WANTcast 069: Orthorexia, Explained…And What Worked For Me When I’d Had Enough

WANTcast 069: Orthorexia, Explained…And What Worked For Me When I’d Had Enough

The Recovery Myth the WANTcast

Orthorexia nervosa is a sickly ironic twist on healthy eating, a laugh in the face of nutrition facts. It’s what used to be called an EDNOS: Eating Disorder Not Specified. The term “orthorexia” was coined circa 1997 by a doctor who suffered from the condition himself: there was no name for this condition, therefore there was no research. And since there was no research, it was just deemed a vague, disordered set of habits. Still, 20 years later, the information about Orthorexia out in the world – and by the world, meaning The Internet, of course – is mostly the same words regurgitated over and over. Speculation. Haziness. 

The worst part? Orthorexia is still not recognized by some doctors as a “real” eating disorder.

I mean, what?

Isn’t any form of an eating disorder a “real” eating disorder?

Orthorexia and other EDsNOS don’t always result in extreme weight loss. For me, it did. But even in my healing process, my weight fluctuated up and down – it was never a true indication of whether I’d moved forward or not.

So how do you know that you or a loved one might be on the orthorexic path – or developing disordered eating habits? Here’s some signs you might need to intervene, and some things that worked for me when I was at my all-time low and decided I’d had enough.

Health is an ever-evolving journey, not a fixed destination. Click To Tweet

SHOW NOTES:

The Recovery Myth on WANT
NEDA 
National Alliances On Mental Illnesses

 

Like this episode? Leave a review on iTunes, share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!



Today’s episode is sponsored by Marie Forleo’s B-School, an 8-week online course for creative entrepreneurs that gives you the tools, strategies, clarity, and guidance to create the business you’ve always wanted to see in the world. Sign up at http://share.marieforleobschool.com/WANT (I’ll be doing it again this year, so we’ll be schoolmates!)

WANTcast Episode 021: On Adrenaline Addiction + Forging Your Own Path with Jordan Younger of The Balanced Blonde

WANTcast Episode 021: On Adrenaline Addiction + Forging Your Own Path with Jordan Younger of The Balanced Blonde

the WANTcast

I always remind myself that no big choice I've made has failed me yet. - @balancedblondie Click To Tweet

Chances are, you’ve heard of Jordan Younger, akaThe Balanced Blonde.” Maybe it’s because of her best-selling book, Breaking Vegan. Maybe it’s because of her lifestyle blog that’s literally read by thousands of people worldwide weekly. Maybe it’s because of her adorable clothing line, or uber-popular social media channels…

…Or maybe it’s because you saw her on virtually every morning news circuit two years ago, when she “came out” to her readers saying her intense focus on healthy, vegan living had spiraled her into an eating disorder. One that had zero to do with veganism but everything to do with the way she was using the label to mask her unnatural obsession with eating as “pure” as possible. And one that, subsequently, made her the target of intense hate and even death threats from people convinced that she was speaking ill of the vegan community.

In reality, nothing could have been farther from the truth – or the real Jordan behind the news headlines and blog posts. Only 26 years old (as of today! Happy Birthday, Jordan!), Jordan’s transition from The Blonde Vegan (her former blog name) to The Balanced Blonde made her a wellness “It Girl” virtually overnight. She’s managed to navigate both the highest highs and lowest lows of being in the public eye with grace, humor, and integrity, all while unapologetically being, well, herself. She is bubbly like champagne, kind to the core, and just as enthusiastic about championing others’ success as she is when it comes to pursuing her own. She takes her work seriously but takes reactions in stride, and treats each person she meets like a new friend in the making. In a scene that’s becoming almost overly-saturated with a wellness-elite vibe, Jordan is a breath of fresh air and true authenticity.

After years of “knowing” each other from afar and running in so many of the same circles, Jordan and I finally got to met at the WANT Moving Forward Fearlessly event back in April. She crushed it (check out the recap here). And she’s become a cherished friend ever since.

WANT-April2016-211

What I love about Jordan is that she doesn’t apologize for being who she is, and she doesn’t tailor herself to fit other people’s liking. We share countless similarities – from our history with Orthorexia to our blogging backgrounds to our Libra birthdays – and I know I can always speak candidly to her about both the exciting moments and, well, b.s. that comes along with starting up your own purpose project from scratch.

The thing about Jordan is that while she’s gotten a lot of outward success in a relatively short amount of time, what impresses me the most about her is how completely transparent she is about her journey getting there, how she was feeling at the time, and how she currently navigates the extremes that come with both being a highly creative and driven person. It’s a lot easier to take risks and pivot when you’re lesser known or just starting out at whatever you’re doing, but once you’ve got all eyeballs all on you, it can be tough not only to take those risks in the fist place, but also manage the reactions of others you get in response to those risks. She’s able to laugh at herself, is incredible self-aware, and takes it all in stride without throwing out the sensitive parts of her that have made her so magnetic to so many people.

In this episode we talk about adrenaline addiction, the fear of success instead of fear of failure, finding the work style the works for you, how Jordan has learned to manage both the highs and lows of her business while staying true to herself, being a leader when you still feel like you’re learning, and forging your own journey even when it’s tempting to compare yourself to other people in your age range or career field. We also talk about some of her not-so-traditional health and spiritual adventures, the latter of which starts off with us laughing about it, but ends with a lesson all of us should remember about believing what we can’t see.

I can’t think of a more perfect, pragmatically positive person to kick off Season Two of the WANTcast.

WANT JORDAN:

Listen in iTunes | Play in new window | Direct download

Show Notes:
The Balanced Blonde
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
Snapchat
Breaking Vegan
E-book preorder
Jordan at WANT’s event in April
That time she was on Chelsea Handler’s Snapchat
Miranda Alcott
Orthorexia, Explained

WANT to support the WANTcast? Click over to Amazon via this link, then shop as usual. I will receive a small-but-meaningful kickback, which means we can invest in things like sound editing, new equipment, and more. No extra charge to you. Easy as that!

Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review on iTunes, share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!

the-balanced-blonde-quote

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Orthorexia, Explained: When Healthy Becomes Hurtful

Orthorexia, Explained: When Healthy Becomes Hurtful

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The thing about Orthorexia – and other forms of disordered eating – is that the grey area is more like a thick haze of charcoal dust than a translucent screen.

It’s like this secret rumor where everyone else knows the vague details, but only you know the reality.

For others, it’s a game of Telephone.

For you, you’re on the land line.

Orthorexia nervosa is a sickly ironic twist on healthy eating, a laugh in the face of nutrition facts. It’s what used to be called an EDNOS: Eating Disorder Not Specified. The term “orthorexia” was coined circa 1997 by a doctor who suffered from the condition himself: there was no name for this condition, therefore there was no research. And since there was no research, it was just deemed a vague, disordered set of habits. Still, 17 years later, the information about Orthorexia out in the world – and by the world, meaning The Internet, of course – is mostly the same words regurgitated over and over. Speculation. Haziness. Heresay.

The worst part? Orthorexia is still not recognized by some doctors as a “real” eating disorder.

I mean, what?

Isn’t any form of an eating disorder a “real” eating disorder?

Orthorexia can also be a cover-up, a ruse, a mask over a hidden agenda. Since it’s socially acceptable, applauded even, to say you want to be “healthy” vs “skinny,” orthorexia can often times be a way to mask anorexia – or a way for someone to replace bulemia or anorexia when they want to seem recovered to the world around them.

It’s a disorder riddled with rules, restrictions, and very real consequences.

I don’t remember college. I remember bits and pieces, sure, but what frightens me the most is that while I should remember the details of things like play rehearsals or nights out, I remember the times I calculated out how much I would eat and what I would eat. I remember the omelet I ordered for breakfast out with friends. I remember the wrap that was “safe.” I remember eating a pear past 8pm and feeling like I’d cheated. Because, you know, no food past 8pm.

I remember my boyfriend being proud of me for eating a sandwich. Because it was on wheat bread, and I could never, never have wheat bread. Not the processed kind. Not a crumb.

My memory is like a lockbox. This is what any form of disordered eating or exercising does to you. It breaks in and erases.

Orthorexia and other EDsNOS don’t always result in extreme weight loss. For me, it did. But even in my healing process, my weight fluctuated up and down – it was never a true indication of whether I’d moved forward or not.

So how do you know that you or a loved one might be on the orthorexic path – or developing disordered eating habits? Here’s some signs you might need to intervene:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and social activities (unless the people are “safe” – ie will not question their actions)
  • Lying about what they’ve eaten/how much they’ve eaten
  • Logging calories, fat, or macros obsessively in secret
  • Feeling a sense of “control” when they’ve eaten “right”
  • Difficulty/inability to eat foods prepared by others, even loved ones
  • Going to great lengths to eat alone
  • Avoidance of complete food groups or categories out of immense fear or blinding prejudice
  • Dull complexion, extreme weight loss
  • Lack of energy, depression, extreme mood swings
  • Loss of strength and weakness of voice

Like I’ve said, I’m not a doctor or a psychologist – I can only speak from my own personal experiences (with both myself and those I care about) and research. But I do know this: sometimes just speaking with someone who knows what you’re going through – and has found their way to the other side – can be the most soul-stirring catalyst for real change there is.

Find what’s right for you and please know that seeking out professional assistance is a sign of courageous strength, not of weakness.

Here are some things that worked for me when I was at my all-time low and decided I’d had enough:

Find a friend or family member you can talk to without judgement. It helps you feel like you’re not keeping this huge secret from the world – which is the most isolating feeling in the world. Find someone you can not only talk to without the fear of being judged, but someone you know will help inspire you to change. It has to be someone close: when we keep people at an arm’s distance, we are protecting ourselves from being seen for all we are, the light and the dark. This person must know both. Let them know you need to talk and need them to be there for you. Chances are, they’ll be all in. Let them know what’s been going on with you. You will feel vulnerable. You will feel bare. But also, you will feel so liberated from the clutch of this invisible force – and that’s the way you know that yes, you are able to heal. And now you have an ally in the process.

Find your peeps. When you’re in the midst of an eating disorder – or even skewed disordered eating – it can seem like the only person you belong with is yourself. Community is so important right now; places you can let your strengths and talents shine or where you can just be nourished by the authenticity of others. Being part of a group with which you resonate – in which you have a role – can be one of the most healing experiences ever. Join a club. Try a class. It can be small. When you’re among others who remind you of your other passions, or qualities about yourself you want to let live, it can help convince you that the details of what, when, and how much you eat aren’t the end-all-be-all.

Find your voice and let it live. What else saved me? Writing – figuring out the nuances of what was going on with me and realizing my unwavering desire to get out of this hole. I didn’t know how it was going to come about, but I started to write about my strengths of character, like my sensitivity to the world around me, the way a moment of kindness could last me months. It helped me sort out my thoughts and have a visual, written record of all my strengths of character just locked inside waiting to be set free.

Identify and reframe your triggers. For me, I knew that large family gatherings could be a trigger for me to hyper-focus my attention on food and my body. Which, you know, was just fabulous considering I come from a large, close-knit family that I absolutely love to pieces. There was a lot of talk about food, “good” vs “bad” eating, and physical appearance that went on; crap that could trigger me to eat a very specific way and then binge at home from not even processing the fact that I ate at all, OR overeat to the point of sickness just to prove a point. I hated that this triggered me; the feeling that I was being watched yet that there was a very clear right vs wrong I should prescribe to. My reframe? I took a step outside myself and recognized that others’ hang-ups and rules around food were usually not about the food at all – they were about something deeper. The second I could identify patterns in conversation or action and rework them to mean something differently, I started to empathize instead of feel attacked.

Be imperfect on purpose. Okay, so this is gonna feel kinda scary at first – but ultimately, freaking exhilarating. Take a few small steps every day by eating something without counting, without measuring, something that you deem “unhealthy.” Make it something you actually like the taste of and would enjoy if it were not for its “bad” nutritional value. Maybe that means adding a touch of cream to your coffee. Maybe that means a bowl of popcorn. Or pouring your cereal from the box instead of from a measuring cup. Try this once a day, then work up to two or three times. Dissociate from the judgement and stigma and just take it in as any other moment. These are just small reminders that life is lived in color, not black and white. It’s like exercising a new muscle: un-perfecting yourself makes it a whole lot easier to be forgiving of yourself any time you “slip,” which means your body will automatically relax and realize it doesn’t need to live in the defensive. Eventually, forgiveness will become second nature and “slip-ups” won’t even be in your vocab. The point is to move away from living in a place of extremes, making the bigger picture clear – and positive.

So what about healing? Will the artist-formerly-known-as-orthorexic all of the sudden be downing Fritos, Funyons, and frosting?

Usually not. A recovered orthorexic still eats healthily. But they recognize on a deep level that their food choices do not define who they are – do not dictate where they go or what they do. They realize that their identity is more than “the healthy one” and that there are options everywhere, not limitations. They still possess a wealth of information on health and nutrition, but it’s just sitting on a shelf in their mind’s bookcase; it’s not shoved in their face.

They might eat junk food and feel bad about it sometimes – we all do. But they know in their heart that no matter how much their stomach hurts or how gross they might feel in the moment, it will pass. And true wellness is not defined by what you eat, but how you eat it.

The WANT Women: My Story.

The WANT Women: My Story.

Body Community Love Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women Work

For most of my life, I’ve had a pretty crap-tastic self image. Self confidence? Loads of it (more on that later). But the way I viewed that confidence – the opinions I formed around it, the things I did to “keep myself in check,” the image of myself I saw in my internal mirror – made it seem more like an enemy than a BFF. And self confidence ain’t shit if you don’t know what to do with it.

I became aware of both how I looked and how I thought about the world when I was about…seven? eight? Somewhere around there. Grown-ups would dote on my appearance and I was utterly confused: I didn’t look or dress like the cool kids in my class, I had big thick Winnie Cooper bangs, I narrated intricate stories to myself about the world around me while other kids seemed to just float through their lives action to action. I was instructed to stand up straight and hold my stomach in, and I was called “vain” simply for looking in the mirror for more than three seconds. While other kids were reading Sweet Valley High through their tweendom, I was reading Iyanla Vanzant and Anna Quindlen. I picked up on the emotional nuances of others and became frustrated when I was shut down because I was “too young to understand.” I desperately wanted to fit in, to love and be loved, to be someone’s favorite. How could I be, though, when I wasn’t even convinced I was my own favorite person?

Negative talk was the norm in my life when it came to the women around me. I began to think it was normal to complain about the size of your thighs, the way your stomach looked, how much you had eaten that day. I was told I was too sensitive when my feelings were hurt, I was told I was a show-off when I was proud of my work. I found myself joining in just to connect…just to fit in. My thighs, my stomach, how much I ate. I was too sensitive. I was a show-off. To this day, I don’t know which came first: seeing it, or believing it.

My self image, internal and external, fluctuated between positive and negative throughout my teens, hitting an all-time low in college when I developed Orthorexia – a form of disordered eating and lifestyle in which you’re hyper-focused on “health” before all else – before anyone really knew what it was (it’s now a much-discussed topic in the eating disorder/body image sphere). My idea of health had been defined by the women around me my entire life – fat-free, low calorie, small portions – and so no matter what research I did, I was always skeptical of anything that did not gel with the views I was brought up with.

Thankfully, I knew something was very wrong with me and identified my Orthorexia early on. Not-so-thankfully, when I started to slowly ease things I once shunned into my day (think small but important baby steps: superfood-filled smoothies, omega-rich oils and seeds, nutrient-rich goat’s milk yogurt) – I was told I was “weird” more times than I could count.

The names and snap judgements hurt me the most. The choices I made were not “normal” for a college-age girl who should be eating pizza and Subway, especially after getting so thin from her little flirtation with ED. Again, I was “too sensitive.” And when I began to excel in my Drama department, that voice came back into my head that told me I was a show-off.

The conflict between how I “should” be for others and how I wanted to be for my own recovery got so strong that it drove me further down the rabbit hole for about three years – eating in private just so I could avoid judgement in public, escaping to the gym just so I could feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, binging on junk to prove a point. I became fear-ridden in class presentations and my voice became shaky each time I went to sing. I went through a heartbreaking break-up and started to overeat at night for comfort, hoping to gain a little weight and make the critics inside and outside my head go away. Ironically, I lost even more weight, as my hormones had gone cray-cray and my metabolism had gone haywire. I was called names. I was talked about behind my back. I got into screaming fights with my closest family members over my appearance.

I ended up spending my senior year of college at home, commuting back and forth – I wanted to work, but moreso, I wanted to start fresh. I was sick of the status quo of my negative, lonely existence and knew it was not who I really was. I wanted to enter into spaces in which I felt I could be myself again. The way I wanted to treat my body, the way I wanted to love, the way I wanted to be of service to the world.

What ended up saving me? That unwavering desire to move forward into communities in which it was safe to believe in myself. Communities that didn’t have to be quantitative to be meaningful – communities in which I could be the Katie I knew I wanted to be. Those communities, go figure, started with me truly wanting to do the work within myself to move forward fearlessly, and to do it for me alone.

Through fitness, friendships, and fearless love, I finally learned that who I was…was exactly who the world needed from me. It was during this time and transition that WANT was conceived – when I realized there was no place or outlet to actually help women kick the sources of their discontent to the curb, not just band-aid them up with pretty affirmations alone.

One big source? Casual negativity: the negative talk we use without even thinking twice, the stuff that’s become our vernacular. Both in our heads and out loud. I realized that the talk I’d been hearing it all my life – I’m so fat – I suck at this – I’m too sensitive – was a cultural epidemic, and there was no place that existed to recognize and shift these detrimental norms.

I went through many, many ups and downs, mini crises, and self image fluctuations. Fast forward to the present: I still do. But with every thought or feeling comes a chance to learn and think better, do better, be better. I love when I win and I love when I lose, and lordy help me if I stop loving it all.

My hope is that WANT gives women (but men too, hi dudes!) a way to experience the full range of their thoughts and emotions and then proactively transcend them. I will never sugar coat anything on here or be the Pollyanna type you see in rom-coms. And I’ll show you there is a whole world of wonderful women out there who are becoming leaders of their own lives. No matter where you fall on the self love spectrum, as long as you’re not afraid of facing your entire self, head on, this is the place for you.