So first of all I want to say that I realize that no one on the internet can solve my problems and I should really see a professional, but right now i'm on very thin ice and I just really need advice.
Basically I guess you could say iv'e fallen into "orthorexia" however since thats not a real medical term we'll say I have an OCD based eating disorder ( and yes I have ocd and it affects me in more ways then just food).
It's been building up for a long time but I guess I could say it started when I was vegan. Basically I was miserable and desperately wanting to die for the first 17 years of my life. I was slowly killing myself with bingeing on junk food and couldn't wait to end up with something like Alzheimer's so I could basically "check out" of life with out actually having to commit suicide. Three years ago at 17 I finally found a reason to live and with that came the desire to get healthy.
So In a final bid to get rid of my binge eating disorder I went vegan. While it did work I was constantly worried I wasn't getting the right amount of nutrients and so began my foray into reading nutritional websites and things like food combining. At first I thought I was in amazing health because I did things like mix vitamin C with iron for maximum absorption but the more I read the more I felt like I was doing everything wrong. So I turned to paleo.
It's important to note here that other then lose weight and break my cycle of binge eating I wasn't really trying to fix anything. I'm in literally perfect physical health.
I am currently, and have been for at least 6 months, in a constant state of panic due to food. I spend at least 10 hours every day thinking about food, and at least 3 of them reading about food. And I don't mean like I'm sad because I can't eat bagels, I mean like I have panic attacks at night and can't sleep because i'm afraid of spinach.
I'm so afraid that if I eat the wrong combination at the wrong time or iv'e cooked something at the wrong tempature i'm for sure going to get cancer or a brain tumor or something. No matter where I go i'm met with conflicting evidence and n=1. For every person who has a good article on the benefits of low carb eating someone else has one for why low carb is bad. For every anecdote about paleo reversing cancer someone else has one about raw veganism doing the same thing. I'm literally terrified of food. All food. Meat isn't safe. Fruit & vegetables aren't safe. The only thing that doesn't cause me to panic is white rice, and I certainly can't live off just that. So I often starve myself because I would rather starve then eat the wrong thing. Everything is centered around food. Even when I do things like laugh there's a loud voice telling me "hey laughing is good for lowering blood pressure!". Everything I do is fake and exists for the sole purpose of optimizing my heath. I no longer feel pleasure in living.
I'm at the point where I honestly can't imagine ever being in a romantic relationship because I don't think I could deal with eating with someone. I eat all my meals alone because I can't handle even the smallest impurity in my food. I have no friends, no partner, and i'm slowly ruining relationships with my family. All I have is food.
This isn't what I want for myself and I want to get out of this and just be normal. I don't know what to do. I feel like if I go see a regular therapist their going to want me to get off any kind of restrictive eating plan and just focus on being able to eat at all without panic. If I go see like a naturopath they're going to keep me on some kind of restricted plan and it's only going to fuel my fire. I'm literally terrified of eating most foods but at the same time I want to get better and I just don't see how I can.
I guess I just need advice. Maybe someone out there has dealt with this and managed to come out the other side okay?? I also really need to hear that eating even less then perfect foods is better then starving myself.
asked byben_31 (15)
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on March 06, 2013
at 05:49 PM
Well, you only really have to do a couple of things:
1) Get all of 40+ essential nutrients in sufficient amounts. This is automatically addressed when you eat various whole foods. You eat meats, vegetables, nutritious starches, nuts, and fruit and you knock out nearly all of them. Let your tastes guide you for the proportions. Eat fish, egg yolks and liver here and there and you get the rest. Take a couple thousand IUs of D3 during the winter and probably some magnesium glycinate. Most other supplements cause more problems than they fix, in my experience. If you're obviously allergic or intolerant of something, don't eat it. You don't need to calculate macronutrient ratios or any of that horseshit. All of the fuss about antinutrients and everything is overblown unless you have a wheat-based diet or something stupid like that.
2) Avoid all of the things that actually kill people: Don't smoke, always wear your seat belt, look both ways when crossing a street, don't eat trans fats, don't eat refined seed oils, avoid ionizing radiation and get some exercise.
Everything else is at best diminishing returns but probably actually harming your health to try to avoid.
I realize telling someone to "snap out of it" is naive, but if you'd like more help with this until you can consult with a professional, just e-mail me. It's my name at gmail. I used to be a neurotic vegan for 8 years and was neurotic eating a real diet for a while before I straightened it out.
on March 06, 2013
at 05:41 PM
Hey, man. I'm sorry to hear this going on. it is my opinion that all eating disorders are OCD manifested in a unique way. The best advice I can give you is to reassure you that our bodies are incredibly adaptable and well equipped to deal effectively with a wide array of foods. You need to learn how to trust your body
Part of the reason I hate people like Sisson, Taubes, Rosendale, and almost every other paleo/primal "guru" (there are a few exceptions) is that they demonize foods like omega 6, fructose, glucose/carbs, oxalates, goitragens, gluten, etc etc yada yada. I think these people are particularly detrimental to those who suffer or have suffered from eating disorders of all kinds, because many people with eating disorders are perfectionists, and see things as black and white. So, an anorexic might say if "I'm not eating a perfect diet, then f*** I'm so stressed out of what's right to eat I just won't eat at all." A binge eater might say "I'm so overwhelmed about what's right to eat that f*** I'll just binge." (If you want proof of just how fucking retarded Sisson is, here's a quote "I only eat mac nuts now. Mac nuts are far superior to any other nut"...meanwhile he puts almonds his salad, but the point is what a f***ing d-bag. Rosendale "we're all basically sick and unhealthy."). These people have no trust in their own bodies because they ALL abused them in the past, and now are passing that mentality on to people through their books and blogs so that you buy more of their stuff so they can earn a living. The "food as toxin" is more prevalent than the "food as medicine."
You just need to let go. Trust me, I know it is easier said than done, but that's the only way to get better. You have to trustyour body. It's smart and resilient. Just eat real, natural food, and don't sweat the small stuff. Honestly if you're not gluten intolerant, bread isn't the enemy. Legumes aren't either. It's the big picture...the forest. Focus on that.
Also, you will probably best be suited working this out with a therapist or some sort, and depending upon how bad it is you may need hospitalization for more intensive therapy. CBT works well with OCD. You could explore that avenue.
best of luck.
on March 06, 2013
at 05:44 PM
First off, since you wanted to hear it, yes, it's better to eat something less than perfect than to starve yourself.
Have you tried shifting your thinking to eating a perfect diet on a more weekly basis? I think it's impossible to eat a "perfect" meal because the perfect diet has something of everything every week or so - so even if you don't get a lot of Vitamin A on Monday, if you have liver on Tuesday there's no need to freak out about it because on a weekly basis, you're good. That might help you take the pressure off needing everything you eat to be perfect in and of itself because obviously, it isn't.
on March 06, 2013
at 07:26 PM
I'm going to go ahead and second (third? fourth?) the advice to go see a professional. I wish you the absolute best.
I have a long history with eating disorders and OCD/severe anxiety. I understand how debilitating it can be, and how you can recognize exactly what's happening and still not stop it. I once actually had a major panic attack at a restaurant, of all places, with my future mother-in-law because I was worried about how much fat or sugar the chicken was cooked with. (I was crying and hyperventilating. It was really horrible and embarrassing, and I still don't know how I dealt with anything.) I 100% understand freaking out about eating with someone. Thankfully 10 years later my now-husband is still with me and I know my limits with food and stressors. You can heal, but it takes a lot of time.
Ultimately, and I know this is unpopular here, I had to give up the idea of paleo, vegan, vegetarian, but most specifically, "optimal" because striving for "optimal" made my quality of life horrible. I generally keep to whole foods, but don't do Whole30s or detoxes because they slip me right back into disordered eating.
Please focus first on taking care of yourself. See a doctor and therapist, and don't shun meds if they help get you back on track. I'm off anxiety medication now, but it really helped initially. (That's unpopular, too, but it helped regulate me and now I've been weaned off.) All the healthy foods in the world won't help you when you're having that much anxiety.
on March 06, 2013
at 06:26 PM
Death is going to happen. There is a limit to what you can do to stave it off, and you already know you are pushing your quality of life out of the window. I suspect you need to get more comfortable with the idea you are going to end at some point. That way you can start to live a life. I wouldn't worry to much about how this fear is manifest- OCD/eating disorder might seem weird, but you know the big fear isn't the spinach. The spinach is just serving as a proxy for freaking out about death.
It is sad, but there are actually seventy year olds who don't process this sort of stuff and freak the hell out when it becomes apparent that people don't expect them to be around in forty years.
Also, if you eat nutrient dense foods- like meat, eggs, liver- your brain actually starts to function properly again. The brain is mostly fat; if you aren't getting enough nutrients weird stuff happens up there.
on March 06, 2013
at 05:46 PM
I am guessing that your ocd is not just with food? I'm not saying that you have other ocd traits, but that your general personality tends to be one of hyper-vigilance, strategy and planning? If so, you are probably in good company here, because I am sure that there are many of us who have toed that line.
Yes, please go talk to a professional. Not necessarily for orthorexia (it may be hard to find someone who deals with that), but regarding whatever it is in your life that leads you to this place. You CAN find a balance, but you may need someone to help you work through the details of it.
I know that for me, I can also fall into the indecision of not eating bc my brain freezes up (am I combining wrong? will this give me gas? is this too much protein for today?). I have found that if I plan all my food on the weekend (I use cronometer) and print it out (placed next to my stove) then I can remove that indecision. I spend one day doing the agonizing, and then I trust myself. I am so much more at peace this way, and I don't have to worry about it, just follow what's on the list. Then the next week, I can do something different if I want.
That may not work for you, but I am sure you can come up with some kind of compromise that will honor your natural personality, but remove the paralysis.
on March 07, 2013
at 04:34 PM
My life improved exponentially when I stopped trying to find the perfect diet and when I took a major break from reading and talking about nutrition. I am really not a compulsive person at all, but it was definitely occupying more life space than I wanted it to.
I realized that I don't understand it like I pretend that I do. I just parrot what I read. I think that's most people around the paleo world and I don't trust my health with them.
I agree with the commenter above. Eat a variety of foods, but remember that eating a weekly variety counts too. And pay attention to what you can actually feel in your body, not just the paleo boogeymen.
Honestly, I feel not great after eating a bunch of Omega 3s. I feel terrific eating Omega 6s. I still sort of try to balance it, but I also just eat whatever the hell I feel like I want (out of quality ingredients still).
This all being said.... I fully realize you aren't "choosing" to have the relationship that you do with food. I echo the sentiments of other commenters and say get thee to a therapist, friend.
on March 06, 2013
at 08:49 PM
orthorexia is a real term. i had it. therapy was the main thing that helped me. it took about 4 years but it was well worth it. i could've written the story you just wrote.
also, while in therapy, my therapist gave me a book called "making peace with food." this helped me a lot. it has great writing exercises to help you.
on March 06, 2013
at 08:09 PM
First, please see a professional. Someone sympathetic and experienced with eating disorders and OCD.
Second, I want to reiterate that, YES, eating almost any food is better than starving yourself. It is also far better than agonizing over perfection. Perfection is impossible and COMPLETELY unnecessary.
I dealt with an eating disorder throughout most of my teen years and twenties, and still flirt with orthorexia from time to time. It's difficult, and I'm really sorry you have to go through this. What helped me (and may work for you, but I don't know that), was to address two interdependent issues, each in small steps: 1) how I felt about what I ate (mentally/emotionally), and 2) the quality of the food I ate and how that made me feel (physiological effect on my mental state). It's hard because the issues are so intertwined.
It sounds like allowing yourself more freedom (addressing issue #1) is what's immediately important. Freedom is scary (believe me, I know), but you need to convince yourself that, not only is no diet ever going to be perfect, but that your present enjoyment of life is far more important than whether whatever you ate today is going to increase your chance of whatever cancer by 0.0000000001% in 30 years.
The hard part is to let go without totally giving up. What you eat can affect your mental state (biochemically/physiologically). There are nutrition choices that can make you feel much better mentally - you just need to figure out how to pick your battles (again, the guidance of a professional therapist and/or nutritionist would be very helpful here). For me personally, I find keeping my carb intake moderate (paleo with some fruits and safe starches) keeps my mood even and prevents me from binging. But I DON'T count carbs, because I can easily slip into obsessiveness. My mood and obsessiveness have also improved since I've included more animal foods in my diet (was vegetarian for many years). Egg yolks, liver, sardines, and wild salmon are great for your brain. Cutting gluten also helped me a lot mentally, but that might be a change better left for later since it's very easy to get neurotic about contamination.
In my opinion, it's about striking a balance between mental freedom and decent (but not perfect) nutrition. A balance isn't always a compromise- if you can spare a circumscribed amount of mental energy for figuring out how to eat for your current mental health, you can make major mental health gains. From there, you'll feel good enough to decide if you need any further changes. One step at a time.
Remember to live for now, not some distant future. That future is irrelevant if you're suffering so much right now.
I know some comment (however long-winded) from a stranger can't help much. If you'd like to talk more I'd be very happy to, since I've dealt with some of this myself. I also agree that CBT can be very helpful, and psych meds can help even if you're opposed to being on them long-term, especially if you need help climbing from a very deep hole.