Orthorexia is a hassle

World’s Pickiest Eater

Here’s a brief (well, for me) history of my eating. As a child, I was the self-proclaimed “World’s Pickiest Eater”. So many flavors and odors offended me. Parents, I was your worst nightmare. My children have been tricky to deal with but nothing compared to how I was! If it didn’t have sugar in it, I probably didn’t like it. I certainly didn’t eat meat or vegetables. I was weak and thin and never could understand how other kids were performing so well in gym class.

Teenage Vegetarian

By the time I was thirteen, I became an ethical vegetarian but it really wasn’t a stretch since I had only ever had chicken on occasion. Obviously, I was forced to stretch a bit and actually include some vegetables; a girl can’t live on sandwiches alone! By the time I was sixteen, I was suffering from some quite serious but undiagnosed health issues. Does this sound normal: If it was warm, I could not walk more than a few hundred feet without needing to sit down. If it was hot, I plain out fainted if I attempted anything so strenuous as this. I was constantly fainting. I needed a seat on the subway but as a sixteen year old girl, I didn’t usually get one. I’d start to get tunnel vision and knew I didn’t have much time. I’d ask people if I could please, please sit down but usually I fainted before anyone responded.

You’d have thought this was a wake up call and I’d quit this self-destructive behavior. Did I mention I was an committed ethical vegetarian? (As a side note, this determination can be a character strength; it’s all in how I wield it!) Also, I was convinced I could fix the problem through nutrition. I understood about B12 deficient anemia so I put brewer’s yeast on salads. Apparently, it’s not as simple as that to fix because the B12 is simply not utilized by some of us. My mother became a vegetarian the same time I did and she didn’t suffer any medical issues.

The whole time I wasn’t eating dead animals, I was preaching. Can you picture it? You know how angry only teenagers can get. That’s right, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I spent two summers at camp living on hard boiled eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

College Years: Meat Eating Muscle Chick!

It was perhaps because of the no friends thing that when I got to university, I gave up on the vegetarian thing immediately. I was already in over my head being only seventeen and away from home. Being so different struck me as a bad plan. Boy was I ever right! The first few days, I found the mile walk to campus quite challenging but I sucked it up and just did my best, resting when I needed to. Within a week of eating meat, I was fine! Within a few weeks, I was race walking. I got a few jobs and one was as a messenger – this was way before the days of email. I prided myself on my speed! I was all over that campus. I took the stairs even if it meant climbing to the 17th floor. You’d think I’d never consider giving up meat again after results like this! It was around this time that I also started lifting weights. It was incredible how quickly I advanced in strength and very motivating!

Eating “the right” way

After college, during which I might not have made the best choices, my mom’s teachings came back to me and I was driven to eat “the best” way.  I have always devoured every bit of research I came across dealing with health and nutrition. I want to do what is “right”. It has been a long and windy road. In my 20s, I moved to shopping more and more at Whole Paycheck. I wrongly assumed that anything they sold was “healthy”. It came as a shock to me that even there, you had to read labels. I only had a vague idea what I was looking for back then but I did pick up that there were some things to avoid. I think the fact that I was eating foods with labels might be part of the problem. (Oh oops, my bad, I’m still doing it! Trying to be right! Be perfect. Well, there may not be a complete cure for that!)

There were times in my thirties that I did all sorts of things including no red meat for many years after the whole Mad Cow Disease scare, dabbled in vegetarianism again (really? really???), got heavily into organic food and even went all the way to raw food. For six whole months, I didn’t eat a single cooked thing. Needless to say, I was vegan during that time. I can’t say it did me any harm; I got very lean and I felt great but it was a freaking hassle. Which brings me to my next point.

Orthorexia is a hassle

Any method of eating that is inconvenient for you or those around you is too darned limiting. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely cured of this but I’m sick and tired of worrying so darned much about every single bite that passes my lips and those of my family. I still hate the idea of mainstream meat production and we will continue to avoid it but at a gathering, I am trying to learn to look the other way if one of my family takes a bite of something “forbidden”. Perhaps they won’t actually get Mad Cow disease or cancer. It’s possible. I’m not saying I’m going to start feeding my family Doritos or McDonald’s, but I am learning to relax a lot more when we socialize. We can still strive to eat foods as close to their natural form as possible as Michael Pollan teaches. But 100% compliance is insane and too limiting. I get this now.

Lighten up!

This past holiday season, I lightened up considerably! We went to quite a few events with friends and family and I ate what I was served without complaining or looking concerned or asking ingredients. It was refreshing!

Anything Goes

Anything Goes DietSo how did I come to this lighter state of being about this still somewhat heavy issue? It’s not been an easy journey but I fully credit the Anything Goes Diet with changing my perspective and letting me begin to allow myself to be freer with food choices. This way of eating has served me well to both learn how to eat and how to remove unwanted fat from my belly. I sure did not lighten up doing all that holiday eating – I put on a solid 5 pounds but it only took 2 weeks to get it back off!

What most people don’t realize about slimming down and eating for life: there is room for all your favorite foods. And also, delayed gratification increases willpower. So if there are foods you are wanting, don’t feel like they have no place in your diet now or forever. Schedule them in! Thank you, AGD for this incredibly freeing wisdom!

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