Over the past few years, my level of awareness for dysfunctional relationships with food has increased.  That’s been a good thing for me personally and professionally.  Personally it’s allowed me to treat my health concerns as symptoms of disordered eating, which has been far more effective at helping me feel my best.  Professionally it’s allowed me to be more sensitive to client’s fears and frustrations with food, again seeing them as symptoms of diet culture, nutrition fear-mongering and disordered eating rather than a lack of knowledge about what to eat. While some may have medical conditions that warrant adjusting food intake, the majority may be making themselves sick from extremes in eating (under or overeating) due to the diet mentality. No matter the situation, all benefit from thinking more positively and flexibly about food.

I came across this quote a few years ago while I was in the thick of severe Orthorexia, completely terrified of eating anything “unsafe”, and it really spoke to me.  Like, SPOKE to me.

There was something deep inside of me that knew none of it was real.  That it was all just fear.  And I knew I was going to be the one to save myself.  I knew I could set myself free, if I had the courage to eat all the stuff.  That might sounds crazy to you if you’ve never had that fear, but I had convinced myself that food was making me sick, when it was really not eating that was making me sick.

For example, I remember the first time I ate peanuts again, and ended up with a massive migraine.  It would have been easy for me to determine that I had a reaction to them.  But this was when things got real – I could make a choice to continue being afraid, or I could face my fears and move toward a more peaceful and healthy relationship with food, which I knew in my heart I could have.  I wasn’t sensitive to peanuts, but after being so malnourished, my body wasn’t very used to processing foods and I know so much of it was psychosomatic.  I also lacked balance and still had a lot of foods and food groups I wouldn’t eat.  I also had A LOT of food stress, which I have come to find out causes more symptoms than the actual food ever will.

You know, I’m not discounting anyone’s sensitivities or allergies or what makes them feel good and what doesn’t…we all have those to a certain extent, maybe some more than others.  But for those of you, who like me, have lists and lists and lists of foods that cause extreme anxiety if you eat them, I encourage you to get help.  Even if you don’t have lists, if there is something about it that doesn’t sit right, makes you anxious or uneasy, maybe identify if your symptoms are due more to fear than actual fact.

I often ask people – “if you approached your food issues and physical symptoms as a result of disordered eating, what would change for you?”  I think it’s a good question to ask yourself.  Maybe the food isn’t bad.  Maybe our bodies can handle more than we think they can.  Maybe our bodies are asking for me than we think is OK.  Maybe this isn’t about willpower, self-control or being “good” (I actually know it’s not that).  Maybe to function at their best, our bodies are wanting and needing variety, balance and moderation rather than all or nothing.  Food for thought.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD