New in Review: Fear Foods

I know some people don’t like the term ‘fear foods’. I know we shouldn’t be giving food so much power and control over our lives. But for me, fear foods are just that  — foods I’m still scared of in one way or another, but when I use them to challenge myself, I can take away some of that power.

The thing about my particular list of fear foods is that it’s changed a lot over the years. During the worst of my initial round of ED, I was scared to death of anything with fat in it. I subsisted on black beans, white rice and sugar-free Jell-O. At the beginning of my recovery, there were times that I feared almost any food my parents had me eat, since it took away my control. I remember throwing an apple across the room in anger. It shocks me now that I could be scared of an apple. Other foods have come and gone on my list. I still have fear foods to this day. Today, it’s mostly things I’ve deemed less than ‘clean’. Any added sugar, products with added oils other than coconut or olive oil, preservatives and the biggie for me, gluten and most grains. I eat gluten free not because I’ve been diagnosed with celiac or because I feel better without gluten (though generally I do) but because it’s become a fear of mine.

So for this edition of New in Review, I’m tackling a few fear foods. I can’t promise to take on the biggies but I did try some new-to-me things that still scare me to the point that it took me a few days after buying them to bite the bullet and just eat them.

  • Califia Farms Watermelon Ginger Lime Agua Fresca
Mmm, watermelon.

Mmm, watermelon.

After posting about this a few weeks ago, I honestly thought I’d never get the chance to try it out. But the Whole Foods here is pretty good about stocking new products. So when I spotted this, I knew I had to try it. Of course, I scanned the ingredient list and my heart sank a little when I saw cane sugar on the label. I guess I figured it was 100% fruit juice. Sadly, no, but luckily sugar is 4th on the short ingredient list.

Enough about my clean eating rant. I know you all want to know about the taste. It’s basically like eating a ripe, ice cold watermelon. There’s a little hint of ginger and lime, but the watermelon is the big star. And it’s definitely sweet, so I like to mix just a bit of it with water and shake it up with ice.

Pros: tasty, simple ingredients

Cons: added sugar

  • O’Dough’s Bagel Thins (sprouted whole grain flax)
Bagel thins topped with coconut butter and stevia chocolate chips. Side of Sunwarrior protein 'frosting' and berries.

Bagel thins topped with coconut butter and stevia chocolate chips. Side of Sunwarrior protein ‘frosting’ and berries.

Let me just start out by saying bagels are one of my biggest fear foods. I think the last time I ate a legit bagel was during my freshman year of college. I used to occasionally go to the bagel place in the student center and order a plain blueberry bagel, and eat half of it. I was still terrified of bagels then, but not nearly as much as I am now.

When I saw these at Sprouts, I knew I couldn’t pass them up. First of all, they’re gluten free AND vegan. It’s hard to find bread products that are both. Most have egg in them or other questionable ingredients. These are pretty standard, and healthy. And second of all, they’re bagel thins. I know I wouldn’t be able to get myself to eat a full-size bagel, but getting bagel thins means I can eat a whole bagel in one sitting. Disclaimer: it still took me three days from when I bought them to actually try them. So…the fear is still there.

As for the actual product, I’m on the fence. It toasted up well and is doughy without being overwhelming or too chewy. But the taste is off. For some reason, it has a slight fishy smell and taste, maybe from the flax, but I’m not really sensitive to the flavor of flax. It tastes fine when it’s topped with something, but I don’t think I’d buy these again because of that.

Pros: gluten free and vegan, 100 calories per whole bagel

Cons: weird flavor, they’re made with soy flour (I generally avoid soy) and have a little added sugar

  • The Gluten Free Bistro pizza crust
I love me some (gluten free, vegan) pizza.

I love me some (gluten free, vegan, homemade) pizza.

I already loved TGFB products before I tried this one. I’ve used their frozen dough to make pizza crust and cinnamon rolls, and it’s got a great texture and flavor. But I’d never seen their pre-made crust until a few weeks ago. This is yet another Whole Foods find, but if you check their website, they do sell them at other natural foods stores, and apparently some pizza places use their crust.

I’m a total pizza snob. You wouldn’t think a clean eating vegan would love pizza, right? Well, in my case, you’d be wrong. I skip the Daiya and other fake cheeses in favor of plenty of fresh veggie toppings. And when possible, I go for gluten free crust. TGFB’s crust is definitely the healthiest GF+vegan crust ever. It’s made of a mix of 4 GF flours (brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat and coconut) which adds a nice hearty flavor, tapioca starch, unsweetened applesauce, yeast, sugar (just to activate the yeast), xanthan gum, olive oil and garlic salt. No eggs or weird stabilizers needed!

The taste and texture are the best too. I much prefer thin crusts, and this one is thin while still being doughy and soft. It tastes a bit like sourdough, but it blends well with all toppings. And it reheats well the next day in the oven!

Pros: minimal ingredients, whole grain and gluten free, tastes incredible

Cons: a little expensive for just a crust

As for how I’m tackling these fear foods, the verdict is mixed. I used the pizza crust this weekend and got three solid dinners out of it. The juice I bought two weeks ago, and I’ve gotten about 1/4 of the way through it. And I’ve eaten one bagel thin so far…hopefully I can get myself to finish the rest. Luckily, they’re frozen so I don’t have to worry about them going bad before I can finish them. But I’d prefer not to toss them out  — I’ve already done that with far too many things in the past!

Do you have any ‘fear foods’? 

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Getting Healthy: One Year

As of yesterday, it’s been exactly one year since I’ve gone off birth control. And — surprise, surprise — I still don’t have my period back.

It’s bittersweet, for sure. A big part of me has loved not having to deal with all that girl stuff for a year, and while it’s weird, it’s still a relief. But at the same time, I know it’s not healthy. And I really never thought it would be gone this long.

For the past two months I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t really paid much attention to the nagging fact that my body isn’t at it’s healthiest. But now that it’s been a year, it’s hard to ignore. Only my mom, sister and a close friend know about my missing period, and my mom is the only one who really knows the extent of it.

I tried. I went to the doctor, and got all kinds of tests and was asked many questions about my overall health. The test results all came back normal. I was supposed to be referred to an endocrinologist, but then the whole job/moving thing took over and it fell by the wayside. I have health insurance through my new employer, but I’m still settling in and haven’t taken advantage of it. It’s just all so overwhelming.

But I know it’s doing me no good to keep waiting. To keep hoping it’ll just come back on it’s own. I’m sure it’s possible, but probably not likely. And let’s face it, part of me is secretly pleased that I don’t get it. It proves that I still struggle with an eating disorder.

In my last post, I admitted that getting healthy wasn’t my biggest priority at the moment. I don’t regret that at all, because I had a lot on my plate then and I was in no position to get a doctor’s appointment only to move hundreds of miles away a week later. But I don’t have the luxury of blowing this off anymore. I have to be brave, and take the initiative to get my health back. I have to find a doctor, make an appointment, possibly go through dozens of tests again, and wait for the results. It might not seem as life-threatening as cancer, but it’s still a health concern that could affect me down the road. And if I spend all this money on healthy food and time working out to be my healthiest on the outside, then I need to put the same effort into making sure my body is healthy on the inside too.

No questions, just any advice would be much appreciated! 

Am I Healthy?

Just a warning in advance, this post talks a lot about birth control and all that fun girl stuff, so any guy readers out there–you can skip this one! I know this is just what you want to read the day before Thanksgiving, but I thought it was an important topic that a lot of women out there can relate to!

I’m not sure I’ve ever shared my full birth control story on here but I’ll just give you all a quick rundown so you have a little background as to where I’m coming from. After I was diagnosed with anorexia in the spring of 2009, I started seeing a dietitian and therapist. I stopped seeing the dietitian after a few months but I kept going to therapy appointment regularly until I graduated from high school in May 2010. One thing that both my doctor and therapist recommended a few months into recovery was that I take birth control to jump start my periods. Before this point, I had NEVER had my period before, ever. I was 17 at the time this was suggested to me, and I always felt so awkward at school when girls would talk about their ‘time of the month’ because I had literally never had one, and I was almost out of high school! But at the same time, I was scared out of my mind to take BC. I had heard all the horror stories, mostly of weight gain, and in the early stages of ED recovery, weight gain was the last thing on my mind. So I put off taking it for various reasons until January of 2010. My first period felt like a blessing and a curse–I knew that meant that I was at least capable of having one, but the potential side effects still scared me.

After high school graduation, and early on in my BC experience.

After high school graduation, and early on in my BC experience.

Fast forward 3 years. I had been on low dose BC since early 2010 without many side effects. I liked that it regulated my period and how I always knew exactly when it was coming. BC also kept my moderate acne at bay for the most part, which I also loved. But earlier this year, I started getting headaches more frequently with my period, and my acne was coming back more often. I started toying with the idea of getting off BC, at least for a few months, to see if my body could get it back on its own. Part of me was definitely hoping that I wouldn’t get it back, and that would help me justify to myself that I was still too thin.

Well, I got my wish. I got off BC in May of this year, and as of now (late November) I still haven’t gotten my period back. It’s been a full six months since I’ve had one, and while I love not having to deal with all that crap, I’m also worried. My doctor said to come back and see her if in six months I hadn’t had a period. Back in May, I was so sure that wouldn’t happen. But it did.

I’m kind of scared to go back to the doctor, because I really don’t want to be put back on BC. I’m not so sure how I feel about hormones being pumped into my body, and even though the kind I was using was pretty symptom-free, it did create some problems for me a few years after I started taking it. A lot of people say BC is also a crutch–it doesn’t solve the underlying issue of amenorrhea.

I won’t lie–missing my period kind of helps me validate that I might not be at my healthiest weight. I struggle with this a lot, because even though I haven’t weighed myself since this summer, I’m pretty sure I’m at my highest weight ever. I may still be technically underweight or on the low end of the healthy spectrum, but I don’t have the most positive body image still and having a more physical manifestation of my ED struggles helps me cope with it.

Not going to lie, I don't feel comfortable with how my body looks in this photo.

Not going to lie, I don’t feel comfortable with how my body looks in this photo.

The question is, am I healthy? I’ve been worried that my lack of a period might be due to a more serious issue, like PCOS (it is fairly common in women who aren’t overweight), but I do know that missing a period for even a few months isn’t healthy. As much as I’ve enjoyed spending half of this year without one, I know I need to be more proactive and take control of my health. So I plan on going back to my doctor in December or January to check in on this and hopefully get to the bottom of this issue.

I promise I’ll be back after Thanksgiving to share some less awkward stuff (like fun recipes, etc.) but I would appreciate any and all advice you guys have about this topic!

Have you ever had a similar experience?

#hashtagdisordered

You wake up, make breakfast and sit down at the table, smartphone in hand and you start scrolling through your Instagram feed, checking out all the pretty nature snapshots and drool-worthy food pics. You start clicking on the usernames of people liking the photos of those you follow–why not find some new people to follow? But not everything you find is so great. There are a lot of headless ab shots with comments like “I wish I had your body girly!”, and Quest bars galore and hashtags like #carbsafterdark and #iifym. Suddenly, you’re rethinking the bowl of oats you made for breakfast and wondering if you should start pouring Walden Farms chocolate syrup on everything you eat.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn't real.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn’t real.

This is a situation I’ve personally encountered several times on Instagram, and sadly, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be ending any time soon. Instagram has become a new place for disordered habits to flourish, all under the guise of being ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’ and ‘intuitive’. Many of the girls (and guys, too) who post these questionable pics are often recovering from an eating disorder, or are trying to hide disordered eating. Some of them may have lost a substantial amount of weight by eating healthy, but may have taken it too far and are now too small for their body type and are clinging to certain foods in fear of any weight gain. Some are trying hard to recover from anorexia, but are becoming orthorexic instead, or trying out ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ and still trying to maintain control over the food they eat. Many of them are probably way more insecure than they come across in their smiling pictures, and maybe scared too.

Other than some of the pictures themselves, one aspect of Instagram that bothers me is certain hashtags. One I’ve come across lately is #carbsafterdark. I suppose it’s meant to show people that said user isn’t afraid of carbs, but all it really shows is that they actually are and often don’t know what carbs are. For instance, I saw this hashtag on a photo of Arctic Zero, the popular low-calorie ice cream substitute. I read the nutrition facts of Arctic Zero, and it has exactly 7 grams of carbs per serving, 2 grams of which is fiber. Ummmm, not so high in carbs! When I think of carbs, I think of oats, cereal, bananas, dates–all healthy, just more carbs than a fake ice cream. Just to be clear, I think it’s GREAT to eat carbs after dark, just don’t claim to be doing so unless you’re actually eating a decent source of carbs. I eat #carbsafterdark pretty much every night, in the form of banana softserve, but I don’t go around bragging about it because I don’t fear carbs anymore (at least most of them) and I think that’s why a lot of people use this hashtag, because they do still fear carbs.

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I'm such a rebel...

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I’m such a rebel…

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but another thing that bugs me is when people claim to be eating ‘clean’ but post Quest bars, low carb tortillas (again with the carb fear!), Walden Farms and other fake shit. Listen, I’m not trying to be holier than thou, but clean eating to me means eating real foods. I’m not saying you can’t eat these things if you truly like them, but don’t call them clean. Some of these things are the furthest thing from actual food and you’d be way better off eating the real thing (like real maple syrup instead of sugar-free no-calorie pancake syrup). It all comes down to a fear of calories, fat and carbs that a lot of fitness IGers have. I know it’s hard to believe, but real sugar (in moderation, of course) won’t kill you. Especially more natural forms, like honey, dates, fruit, etc. You can eat those things and not gain a ton of weight! It’s all about balance.

The issue I have with all this is that a lot of young women, myself included, are really sensitive to these images. Even if there are good intentions behind the photo, that can get lost and make girls feel bad about themselves. For example, whenever I see super-ripped, 6 pack abs on Instagram (often on very young, thin girls still in high school), I wonder what I’m doing wrong because I don’t have defined abs. I still don’t have the most accurate body image, but I would consider myself pretty petite, and when women with abs are asked how they got their abs, they usually say “Abs are made in the kitchen” or “You have to eat clean!” I would also say that I eat fairly clean, maybe not as much protein as omnivores, but I eat very healthily so it bugs me that I’m not seeing the ab definition I crave. But here’s the catch: not everyone gets abs at the same weight as someone else. Some women can have ripped abs without much effort, while others struggle to get that definition, even at a low weight and body fat percentage. Everyone is different. So it’s dangerous to promote the message that if you get lean enough, or eat clean enough, you’ll magically look like the IG users you idolize. It just might not happen, and it might make you crazy unhealthy. It’s good to encourage healthy eating and fitness habits, but one thing doesn’t work for everyone, and one person’s body ideal may be unattainable to someone else.

My abs aren't perfect and I still wear bikinis.

My abs aren’t perfect and I still wear bikinis.

I want to point out that I’m not calling out anyone in particular. For the most part, the accounts I follow on Instagram are positive, promote a healthy body image and post delicious-looking and non-disordered food. As with everything though, we have to be aware that the content we post may be taken the wrong way by someone else. I know I may be a little too sensitive, and having struggled with an eating disorder, disordered eating and poor body image may have clouded my views on certain subjects, but it’s hard for me not to take these things personally when I still struggle with accepting the person I see in the mirror every day, and when I still deal with disordered eating. I think we all have to take responsibility for our own content, and also what we choose to view. Not everyone is going to be as responsible with what they post, but I think taking everything with a grain of salt and training ourselves to be less sensitive is the best step to take.

Do you ever see disordered content on Instagram? 

Worth It?

Just an FYI in advance, this is going to be one of my rant-y, vent-y, honest posts–so if you don’t feel like reading that today, by all means skip it. I won’t take it personally 😉 But I encourage you to read on if you’ve ever struggled with feeling like something in your life wasn’t worth doing…for whatever reason.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my ED recovery journey lately. I definitely don’t consider myself recovered (and to be honest I’m not sure if I’ll ever be fully recovered) but somewhere along the spectrum of recovery. Thinking back to my first days in recovery makes me proud of how far I’ve come, but it also bothers me.

See, I’ve been gradually ‘cleaning’ up my eats over the past year and I have to say that I love the way I eat now. Mostly whole foods, completely plant-based, plenty of tasty and healthy things. I consider things I ate a couple years ago, or even last year, and I kinda shudder. I thought I was eating healthy, but a lot of it was basically vegan ‘junk food’, like processed meat alternatives and sugar-packed Clif bars. I feel more energized and light eating the way I do know, but the thing that gets me is why hasn’t my body caught on to the changes? In other words (my ED’s words, really), why haven’t I lost weight eating clean? If anything, I’ve gained weight since last year and all that’s changed is I exercise more now (especially weight training) and eat cleaner. Seriously, I eat fruit/veggies at every meal, get in my greens daily, rarely eat grains (and never eat wheat anymore) and have raw chocolate as a treat. For most people, that adds up to weight loss, or at least fat loss, so why is my body so out of whack that it does the exact opposite? Actually, I know why it’s out of whack–because for years, I severely or at least somewhat restricted my calories and I’m just now feeling like I’m fueling myself adequately to support my energy levels. Who knows, though? Maybe I’m still restricting and my metabolism is still slowed.

August 2011. I still love how skinny I look here and I wish I was still this small.

August 2011. I still love how skinny I look here and I wish I was still this small.

It bothers me, maybe more than it should, because I’m at the highest weight I’ve ever been. I’ve always been petite–short, small, thin. I haven’t grown in height since the ninth grade, but my weight has still slowly crept up 10 pounds in a couple years. Doesn’t sound big, but to me it is. It makes me see a girl in the mirror who’s much larger than she’s ever been. It makes me question why I even try to recover.

Last July on the left, this July on the right. Maybe not noticeably different, but it is to me.

Last July on the left, this July on the right. Same outfit. Maybe not noticeably different, but it is to me.

What has recovery given me? I still (obviously) struggle with poor body image, on an almost daily basis. I still restrict, albeit in a different way. I still think about food and exercise way more than I should, and let them determine my mood for the day. I still get cold easily, have purple feet sometimes, have acne that won’t completely go away even when treated daily with a natural remedy. I haven’t gotten my period naturally. I still (admittedly) love compliments on my body, because it’s the only way I can validate that I haven’t ballooned out of control. I’m still scared to eat as much as I probably should. My greatest fear is still weight gain.

That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced positive things in recovery. It introduced me to veganism, which is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It changed my life profoundly, and unexpectedly. It made me realize we can’t change our past, but we CAN change our future, and that’s what gives me hope.

But it still frustrates me that I put in all this effort to be healthier, and I don’t get rewarded for it. I still deal with body issues, both internally and externally, and I don’t know how much longer I can deal with it. I’m seriously considering meeting with a nutritionist just to ask what I need to be eating as a vegan, how much, and why I’m not seeing the results I should be. I have issues asking for help sometimes, but I think if we’re really struggling, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to reach out and ask for all the help we need.

I have hope that somehow, I can find the answers I need to find the health and happiness I want and need. I still think recovery will be worth it in the long run, I just need guidance in the direction I should go to find success with it. I think everyone deserves to feel their best, so I hope that if you’ve struggled or still struggle with a similar issue, that you can find peace and happiness in life.

What’s something in your life that you’ve questioned if it’s ‘worth it’?

Excuses, Excuses

Excuses. We all have ’em. They can be a convenient way to get out of something we don’t want to do. But sometimes, they can really hold us back from doing something we want or need to accomplish.

I admit it, I’m an excuse-maker. I make excuses about small things, like why I didn’t clean the bathroom. But excuses I make about my health and well-being are a lot more important and unfortunately, I make them all too often.

Excuse #1: I can’t eat as much as ____ or I’ll gain weight…OR I can’t eat ____ without being unhealthy.

I’ve thought these things to myself a LOT throughout my recovery process, especially lately as I’ve been sharing my struggles here. It’s all really a comparison game for me. I see people in my real life and online who either do eat more than I do, or at least claim to eat a lot, and I always think “Well, good for them that they can eat that much and have an amazing body and life. Too bad I’d balloon up if I ate that much.” I know I’ve gotten countless comments on here about how I eat so little but it’s so hard to see for myself when it seems normal or even healthy to me. Four years ago, when I was at my worst, I was eating only a few hundred calories a day. Now I’ve finally gotten away from obsessively tracking every morsel that enters my mouth so I can’t say for sure how much I am eating but I know it’s way more than I was. I also know that it may not be enough, especially since I do workout pretty much every day. And I know there have been many success stories of people maintaining or even losing weight eating more than they used to, so it’s something I do want to ease into myself. It still seems crazy to me that I could be eating much more than I am now and still be the same size.

I might be eating more variety and incorporating more fats, but I still might be lacking in calories.

I might be eating more variety and incorporating more fats, but I still might be lacking in calories.

Excuse #2: I don’t look ‘sick’ so I must be fine.

At my worst, I was a good 15-20 pounds lighter than I am now which is definitely unhealthy, even for someone who’s only 5’1. I didn’t see it then, but looking back at pictures from 4 years ago I can see a definite difference and it makes me sad. Now, I’m at my highest weight ever and honestly, it scares me. I’ve never been in the triple digits so being so close to it is really scary to me. I always rationalize that I ‘need’ to be underweight to look halfway decent because I’m so short. I think that’s just how my disordered mind sees my body, though. I certainly don’t think I look underweight, or sick, or in need of help. But maybe I still am. And there are a few, rare days where I look in the mirror and actually think I look good, or maybe even a little thin, but those days aren’t often. Because I see myself in this distorted way, I tell myself that it’s okay to obsessively eat clean and rarely take a day off from exercise because if I don’t, all hell will break loose (aka I’ll gain weight). But you don’t have to look sick, or be at your lowest weight to need help. You can still be sick while barely underweight or even at a normal weight.

I may not think I look too skinny but maybe I am...

I may not think I look too skinny but maybe I am…

Excuse #3: I need to workout everyday or I’ll lose my fitness.

I always praise other bloggers for taking rest days when they need them, but when do I take a rest day? I’d say once or twice a month. It doesn’t matter if I have a headache, am feeling a little sick or am really busy, I will squeeze in exercise almost every day. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is when I don’t listen to my body. And it’s also not good when I feel guilty for not exercising. Take this weekend, for example. I’m heading back up to my apartment with my parents to load up all the bigger items I couldn’t get on my trip home Wednesday and cleaning out my apartment so they can lease it out for the summer. I’ll be gone from Saturday afternoon til Sunday afternoon, and besides running errands and taking things up and down the stairs multiple times, I won’t be getting in much traditional exercise. I’m already stressing out about it. Not good. However, I’ve reached my breaking point with this. I’ll be busy this summer with my internship, a 4 week online summer class and just wanting to have fun. So I want to plan out 1 or 2 rest days per week, so I’m not a ball of stress figuring out when I can work out. And taking a day or two off won’t just not kill me, it’ll also benefit me and my energy levels.

I still want to play a lot of tennis this summer, but I won't stress out when I take a rest day (even if it's unplanned).

I still want to play a lot of tennis this summer, but I won’t stress out when I take a rest day (even if it’s unplanned).

Have you ever made any ‘excuses’ that you ended up tossing out? 

The “O” Word

…And no, it’s not that ‘O’ word. Get your mind outta the gutter people 😉 Today’s post is brought to you by the new ‘it’ term of the blog world, orthorexia. Thank you, Alexandra, for bringing this issue out of the dark and letting bloggers feel okay with talking about it. And now I’m going to talk about how it applies to my life.

I first heard the word orthorexia when I was diagnosed with anorexia 4 years ago. It was tossed around by my doctor and parents, who believed I was at least somewhat orthorexic, along with being anorexic. Now while I won’t say I’m fully recovered from anorexia, I am doing so much better on that front than I was in high school. But the orthorexic part of me has gotten worse, and it’s taken some honest reflection and blog reading on my part to admit that.

Orthorexia fed into my anorexic tendencies. I cut out things based on what I heard and researched was ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’. First it was fats (particularly saturated fats), and then I started seeking out sugar free and low sugar items because of the unhealthiness of sugar. But obviously, most sugar free products (other than those that are naturally sugar free) are filled with all sorts of scary chemicals and whatnot. So I was attempting to be healthy, but wasn’t necessarily choosing the healthiest items. Case in point: during the worst of my ED, I lived off black beans with white rice, and sugar free Jell-O. Neither option is really healthy (other than the black beans), but I ate them because I was told fat and sugar were bad for me.

I used to consider this healthy, just because it was low calorie and whole wheat.

I used to consider this healthy, just because it was low calorie and whole wheat.

As I entered recovery, I still looked for the healthy option wherever possible. My fear of most dairy products lingered, so I never ate anything but fat free Greek yogurt and skim milk. A lot of foods I ate prior to my ED were out the window, never to be eaten again. That’s not to say that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it was definitely orthorexic. I never ate a white carb, stuck with lean proteins like chicken and shrimp and still avoided most fats. I ate almond butter by the teaspoon, if at all.

Fast forward to a year or so ago. I made the decision to be vegan, which sadly was partially fueled by my orthorexia. Finally I had an excuse not to eat cheese, or meat, or ice cream, or any ‘unhealthy’ food. Up until recently, I still eschewed a lot of fat, eating minuscule portions of nuts and avocado and counting my calories like it was my job. But then, I had an epiphany. Not one that made me give up my orthorexic tendencies, but instead focused them in a different direction. I became completely obsessed with macronutrients and ingredients lists on products. No longer was I solely focused on the calorie count–now I wanted to micromanage my protein, fat, carbs and the ingredients I’d allow into my body. I totally bought into the ‘eat clean’ movement.

But I think I’ve started to take it a little too far. Over the past few months, I’ve eliminated more and more from my diet, based on what’s in the item in question. Weird-sounding ingredients like soy lecithin and maltodextrin have gotten the side-eye from me and been placed back on the shelf. Even products with simple ingredient lists have been tossed in the trash. I used to love quinoa pasta–made from just quinoa and corn–but it has OMG so many carbs. Enter kelp noodles as a replacement–sea veggie based and almost no carbs or calories, but full of minerals. An orthorexic’s dream! It takes me forever to get through a grocery shopping trip because I have internal debates with myself regarding the ingredients and nutritional value of products. And after hearing countless success stories by people who’ve tried paleo, I’ve adopted some of it–not the meat-eating, of course, but the eliminating of most grains from my diet. I used to love whole grains like quinoa, oats and sprouted bread…now I fear them. I make my baked goods with almond, coconut and buckwheat flours now. I’ve gone for several days with no grains in sight, and I start to freak out if I eat two servings of them in a day. I’m not saying we need 9 servings or whatever the USDA says we do, but why have I demonized grains, even the gluten free ones that I love? Why have I become hung up on balancing my macros perfectly, and feeling like a failure when I don’t? Why have I started to fear food, even though I worked so hard to overcome so many fear foods (including coconut, which I love now)?

Now most of my meals are grain free, like these almond flour pancakes, because I'm scared of grains.

Now most of my meals are grain free, like these almond flour pancakes, because I’m scared of grains.

Honestly, I just wanted to come clean and say that I’m not perfect. Behind the fun food pictures is a huge fear of most foods, even some healthy ones. I do want to say that I truly love eating healthfully, and being a produce-loving vegan. But I’ve taken the clean eating thing a little too far, and I don’t know what to do. Some of you may have already noticed my orthorexic tendencies from my blog posts or comments, but even so, I wanted to come clean and admit my issues. There’s nothing I appreciate more than honesty, and I think there needs to be a little more of that in the blog world. Everyone has some kind of issue, and it’s okay to admit to them. People will respect you all the more if you do.

And as for my orthorexic issues, I’m starting to work on them. I’ve stopped tracking my meals on MyFitnessPal, because I was just using the numbers and percentages as an unhealthy competition with myself. It’s really scary to me not to know exactly what my calories and macros are, but I need to give up the obsessive control. And I’ve decided not to do WIAWs for awhile, just to relieve the pressure on myself to have a ‘perfect’ day of eats. Other than that, it’ll be a slow process to figure out where my fears and anxieties are stemming from, but I’m willing to work them out to have a truly healthy relationship with food for the first time in 6 years.

Have you ever struggled with orthorexia or the pressure to eat clean?