The Makings of my orthorexia
As my body matured and grew through puberty, I found myself in an unhealthy romantic relationship with a boy that was crumbling. I also found myself busier and more stressed than ever between my honors classes, extracurriculars, sports, after-school (and sports) job. I skipped lunch here and there, at first, purely from lack of time. I spread myself way too thin with extracurriculars and had at least 2 meetings to be at most days. As my time became less and my problems grew, I began purposely skipping lunch in a desperate move to restore my romantic relationship. To make matters worse, running was always my stress relief; so, the busier and more stressed I felt, the more often I ran, the longer I ran and the farther I ran. This is not inherently bad, of course. Running is great to keep your body healthy and moving and fit, especially when you spend most of the day sitting like a rock at school. As I saw my face and stomach slimming down, and my legs tone though, I finally began to like what I saw in the mirror again. Maybe it was actually best for me to skip lunch and continue pushing myself to run more every day, I thought. Clearly, I am looking healthier, I thought.
Restrictive Dieting & Over-Exercising
At the time, I was in denial. Deep down, I didn’t want to admit that I also thought my new, slimmer figure would keep my boyfriend from talking to other girls. It was all okay though because I have everything under control. “I’ll only skip lunch for a few days,” turned into the week, which turned into no lunch at all most weeks for a month. I still ate a small apple with peanut butter during my fourth period class though. That still counts as something right? In my mind, this was my lunch. No big deal, right? An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I really am only missing the Chicken Caesar salad that I would normally have, and that’s not that much more food anyways. It’s really no big deal. Except that it was a big deal for someone who was running a minimum of 3 miles every day. This mentality of healthy as less is more began to bleed into my other meals and entire day. I didn’t stop eating completely, just became very restrictive.
What is An Eating Disorder?
I did not fully understand what constitutes disordered eating. In my mind, I was not anorexic because I ate food. And I never took laxatives or made myself throw up, so I certainly was not bulimic. I also never binge ate. Sure, I missed a meal here and there because “my schedule was too busy to allow time for it,” but I was still eating. Let me run you through what my daily food intake began to look like though. My bowls of cereal in the morning became increasingly smaller. And when I say small, I mean what you should use for snacking on peanuts. I had an apple with peanut butter, and began struggling to finish this snack. My lunch was non-existent, and my dinners also became less.
Increasingly restricted eating combined with religious exercise was my recipe for disaster known as orthorexia. In my days, I found more and more ways to cut back, but I never cut back on exercise. I made sure I never missed my daily running, abs and arms (okay, by arms I mean 15 pushups but that’s unimportant). I didn’t fit into these categories for disordered eating that I was always taught about in school; therefore, I did not have an eating disorder, or any unhealthy habits for that matter…or did I? If you think you may have an eating disorder or for more information on disordered eating, visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/eating-disorders-versus-disordered-eating.
identity issues & hopeless striving
Though I didn’t know it, at the time that I was seeking and searching. I wanted to feel needed and wanted because this not only made me feel loved but meant that I mattered to people. I tried everything to earn other’s love and acceptance. But nothing satisfied because I never felt good enough for others. In my incessant perfectionistic striving to always do my best for others; in my need to be needed and wanted by others; in my need to earn my love and place in relationships with friends, my boyfriend, my teachers, my boss, my parents, my body became one of the many ways of fixing it all.
Just try harder. You need to do more. Nothing you do measures up and is ever good enough for others. You need to be better in order for others to love you, choose you and want you. I let satan fill my mind with lies. And worse yet, I listened to them. I believed them. I fed them. I became so lost, that when I looked in the mirror, I physically could not recognize the person staring back at me. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I lost sight of who I wanted to be. As I look back now, I can clearly identify that this was an identity issue. I was placing my identity in everything but God. My worth equaled my work. My worth equaled my success. My worth equaled how others treated me and if they included me.
When we put our identity in our beauty, in how other’s see and label our own bodies—no scratch that, in God’s purposeful creation—our striving will never be enough. Our weight will never be low enough. Our thighs will never be thin enough, our stomachs flat enough, our chins chiseled enough. When we put our worth and acceptance in anything other than God, especially worldly beauty, we will always feel dissatisfied and there will always be more work to do. When we surrender not just our lives but our bodies to God though, amazing changes can happen. We can find freedom and peace in His word and truth that we are beautiful creations.
So, What Changed?
What changed for me? The simple answer is I did. You see, I knew I was at my breaking point in April of my junior year. I realized I had reached a crossroads through a conversation with my mom, and it was time to make a choice. And I chose God. More of him and less of me is what I needed. While I make it sound simple, it was not easy. I said goodbye to my boyfriend, I took a step back from my friends, I rode out the rest of the year until summer and took a break from my striving. I surrendered myself to God. Every. Single. Day. Over and over again when I woke up in the morning. Instead of the one room I gave him in my heart to have, I surrendered my whole heart and let him transform me. It was not easy, but it was the best decision I made yet.
This transformation did not happen quickly either. I made so many of the same mistakes in college, and found myself at my darkest, most rock bottom during sophomore year (what is it with sophomore year for me guys?). I spent so much more time learning the hard way all of these issues I struggled with. But each time I kept running away from God and towards other things, God continued to pursue me. He forgave me. He extended grace, time, and truth over and over until I finally turned to him and truly surrendered my life in full obedience. In this, I found freedom. In this, I found hope. In this, I found new life and light. And you can too friends. Let God show you how to use His word to define beauty instead of the world.
- Am I trying to restrict my food intake not to eat?
- Am I avoiding social situations involving food
- Am I intentionally trying to exercise a certain amount to burn of what I’ve eaten
- Do I make a vow in morning not to eat certain foods
- Does someone talking about losing weight trigger me to want the same
- Beautiful by MercyMe
- By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North
- Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day
- No Impossible with You by I AM THEY
Hi there, I’m Amber! I am a newly minted college graduate from Messiah University with my bachelor’s in Public Relations. I’m a sister, daughter, soon-to-be aunt, friend, writer, athlete, life-long learner…but most importantly, I’m a beloved daughter of God. I’m just a 22-year-old perfectionist from a small suburb that knows what it feels like to lose hope and to struggle with love, worth, acceptance, grace, body image, comparison, the list goes on. My passion is to serve and bless others, spread kindness, and share the love and hope found in both knowing Jesus intimately and walking through life with him. My prayer is that everyone may be filled with the eternal love, joy and freedom that only comes from a relationship with Jesus, so that they may overflow with love for others and glorify God in all they do.