I was recently reading an article in Elle Magazine about a blogger who quit veganism for health reasons. The cause? Orthorexia Nervosa.
Now before anyone gets defensive thinking that this is a vegan-hating blog post, stop, breathe, and continuing reading. Veganism is a lifestyle choice and while it is not one which I follow, it is admirable to make a change to your lifestyle for the betterment of others’ well-being–in this case, animals.
The irony that I wish to point out is that veganism–when done correctly–is a healthy lifestyle; however, it can also hide a deadly illness. Orthorexia is not a diagnostically official illness in the DSM-5, but it is argued that it should be included as a diagnosis among other eating disorders. Essentially, orthorexia is a preoccupation with eating healthy and staying fit to the point where it is no longer healthy. These individuals might have a healthy body weight and their lifestyle may in fact leave them looking like the picture of health, but the obsessive thought patterns that characterize all eating disorders are just as prevalent for individuals who suffer from orthorexia. Accordingly, as with any other eating disorder, orthorexia nervosa is not so much about the food as it is about the thoughts.
So basically, even the healthiest of lifestyles can be unhealthy. But now comes the real irony. In the article, the author notes a moment when an orthorexic woman was looking through her pantry and came to the realization that “there wasn’t a single thing that was okay, if I put all our society’s messages together” (Elle, December 15, 2015 issue, “Feeding Frenzy”).
The lesson to be learned here is that society has so many messed up messages about food. If you follow a vegan lifestyle people will judge and criticize. If you follow a strict diet based on calories you’re judged for being too vain about your weight. If you eat too much, you’re glutenous. It doesn’t matter what you eat or how much of it you eat, you will never be able to avoid all of the critics of the world. Everyone will always have an opinion on your lifestyle and eating habits, no matter how irrelevant it is to their own lives.
So I guess the one thing that we can take away here is that people will judge you no matter what you do, so do what makes you happy and makes you feel healthy when it comes to what you put in your body. It is, after all, your body. Feed it whatever fuel makes you feel your best. If that means having a chocolate bar every once in a while, go eat that chocolate bar!
As someone who is still struggling with an eating disorder, one of the many things that I’ve worked on unpacking with my therapist is my fear of judgement. I have a fear of eating in public or even just eating a family dinner with loved ones. I’ve conditioned myself to believe that all food is bad; all food is fattening; food consumption is equated to a loss of control. Therefore, when I am in situations where I have to eat around other people (i.e. Christmas dinner) I feel as though others are judging me for eating.
Reading the article in Elle helped me realize that even people who follow extremely healthy diets can have issues with food and disordered eating. This doesn’t make it easier, but it does give me hope for recovery. If you’re struggling or if you know somebody who is, check out the article or leave me a comment below!