When I was growing up, I was pretty overweight. I really did not like exercising or eating healthy, and care less about all of those things, but the weight kept growing, and that was something I did not like.
As middle school rolled around, I began to be exposed to dieting and the ideal body shapes of others around me; a mold I could not fit into. After figuring out that one couldn’t lose weight without giving up certain foods or exercising, I began little changes in the way I ate.
In 9th grade, I began seeing a nutritionist and started a 90-day challenge at my gym with my parents. This is where my disordered patterns with eating switched from overeating to restriction. Instead of eating much more than I needed, I became very specific about the foods that I ate. I would work out for hours twice a day, and convinced myself that playing sports was simply to exercise and be healthy, when in reality, the more I worked out, the better I felt about myself because I knew I was losing weight and becoming better.
I wouldn’t say I was, or am ever perfect at eating, but I do really enjoy eating healthy, and sometimes take that too far. There are certain foods I would rather starve than eat. On the days that I am able to eat less or skip meals, I feel strong for those efforts. Sometimes I look up ways to purge because I just want to be rid of the calorie-rich foods I somehow let enter my body. Anxiety, OCD, and my perfectionism make it a little harder as I often associate the way I eat with a sense of peace and self-esteem in the way I have eaten.
All of these things may sound good: eating healthy, not eating certain foods, and being aware of what I put into my body, but as I was sitting in my nutrition class the other day hearing about this eating disorder called orthorexia, I thought: that’s me. It’s when ‘clean eating’ becomes an obsession, an extreme.
There are many things I am willing to give to the Lord, but this is one that is difficult for me. What if He called me to a different country with white rice and foods that I refuse to eat, would I be willing to give up my self-imposed, healthy food habits to serve Him there? Or what if I consistently refuse people’s loving offers of foods simply for the sake of keeping up with my perfectionist ways.
I like to think that food is a love language. It is a way that people show love to others, and what if I was willing to serve others in receiving this offer and gift of love. My orthorexia is more self-diagnosed. I fit most of the symptoms: I think about food constantly, planning out what I am going to eat the next day and where I am going to eat it from. I run away from social situations, planning ahead for how I can keep up my perfect eating. Eating unhealthy foods leads to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and judgement of others who eat such foods. My self-esteem and happy correlates greatly with the way I eat. I spend hours at the grocery store looking deeply at labels, wishing sometimes to give up on my strict, good food rules and standards, but find that I cannot. For me, eating healthy has become somewhat of an obsession in many ways.
One of the things about it is that it makes me feel good. People around me compliment how healthy I eat, and it drives me to do it even more because I love to please others. It has become better, but I think that is another beautiful reason God has brought me to camp this summer. It is a safe place for me to learn to trust Him with the way I eat. I cannot avoid all of the non-organic, energy-dense foods, but I can eat in moderation and exercise for the sake of helping my body. I can pray and trust and ask the Lord for help in this journey towards recovery, and a healthier relationship with the way I eat. It may not be easy, but I know that it will be very good in serving the Lord more fully and joyfully, and finding all that I am and all of my self-worth in Him alone.