diet mindset May 19, 2021

When we think of food we don’t usually think of morality. I did, and I took it to an extreme.

Orthorexia is a disordered eating pattern in which your thoughts surrounding the “cleanness” of food, analysis of macronutrient intake, and exertion of control over what you eat and where it comes from dramatically impact your quality of life. I slowly developed this obsession after prolonged, strict dieting and heavy training and being surrounded by those of a similar mindset during a bodybuilding phase. Although orthorexia doesn’t necessarily mean you have bulimia or anorexia too, often they go hand in hand and sufferers can present with multiple of these disorders at once.  

So for around four years, orthorexia practically crippled my social life, destroyed my enjoyment of food and gave me constant anxiety and stress at levels which left me doubled over in pain with IBS symptoms, doing farts that could kill small children. 

Now, years later and fully recovered, and now that I can go to a supermarket without spending forty minutes analysing the macronutrients of every can of tuna on the shelf and my farts smell like roses again – I have a few tips and reminders for normal, well adjusted people when it comes to food. 

You’re not a shit person because you eat shit food, and you’re not better because you eat better 

It’s not uncommon for “healthy” and “unhealthy” people to be at odds with each other. We ask “why would someone stuff themselves full of that shit?” or “how can you enjoy another plate of chicken and broccoli? Live a little!” 

One thing that I think is overlooked with orthorexia is the concept of morality, or being “better” than someone else because you eat better. What you eat is not just nourishment, or macros or micros but a statement of your self worth and value.  

If you regularly or irregularly eat McDonalds, who gives a fuck. You’re not a lesser person if your diet isn’t perfect, and you’re not a martyr if you only eat organic, pesticide free, free range whateverthefuck. You can be an asshole who eats nothing but KFC, and you can be a douchebag who eats nothing but vegetables and lean meats. Your value as a person has nothing to do with what you put in your mouth. 

Stop associating food with virtue. It’s just. fucking. food. 
And on that note…

What you eat and why is part of a multi-faceted, multi layered open system you’re probably not even conscious of 

Your income, your upbringing, your emotional connection with specific foods, your environment, your friendship circle, your parent’s diet, your education, your physical access to fresh foods – all of these and more will influence the way in which you eat and the way you may or may not use it for entertainment. 

Food is not just fuel. It can be political and emotional too, it can be a part of a celebration or a culture. Avoid thinking of food simply in terms of it’s micro and macronutrients and consider the broader picture. You don’t have to be that dickhead who took a tupperware container of black rice and home made lean turkey burgers to Christmas lunch and then bragged about their “self restraint” and “how good they’ve been” on social media. (That post still haunts me every year.)

Accept that there are going to be times when you will not be able to eat as well as you would like

Even if you’re not obsessed with food, we can all relate to being stuck in a place or time when we haven’t prepared or ensured that we have enough food. Travelling, working long hours, social events and what-have-you will always present difficulties, however sometimes you gotta understand that the dose makes the poison. If you’re currently dieting for a goal you can choose to do the best with what you can most of the time, but you can also choose to understand that the odd 20 pack of nuggets eaten at 2am on the couch isn’t going to kill you. 
And NO, you don’t have to “work it off” tomorrow. You don’t have to give yourself a lecture for days on end about how shit you are and how you should just give up. Just eat the fucking nuggets and get over it. Which brings me to the last and most important point…

Stop beating yourself up about it. 

The worst thing we can do when it comes to food and nutrition is to make it personal. What I mean by this is that we don’t hold a grudge against ourselves and repeatedly remind ourselves of our transgressions. All this serves to do is to increase anxiety surrounding food and to bring down our sense of self worth and confidence.

If you call yourself fat and lazy, do you know what happens?
You end up acting fat and lazy. Because now you’ve associated food, your body and your behaviours with your attitudes and beliefs. You have engineered a self-fulfilling prophecy that will stick to you like glue. Instead of being able to relate to your body as a means by which you enjoy the world, perform feats of strength or of fitness, you’re now just a fat, lazy sack. 

So if you fuck up, don’t act like my mum when she realised I’d replaced her bottle of brandy with tea when I was 14 and go on a diatribe about it for hours and hours and hours on end. 

Everybody makes mistakes. Smart people just learn from them. Think about what you could do next time to make it easier on yourself. Then let it go. 


Written by Elissa Jewel

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IG: @elissa_jewell

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