Orthorexia is a type of eating disorder that focuses on the general quality or purity of health/food, but can expand to impact other areas of health related anxiety. In my case, there was a direct link in symptoms between disordered eating and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
I was afraid for my health
In my early twenties I was very sick due to a thyroid disorder and became very afraid of losing my health entirely. I was having an array of symptoms that made it challenging to manage my day to day life. With the diagnosis I received I also subconsciously received the green flag to begin obsessing over every single piece of food I put into my body.
I wanted to hide symptoms
I think of orthorexia as sneaky OCD for many reasons. Partly because I was trying to sneak around with my symptoms and partly because of diet culture’s impact on mental health. There are many narratives in the health industry that perpetuate disordered eating. Some of the major symptoms I experienced were:
-compulsions around checking food labels or ingredients
-body image fixation
-obsession around wellness/diet culture and trends to keep me “healthy”
These obsessions became very consuming; zapping me of my time and my energy. In my pursuit to keep myself healthy, I was feeling anything but that.
Shame got in the way of treatment
I didn’t want people to worry about me and my struggle with orthorexia. I was ashamed of my need to control every aspect of my health at all times. I genuinely felt like I was losing my mind because I had so many different components/facets of health that I was trying to track all at once. It felt burdensome to ask for help.
Life changed when I opened up on my struggle
When I began talking to trusted individuals in my life (family, friends, therapist) about my struggle, I felt that a weight was being lifted off of me. Even though others weren’t experiencing the same symptoms, I didn’t feel alone. I also felt I was joined in support against the harms of diet culture.
Radical Acceptance is the daily challenge
There are still days where health oriented OCD symptoms flare up. It gives me the opportunity to practice acceptance in the face of a possible trigger. I look at my life and still want to work towards my goals of a sustainable relationship with my own health journey.
Support can be the missing link
By attending groups at OCDPeers.com I was also able to vocalize my experiences with orthorexia and OCD. If you are struggling with a particular symptom or are just looking for general support, you are welcome to join a group with OCDPeers.com!