Part 3: Free Your Mind

I’m a believer in the benefits of healthy eating despite the struggles it presents me. If you’re just now following along my story, you can catch up here:

After I shared Confessions of Disordered Eating, someone commented who could relate saying it steals your joy. That is the best way to describe it. And that was also the final straw for me. I was sick and tired of feeling trapped {in my own mind} while I watched everyone else find joy in situations I couldn’t. By trying to control the future, I was missing the present.

For a long time I thought I didn’t needed to address the all consuming thoughts, thinking it’ll solve itself. It is probably normal, give it time. After roughly a year or so, I’d finally had enough in July 2015 and decided to see a counselor.

This was something I’d clung so tightly to for so long, but the first time I spoke to someone about it; it began to release its power. I learned this is real, commonly termed Orthorexia Nervosa. That knowledge alone validated the thoughts I was having, and I could stop stressing that this was something I was creating myself.

It was really hard to get help. I didn’t want to admit that something so positive had turned into this. How do you try to be an example for healthy eating when it was something that turned your life upside down? If anything that is a deterrent.

My first session I was asked what I want to get out of therapy, and I remember saying Peace. I wanted peace of mind again. To get there I needed to challenge the thoughts and where they came from, instead of just accepting them.

This wasn’t something I had communicated with anyone – Chris, my parents, my sister, anyone. I had a hard time explaining what it was like, and explaining I wasn’t happy with my body. I knew I was not overweight, nor the thinnest. But I had a hard time opening up about the struggle and expressing to others what I was feeling without people thinking I portrayed those criticizing thoughts on others.

I was very critical of my own food choices, but I acknowledge everyone eats according to their goals. And while it can be difficult for me to accept the way my body looks, I don’t view others through the same mirror I see myself.

The biggest thing I needed to gain insight into was where the disorder stemmed from. Many people practice healthy eating without developing an unhealthy mentality. So it’s necessary to figure out why it started. It’s likely personality traits, past experiences, etc.

I’ve always been sensitive about my appearance, and can distinctly remember being told I had “thunder thighs” in middle school. 2014 was the first time I looked how I wanted and I couldn’t let that slip away. The fear of gaining weight was a large factor, and I was trying so hard to prevent that, to control that. I have perfectionist tendencies, and love a well executed plan. These are not bad qualities, but need to be utilized in the correct areas of life.

Looking back, the fact that unflattering photos and how I viewed myself was my motivation to change, this was a good indicator I’d never be content with my progress. Along my journey I learned so much about the benefits of nutrition outside weight loss, but the internal motivation was still centered on appearance and I became addicted to the results I was getting.

One of the biggest things I’ve had to challenge is being extremely hard on myself. It is a defense mechanism for me. I want to beat others to it so they cannot say something that will offend me, something I don’t already know. When I was told I have ‘thunder thighs’, it clearly stuck with me. It caught me off guard. So if I criticize myself, I’ll never be caught off guard again. But this is an extremely unhealthy way to spend your time, and in reality it does not hurt any less than someone else saying it to you.

I learned to stop viewing food as ‘Good vs. Bad’. Food is food. Some choices have better nutritional value, but by viewing something as good vs. bad associates ‘reward vs. punishment’ in our minds.

I had to give up the notion of what I viewed as my perfect body, because in reality it was not. I had lost my period for about ten months, which was my body screaming this was not ideal. I learned to trust the process, and my commitment to healthy eating. Which is easier said than done. Our bodies naturally fluctuate, and I needed to learn to roll with it instead of trying to control it day in and day out and adding to the stress.

I still have days I struggle, but it is nothing like it was. It’s extremely hard to see pictures from 2014, knowing I’ll never look that way again. And having a drawer full of shorts that no longer fit. But as hard as that is, I balance that with how difficult that was to maintain. Getting back to my 2014 self is not worth the stress it placed on me. {by the way I destroyed all those shorts as part of my New Years exercise in letting go 🙂 }

Following a nutrition plan is not a bad thing, and for many it doesn’t turn into anything other than mindful eating. But if you start to notice an unhealthy mindset around it, do yourself a favor and challenge that before it consumes you. A healthy life is also a healthy mindset, outlook and attitude.

I wish I could tell you one solid thing that makes you break the cycle, but I can’t. It is a balancing act, it involves facing fear. You have to admit you want something better for yourself. It is a mindset –persistence, being fed up, had enough, slowly challenging your thoughts, the process, and the motivation behind it. Is it all worth it? And for me the answer was NO.

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