I was sick. I was unhappy. I was running myself off no energy, no fuel and eventually ended up being exhausted and starved of a once happy Martha.
I had orthorexia.
I was clueless to what this meant too. It actually sounded like a made up word from Google translate, and had mixed up the words orthodontist and tiranosaurio rex! When my mom presented me this diagnosis. She read out all the symptoms of this illness, it had no longer felt like a disconnected word, it sadly defined how I was. I was obsessed about ‘clean eating’, I was obsessed with staying healthy and cutting out certain foods to keep this 'status' I avoided eating out with my friends in fear that I didn’t know what I was eating, in fear of being 'off track'. I feared food that wasn't 'clean', I was anxious about food, it was no longer something to enjoy rather endure. I was tired all the time. I controlled what I ate to the extent of basically being a mini Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen and told mom what she could or couldn’t put in my meals. It was exhausting.
I was sick.
It’s hard to admit I was ill. To think I got everything so wrong about myself. Because after all my intention from the start was just to be healthy. I was treating myself very hurtfully, and that’s a horrible thought to think about yourself. I wasn’t being a friend to me, and that’s all I needed.
Thank god I use 'was’ very strongly with lots of passion as I write this. Because I am certainly not like this anymore. I was obsessed, controlled by the misleading side of fitness and media.. but more so by this illness. I honestly wouldn’t recognised myself (or liked myself very much) if I had meet myself a few months back.
Orthorexia is an eating disorder in where you have an unhealthy obsession with eating healthily. I constantly think, obsess about food. I described foods as 'good' and 'bad'. I wouldn't dream of eating something I deemed as 'unhealthy'. It controlled not only my life but my family's, my friendships and social life.
I was cross, angry, upset, moody, disconnected from just about everything. But I only seemed to care about my fitness and 'health’ (but I was far from actually being healthy) I can truly apologies to everyone (mainly my friends and family) that encountered me during this time, I wouldn’t want to imagine what it was like to be around someone who when I look back now, I wouldn’t like to be around or associated with either. My eating disorder looked different to what a common eating disorder looks like. Yes, I had lost weight. But not to the extreme point where I was severely underweight, although I did reach that stage where if I had got any worse I would have encounter serious long term problems. You wouldn't have looked at me and thought- "oh yes, she is definitely not looking very well". It was more so to do with my mental state rather than my physical self, which is still just as important to keep healthy.
Orthorexia, slightly different to anorexia because I was striving to be the healthiest person possible, so I didn't choose not to eat. I was just extremely picky about what I ate and didn't have enough variety in my diet to be able to sustain this type of eating. But similar to anorexia, I was dropping in weight, energy, personality- I think I resembled a zombie more than Martha.
I don’t like to say what triggered this whole “must be clean eating healthy’ phase for me. But I know it spiralled too far when I was getting upset over a meal that my mom had made because it was in the ‘’wrong bowl’ I almost laugh and cry a bit thinking that had actually happened. It may have came across as being spolit or pathetic to an onlooker. But that was the illness controlling me. I mentally couldn’t handle something so small and insignificant to most, for myself though, that resulted in my whole world ending. Dramactic. (but that’s how I was)
I know most of you reading this won’t really understand what it’s like to have a problem that can affect you for months and months mentally (and that’s okay, you don’t need to experience it yourself to be able to sympathise with someone). I know my mental state was much worse than my physical appreance (although a few comments from teachers and friends had me brushing off my worries because I was soooo in denial). I’ve learnt that it was okay. I needed time to be able to actually figure out I wasn’t well. I needed to become self-aware that I had a problem first. It’s no good in having people telling you things if you don’t believe it yourself, so until I did I just was going to brush off the comments of ‘Martha, you’ve lost weight’. It’s also hard to believe that I had problem, when my intention was never to lose weight in the first place. Strange, right? You would think “oh she just wants to lose weight?’ not at all, I think that’s why I found it so hard to change, when I didn’t think what I was doing was wrong, but maybe everyone with a eating disorder thinks that way?
One day after a shift at work, I came out crying to my mom (not because the shift went badly) but because I was so physically exhausted, yet pleaded with her that I was still okay enough for the gym (I really wasn’t, but when an obsession to hit the gym and be healthy is constantly in my mind, I forced myself to go) after a really horrible car ride to the gym (because of all the crying and my mom really voicing what I didn’t want to hear i.e. I'm not well, this isn’t healthy etc)
I got to the gym. I should be happy. I got what I wanted. I was in my so called ‘happy place’. Well in your ‘happy place’ I feel one of the criteria is that you actually need to be happy, right? I was far from it. Barely lifting well, I was teary eyed round the whole workout. It was pointless me being there. I was a sloth walking round the gym I had no energy, no fuel both physically and mentally- I was done. It really had hit me.
I wasn’t healthy.
That was my turning point...
My biggest fear was out. I couldn’t sustain this way of thinking anymore. I couldn’t constantly think about food. What I could/couldn’t eat. What was in my food, stressing over food my mom had made me because I wasn’t in control of it. I couldn’t think anymore like this, it's just not healthy. After then pouring tears all the way home from the gym, this was then I started my recovery (sounds dramatic but well I guess when it's you who’s going through it, it feels like an Oscar award-winning movie plot- I think I win 3 Oscars and 5 nominations for this story 😉). I didn't joke about it at the time, but now I am a lot better I can laugh a little more about it. I took little steps to becoming the much more happier, more healthier Martha I am today. In both mind and body.
How do you eat an elephant? In bite sized pieces- and that’s why I have recovered from such an awful place mentally to now one of the most “me-like’ states.
I won’t go on about what my steps and journey has been since then but one credit I will give… My beautiful, loving, supportive and understanding mom. I won't ramble a long paragraph about how amazing she is (although I wouldn’t struggle to do that) I would much rather I told her in person (as I often do!)
I am lucky. I know that. I know that I was lucky in that my illness only affected me for several months. That my disorder hasn’t done any long term damage or harm for me. Some are effected for years, do more damage to their bodies and mind and have a much longer recovery period then me or worse and never recover at all. I know that they may seek help and receive zero treatment.
I always reflect at what I was reading back then or seeing on my social media that encouraged my disordered behaviour. There is a considerable amount of content online that is misinforming people. Even reputable publications like ‘Women’s Health’ and celebrities are being slandered for their misleading and truly immoral advice that really shouldn’t be followed. I’m not about to go on a massive rant about that (because we could be here a while, I do love a good rant).
The fact that the girl on the train sitting next to me is eating overnight oats with a chopped banana and the man opposite me is drinking a protein shake, I think the health world has developed a lot more than people realise and that being healthy is a continuous symptom in us all. I think we all strive to be somewhat health conscious or at least mindful of it. (then again the classic builders besides me on the train, are indulging in some Jacob’s biscuit’s and hot tea (some people just don’t change! no judgments here🙋) I know fully embrace my truly healthy lifestyle of BALANCE! Which has made me the best version of myself and mentally a lot healthier too.
This was quite a difficult post to write, and if you know me, will know I am a private person. I like that about myself. However, I feel incredibly brave within myself to share such a personal struggle of mine and felt it was only right that if I do a blog, I want to be completely honest. So here I am.
I've linked a page about Orthorexia if you want to read more into this not-so-common- but- getting- more - common disease. You may find it more informative and helps you understand such a horrible illness that's effected myself for the past 10 months. Orthorexia
Thank you for reading
Until next time,
Simply Martha x