As a specialist in eating disorders, I zero in on food-related issues with clients. As a result, I am pretty self-aware when it comes to my eating habits and my self-talk as it relates to my body. As I inventory the ways I relate(d) to food, the topic of orthorexia allowed for some serious self-reflection; and I have learned something new about myself that I want to share:
Here is the letter I have written in my head to my experience with presenting the topic of orthorexia on The Food Fight, a radio show I co-created to discuss the many facets of eating disorders and body image:
Dear The Food Fight Radio Show Experience,
Thank you for helping me to see that my relationship with food has also been a little screwy at times in my life; specifically, as I dove into the topic of Orthorexia!! [if you are saying to yourself… ”what the heck is that,”… I’ll get to it], I realized I had used food to scapegoat my feelings once or twice in my life as I engaged in 30-day challenges.
Appreciate You Pointing All that Out to Me,
I was a little embarrassed to discover that my stint with my 30-day raw food diet in my 30’s is one of the major “gateways” to orthorexia. Orthorexia isn’t a diagnosable disorder… YET…
Essentially, orthorexia is the pathological pursuit of eating clean. There is a superiority of holier-than-thou judgment, that partners with a big bag of anxiety and obsessiveness, as someone with orthorexia restricts specific foods in the pursuit of eating clean. This leads to a limited lifestyle, as the places they can eat, the meals they are able to derive pleasure from becoming less and less, as the disordered relationship with food grows.
Thankfully, I was only able to sustain my “gateway diet” for 30 days and then concluded the lifestyle wasn’t sustainable; otherwise known as #tohellwiththis.
Upon reflection, I realized that I was scapegoating my feelings through food, so I could experience a sense of control over my life as a stay at home mom of preschool age children. My motivation to have a 30-day raw food lifestyle makeover was an attempt to “cleanse” myself of impurities that had been built up for years; which is pretty much the purpose of having a liver and kidneys.
I had no precipitating diagnosis that would medically benefit me to restrict certain foods: no cancer, no autoimmune diagnosis, no intolerance to food.
…and for the record… as I digress on my soapbox for a moment… I now believe in mindful, intuitive, well-balanced, pleasurable, nourishing meals; and loathe diets that restrict with good vs. bad…
Dieting is an opportunity for a lot of low-vibe energy when you fall from the standard (or grace) set in place by the diet “rules”…
…especially if you are, by nature, prone to being a rule follower and a perfectionist… #dietsdontwork… they are the source of the feast/famine cycle and can set you up for potentially mind-altering distorted ways of relating to food.
So, why did I make the decision to try this new diet?
I inventoried all the other times I have used food, unwittingly:
- as a way to not feel
- to escape
- to gain praise from family members and friends for my ability to be so committed to health
- to gain some sense of self —— that I hadn’t yet matured into because I wasn’t at that place in my journey.
Here’s what The Food Fight would write back to my younger self:
Be easy with yourself, have the patience to let the lessons unfold, and keep looking into what shows up in your life… it’s there to teach you. Keep practicing mindfulness and allow your inner cues to be your guide to wake you up to the gems found within the struggles. You have all you need within and if the struggle is overwhelming ask for help.
The Food Fight…
And here is my take away for you:
Beyond our initial attachment with our parents, nourishment through food is our first relationship. The way we relate to food continues to take form as we grow. The messages we get around food are often silent, kind of like the messages we get around money…
…silent messages drive how we relate.
When I look at food and my relationship to it, as it related to the time in my life I felt I needed to cleanse; there was avoidance, fear, and a contraction of spirit; and I used food to communicate, but I wasn’t in my body enough to have ears to hear.
Attachment plays a huge role in how we connect in intimate relationships and there is a huge carry-over in how we relate to food.
We can be dependent or avoidant within our intimate relationships and we can use to fill the void within us when our dependency needs are not being met.
Recovery is about learning to get to a healthy neutral with food where it no longer soothes the parts of self that aren’t getting his/her needs and wants met. This layer of work has a lot of components to it and can look different as recovering from an eating disorder is an individualized journey.
One of the ways to get to neutral is by investigating the messages of how you learned to relate to food.
This often leads back to doing trauma work, with a little t. This entails going back into your history and gathering up all the parts of self that needed or wanted reassurance, love, nurturing, and a healthy message surrounding food and body; and letting the big A (adult) in you give that to yourself.
Instead of reacting to your emotions from a deregulated place, you reach neutral surrounding food and body image as you begin to embrace all aspects of self.
In our culture today, clean eating, has become a revered way of eating. I am a proponent of using food as fuel, eating for pleasure, and using big A’s wisdom of meeting needs and wants with moderation while allowing joy to be had as I delight in…
… having a maraschino cherry in a suspension of red dye 40, on top of an ice cream sundae…
should that opportunity present itself!
When the scales tip into extreme ways of being, and clean eating becomes a way to:
- gain more of a sense of self
- escape the self
- feel better than others from a place of superiority and grandiosity
Food has lost its true purpose and if that’s you, as it was me once:
So, I write this as a fellow-traveler, one that nurtured her needs through a lot of therapy and self-help –
If it feels as though I am speaking to you or about your experience:
If you would like to add to your layer of knowledge surrounding orthorexia, listen to The Food Fight Radio Show on Orthorexia. The Food Fight airs in Dallas on Saturdays at 1:00 on 770KAAM and can be listened to via live-stream www.kaamradio.com. The replay is uploaded each week on my website: www.recoverjoy.com. If you are wanting clarity surrounding your food struggles or want more support with your recovery from your eating disorder or struggles with food and body image contact me or sign-up for my newsletter to stay-in-touch.
Lorri Lancashire is the founder of High Vibe Soul, LLC. a coaching program for women that struggle with recovery from food-related issues and negative body image. Lorri works as a mindset coach and is also a Masters clinician as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas. She has a private practice working with individuals and couples. Lorri is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist through IAEDP (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals). She has trained with Pia Mellody, the Beck Institute, and Terrance Real and is completing her training as an RLT therapist.
Click here to download Lorri’s free “I Am Solution” and begin to recover your joy!