Monday, February 21, 2011

Dishin' The Dirt

I loved hearing all your “food failure” stories! They were very entertaining, and I’m very lucky that I haven’t had too many horrible fails.
Today’s post is going to be a little deep, but don’t let that turn you away. I hope it’s insightful to you in your own journeys as well.
Obviously, if you’ve read my blog for some time, you’ll know that I’m in recovery for anorexia. What you might not know is that I also am orthorexic. According to Wikipedia, someone who has orthorexia is obsessed on eating healthily, but to the extreme. While it may seem similar to anorexia, it’s not quite the same. It can also lead to severe starvation and even death, but an orthorexic person is mostly focused on certain “unhealthy” aspects of food and they cut those out completely from their diet. It may seem healthy and normal at first, but it can get out of control.
It is not medically-recognized, which means that it’s most likely a self-diagnosis. But my parents have discussed this with my doctor and she mostly agreed that I also have orthorexic tendencies.
That’s how my ED started out—trying to eat healthier. I had a nutrition class in my freshman year of high school, and I learned a lot about eating well. I learned that saturated fats are “bad” and everything should be eaten in moderation. Not bad advice, but that’s when I started eliminating some things. I started seeking out snacks that were really low in fat, like rice cakes and fat-free cookies, and I began to study the nutrition labels. I wanted to be healthy, not like I wasn’t already, but I thought I could improve.
From there, it just got worse. In November of 2008, I began to think of myself as “fat” for some reason. I have no idea why, because I was literally only 85 pounds at 5’1, which is already underweight. So I began ramping up the restriction, and from there it became full-blown anorexia. No longer was I just trying to eat healthier, but I was consciously trying to lose weight.
I was even more concerned about calories, and saturated fat especially. I tried to avoid it as much as possible; I think at one point I only allowed myself up to half a gram a day, which is pretty much impossible. That’s the thing with orthorexia—it starts out pretty harmless, but once you get fixated on one thing, such as fat, it begins to control your life and your food intake becomes restricted because you cut out more and more “unhealthy” things. And I honestly felt superior to all the people at my school who ate pizza, burgers, even stuff like pretzels and crackers.
Unlike many people with anorexia, I never went a day without eating. Towards the end, I was probably eating only 600-800 calories a day, little to no fat but I still ate 3 meals a day, plus the occasional snack of an apple or sugar-free Jell-O. I was seriously sick, but I didn’t see it. I thought eating just a little white rice and black beans for dinner was perfectly OK, because it was healthy, it wasn’t full of fat, and it was pretty nutritious.
I still didn’t quite see how I was so sick, even when I only weighed in the mid-70s. I was a skeleton, but I thought I was great, because I was eating so “healthy”. But in reality, I was missing out on so much nutrition.
I have gotten better with my restriction mostly. I do struggle with it, but it’s no longer a daily battle. What I deal with a lot still is my orthorexia. I still check the fat content of recipes before I decide to make them. I avoid high-fructose corn syrup completely. I try to keep my saturated fat intake below 2 grams every day. And that is really hard to do. There are a lot of perfectly-healthy things I’d love to try, like Luna bars, but I don’t because the saturated fat content of each bar is over my daily allotment. When I eat Clif bars (which I love, by the way), I usually split them in half so I don’t end up with too much fat for the day. But I am proud to say that I had my second full Clif bar today—meaning I ate an entire one at one time! And no, it didn’t kill me or make me fat! Slowly but surely, I’ll beat my orthorexia, too.

Empty Clif wrapper--yay, I did it! It's one of my favorite flavors :)

Q’s: Do you have any orthorexic tendencies? Do you like Clif bars? If you do, what’s your favorite flavor?


  1. I most definatley have orthorexic tendencies. My eating disorder began in "eating healthier" as your did. However, when I was sick I knew it. I did not justify in my head that I was trying to eat healthier. I realized that my purpose was to eliminate food from my life and too lose weight.
    I'm really proud of how far you've come, and how you've been challenging your orthorexic thoughts.
    I used to love Clif Bars! But now they are a fear food for me, because they pack in alot of exchanges without keeping me that full. I'd love to try to have one again though. My favorite flavors were peanut butter and carrot cake.

  2. I too have a lot of orthorexic tendencies. I was more focused on eating less than eating healthy at first, but as I entered recovery my ED really has taken the form of eating much healthier, which as you know isn't necessarily better. I have many, many weird rules about what I will and won't eat. There are many ingredients that I avoid completely.

    I would love to try clif bars. A lot of my friends enjoy them, but they all contain or may contain nuts, so I can't eat them. The only brand I can eat are the zone bars, but the high exchange rate scares me too, like Emma said.

    I'm glad you're fighting these tendencies! Hang in there!

  3. Hey Ash, I loved this post. I didn't really have many orthorexic tendancies before my ED. My mom is really educated in nutrition, so I just grew up with that and didn't feel any need to take it to the extreme.

    I don't want this come across as rude/obnoxious, but I am a little worried about your sat fat intake. 2 grams is not enough. The maximum recommended amount is 20g. That doesn't mean to eat somewhere between 0-20 (i.e: 2g), but it means to not go much over that 20g. Sat fat is an important nutrient that the body needs to function properly; it's not something to avoid at all cost. In the same way unsat fats are important, so are sat fats, just in a lesser amount. The only fat to avoid is trans, but sat and unsat are both equally important in maintaining cell membrane health, absorbing fat solubale vitamins, keeping the membranes of your brain and lungs in shape, and so on. You've got to eat it girl. The problem is that too many people go waaaay over 20g, which is why they've set a limit. It's not so that you completely eliminate it from your diet.

    If this comes off as offensive, I am truly sorry, that's not my intention. Feel free to tell me (or yell at me).

    As for clif bars, LOVE 'EM. Deep in my ED, I could only eat them and Ensures; I couldn't handle any other food. My favorites are the black cherry almond, cool mint chocolate, oatmeal raisin, and chocolate chip. Sorry this post is so long by the way. :-)

  4. I'm glad you ate the bar, BUT, (and I am not encouraging your orthorexia) there is absolutely nothing wrong with avoiding HFCS.
    NOBODY needs that garbage. (0:

    But I hope you can go a little bit more relaxed with the fat...


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