A Thin Line

7 Sep

I use to read Runner’s World daily but I have been avoiding it as it seemed to be turning in to a negative influence in my HA recovery. Today, I thought I’d just take a peak and I came across an article about orthorexia.

“Alternative medicine physician Steven Bratman, M.D., himself an orthorexia sufferer, coined the term in 1997 to refer to an extreme fixation on health food. Unlike anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by consuming too few calories, orthorexia is a preoccupation with the quality of food, rather than the quantity, and the condition can have severe mental and physical repercussions.” –Michelle Hamilton from Runner’s World.

A few bloggers have recently touched on orthorexia and the thin line that runners specifically tread. Check out Hungry Runner Girl’s and Clean Eating Chelsey’s  posts about this issue.

When my focus went from my mileage to the number on the scale, I started to pay attention to the types of foods I was eating. I was learning about nutrition and about what I was supposed to eat and soaking all of the information in like a sponge. Get a vegetable in with every meal – done, I can add in pumpkin to my oatmeal, a sweet potato at lunch, spinach smoothie as a snack, and spaghetti squash instead of pasta at dinner. Not only full of vitamins and nutrients, but also are some of my favorite meals.

I was eating healthier, we were buying way less processed foods, and I looked forward to making out the grocery list and going to the grocery store to read the ingredients on the labels. All good things. Eating healthy is very important and eating clean is also very important to me, as the more knowledge I gained then and even now, the more I pay attention to the foods I eat. Now stopping there and having a good balance is great! But I took it further…as always…

“The disorder often begins with a real desire to improve health, says Maria Rago, Ph.D., vice president of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). People stop eating white flour or processed foods, and aim for organic produce and whole grains. Such healthy practices should be applauded, but when restrictions become so severe—cutting out fats or salt or food groups—you put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies or other problems,” said Hamilton.

Somewhere once told me to eat 1,500 calories a day for my weight/physical activity, I seriously would type in those calorie allowance calculators online that I had light/moderate physical activity because I sit at a desk 8 hours of the day, even though that was after my 6-8 mile runs before work…so eating healthy then turned in to watching calories at the same time. A calorie amount that would force my body to shut down.

When we would go out to eat, I would chose a restaurant based on the nutritional information found on the website or my calorie counting app, and decide what I could or could not eat. I would then have it all typed in and know exactly what I was going to order before we went to the restaurant. If the restaurant didn’t have a nutritional information menu online, I would choose somewhere else to eat or have anxiety and extreme guilt. I remember constantly beating myself up over food choices. That’s when I realized something wasn’t right with my obsession to healthy eating.

I still very much believe in healthy eating. I also believe in knowing approximately the calorie counts and ingredients of the foods we ‘treat’ ourselves with. But as a reoccurring theme in my life, balance is always the answer.

There is a very thin hairline thin line between eating healthy and clean, to having it turn into something that controls you. I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder but especially looking back now, I think I was dipping a toe in to the water.

“One of the biggest fears among experts is that because orthorexia is a progressive disorder, it can be a step toward anorexia. Lindsay Calvario, a sports dietician at ANAD, has seen this pattern in a number of her patients, including a collegiate runner she’s currently counseling. The runner began to make healthy tweaks to her diet as her running intensified. But as she cut out foods she considered unhealthy, her condition spiraled into severe calorie restriction,” said Hamilton.

I was rudely awakened by my diagnosis with hypothalamic amenorrhea. With my healing, I have let go of the obsession of exercising and eating perfect, and for that, I am thankful.

I now try and focus on an 80/20 relationship with my food choices. I definitely have a few cookies (or this fabulous cookie butter that my friend sent me) thrown in the mix but I also try and make healthy choices at the same time. I do what I can to eat healthy most of the time and balance it out with yummy treats!

Last winter, a friend of ours was eating a Snicker’s bar at a hockey game and he set the wrapper down in front of me so of course I picked it up because I don’t remember the last time at that point that I had a Snickers or even picked one up and I was curious to see the ingredients, calorie, and fat content. This friend quickly grabbed the wrapper out of my hand and said “Seriously Mallory? It’s JUST a Snickers bar!”

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8 Responses to “A Thin Line”

  1. Lindsey September 7, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Great post! I truly believe I have suffered from this for the past few years and it is the reason I lost my period. I am now trying to get back on track. And realizing that being healthy is much more about balance and not about how many miles I ran that week or calories consumed that day.

    • Mallory September 7, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      Lindsey u have a great outlook!! Sometimes our biggest challenges teach us our most important and needed lessons!

  2. Priscilla September 7, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    Took the words right out of my mouth!! Before meeting you and some of the other girls, I always felt so alone in my obsession. I’m glad that you are sharing this and being so open and honest about it. I know you’re making a difference and this will help someone someday! ~xoxo

    • Mallory September 7, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      Yes i agree about feeling alone. I was always the one people would ask regarding food choices and i was very proud of my knowledge but what i didnt realize is i didnt have to reach perfection by doing all of what i learned….but now we have eachother! 🙂

  3. Simone @ realgoodfood September 9, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m really into eating clean and healthy and it is good to be aware that it can turn into extrems. This will help me to keep it on a good level and not getting to obsessed or to strict with myself!! Thanks again

    • Mallory September 10, 2012 at 8:59 am #

      Most definitely!!! Balance is everythingggg 🙂

  4. Laura @ LauraLikesDesign September 9, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    What a great post! I can relate to so much of this, unfortunately!

    • Mallory September 10, 2012 at 8:58 am #

      Yea i think a lot of us healthy living people def can see some patterns to this but its ok as long as we recognize it and move forward 🙂

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