As if working out intensely for five days a week and wearing a size 2 was not good enough, I was determined to “get ripped.” I had finally overcome my fear of the scale and felt content with weighing an average of 7 more pounds since before I got pregnant with my son a few years ago. I looked smaller, everything was tighter, and I actually had somewhat of a butt. I’ve always had abs, but that wasn’t enough anymore. I wanted guns and glutes like Jessica Biel.
Knowing an ample amount about fitness, I knew the only missing link was my diet. Compared to most people I’m around, I was (and am) very healthy. I eat healthy probably 70 percent of the time and generally pick healthy options when faced with choices.
A lot of my family had recently went on a wellness diet and all lost weight, and my mom went gluten free due to health reasons. This led me to fantasize about a life free of Diet Mountain Dews and ice cream, but for all the wrong reasons. I couldn’t care less about my blood pressure or cholesterol; it was all about body fat and biceps.
But I didn’t need any improvement. My body fat was already flirting with the “athletic” range, and people commonly complemented my lean muscles. I once told my gym friends I wanted to get in better shape, and one of them replied, “What’s better? A fitness model?” Little did I know I was falling down a slippery slope of a new type of eating disorder, “Orthorexia Nervosa.”
Though not yet recognized as an official eating disorder by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this “disease” is known as having an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating and literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” In this case, the adage “too much of a good thing” actually rings true.
After my declaration to “get in perfect shape” I weaned myself off of Diet Mountain Dew and made changes to my diet. Everything white became whole wheat and everything fried became grilled or baked. Butter became olive oil cooking spray. But my little plan backfired.
This led me to fantasize about a life free of Diet Mountain Dews and ice cream, but for all the wrong reasons. I couldn’t care less about my blood pressure or cholesterol; it was all about body fat and biceps.
I had planned two cheat meals per week to keep my sanity. However, those cheat meals became cheat gorges consisting of an entire pepperoni pizza with three cans of Diet Mountain Dew or a whole tub of ice cream for a meal. Then there would be a weekend get-together in which I was forced to make something not in my craving mind my cheat for that week or BYOB (bring my own broccoli and rice) and look like a total food snob.
My instagram feed got overcrowded with fitness trainers who posted tons of before and after photos as well as some of the more successful clients of theirs. The more foodies I followed, the more my friends and family got pushed down in the feed. I caught myself wasting time stalking diets of those I wanted to look like and even buying foods I had never heard of like Jewish rye bread (which tastes like burnt cardboard, by the way).
The worst part was that I had started becoming an ill b*tch. My husband noticed my weird eating patterns and casually asked, “What’s the deal with avocados and eggs?” Then he tried not to laugh as I desperately licked my fingers after frying chicken for him and our son. I lived this way for about two months and gained maybe 2 pounds of muscle, but saw no major improvements. The biggest improvement was a tighter and higher butt, which I totally attribute to the glute machine in the weight room and jumping lunges and squats.
What little energy I gained from all the whole grains was diminished by stress and obsessing over what I ate. I was trying to learn about Macros, which previously had meant nothing else than an economic class I got a C in my freshman year. Having recovered from Anorexia Athletica at an earlier age, I knew the signs of my obession were not good. This time I had rewired the focus from too much exercise and restricting calories to restricting certain foods.
I had dissed certain food categories, which only made me think of them and crave them more. Then I got a stomach bug, and the only thing I could hold down was the forbidden food group of white carbs and starches. You know, crackers, potatoes, dry cereal. I felt sick thinking of my bland diet for the next week, but I felt even sicker if I tried to mix in rich tasting “health” foods.
That was a few weeks back, and in hindsight I can say that nausea was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. Last night I ate an ice cream, simply because I wanted one. But it was the first sweet I have eaten in about a month. Not because I told myself I couldn’t have sweets, but because I told myself I could. I still drink Diet Mountain Dew, but rarely finish a whole can. I am currently eating a “white” baked potato with a little butter and cheese on top. And it is delicious.
Suggested for further reading:
“Orthorexia: The Eating Disorder You’ve Never Heard Of” by Self Magazine
“What It’s Like to Care Too Much About Healthy Eating” by Self Magazine
“Popular Food Blogger – the Blonde Vegan – Admits to Eating Disorder” by People Magazine
Dying to Be Thin, my personal story