life. When I found plant-based eating, I was finally able to eat without my stomach being in pain or getting nauseous and bloated after every meal. But that was only in the beginning of my plant-based journey because the diet was basically a detox from the dairy, wheat, oil, meat, etc. that I had been eating my whole life.
Once the detox period passed, my stomach problems started creeping back one by one. The roughage of eating such an abundance of veggies and fruits with little else to balance them out took a toll on my stomach in a whole different way. After many months and then years of eating this way, I stopped feeling satisfied from a diet of solely plant-based foods, so I thought something was wrong.
To fix the imbalance, I juice cleansed. A lot. I did one-day cleanses at the beginning of each week, and I sought out each and every juice company in NYC to try their cleanse programs and different methodologies. At the peak of my juice cleanse addiction, I embarked on a ten-day cleanse of just juice, and restricted myself from even drinking juices with a high fruit content (in my mind, all I could see when I looked at those was sugar) and/or smoothies even though I was still trying to maintain my super active lifestyle.
So when I finally came to the realization that I had a problem and that my hormones were way out of whack (thanks to losing my period, injuring the crap out of my ankle, and becoming increasingly lethargic and exhausted all the time) I thought I could bounce right back to how I’d been pre-disorder.
Especially because of how educated I am on the subject! I knew in the back of my mind for months that I was developing an eating disorder, something tricky and difficult and scary and psychologically messed up, so I thought that when I was ready to change, I would be able to.
And now I am very ready, and making changes and taking strides is proving extremely difficult. I will be doing well for a few hours, and then my mind will revert right back to obsession. “I ate a pretty big breakfast so I definitely shouldn’t be snacking now, and OMG what if this chicken hurts my stomach, maybe I should just drink a green juice instead,” “Okay shit I am so full I will definitely just restrict myself all day tomorrow and then I will start feeling more balanced again—who needs breakfast anyway?” “Nothing sounds good I’m just going to eat that kale plain and call it a day,” etc. etc.
It’s torture! And I have very little control over it. For someone who spiraled downward into orthorexia because I like to have control in all areas of my life, this lack of control has been frustrating and debilitating.
I am trying to stay focused because I know change doesn’t happen overnight. I know that the more I obsess, the greater the problems I am causing for myself. I know that reverting back to my old habits of restriction will only make things harder on me in the end.
But it’s frickin’ WEIRD & uncomfortable to make these huge shifts after so long of living one way! My body isn’t used to it, my mind isn’t used to it, and my biochemistry is like, “WTF is going on?”
So, here I am, taking it day by day. I just wanted to give you all a little glimpse into the difficulty that is recovering from an eating disorder, because I know I have been extremely positive on the blog thus far. The reality is that it’s not all peaches and roses all the time. There is a lot of positivity, yes (all of your support!!!), and I wouldn’t change my decision or my coming out publicly for anything in the world, because I have so loved connecting with all of you in this way.
But that doesn’t discredit the fact that eating disorders are incredibly mental, so mentally I am struggling. I need to be open about that because I know there are so, so many of you struggling behind closed doors, and I want this to be a place where the doors don’t have to be closed. It shouldn’t be so taboo to say, “yes, I’m recovering, but today didn’t go so well at ALL,” or to say that eating disorders are a DISEASE and that no matter how controlling of a personality we have… sometimes diseases take hold until they’re shown a real battle.
But once the battle finally takes place, I believe that the eating disorder gets crushed. Every time.