Monday, June 4, 2012

Paleo and Eating Disorders

I am going to preface this post by saying: I am not an expert on any of this, what I am about to talk about is based on my own personal experiences and fears. I am writing this because I think about this a lot, because I wonder what other people think of it. I am definitely NOT writing this to have an affect on anyone's eating plans or mental state. This is just where I am mentally.

Okay, with that aside (but it had to be said, because I know how sensitive a topic it is), I wanted to get it out there into the world that I have some concerns about my eating habits.

This is nothing new.

This is hard to put into the world. Especially since I am "out" on this blog... I don't hide my identity (nor do I make a point to tell friends/family about it). I may someday make this post private, but not now.

I have had disordered eating (never a diagnosed eating disorder, because I have never told a healthcare professional about my behaviors) since I was about 16. Whether that was periods of binging, periods of restricting, periods of purging (over-exercise or emesis)... I would say I did not have a healthy relationship with food as a teenager or a young adult.

Even during periods where I was not physically acting out with eating, the disordered thoughts would always roll through my head. It was a daily struggle. I would say it still is.  I have struggled for a long time to stop thinking about purging. I have rarely given into these obsessive thoughts in the past 3 or 4 years (I am so aware of the harmful physical effects and as I've aged, the destructive behaviors have gotten a little more under control)... but I have had moments where I have, where the fear and the obsession and the worry got to be too much.

Oddly enough, when I went Paleo... these obsessive thoughts started to subside. I haven't wanted to purge once, I haven't thought about it once, in two months (since Paleo).

I am wondering why. I feel like there are two possibilities:

1. I am finally eating "right" for my body. The healthy body has helped create a healthy mind. I do not have urges to overeat (no physical cravings since getting rid of wheat and dairy)... I eat moderately very easily now, and so the triggers are gone.

2. I have replaced one obsessive behavior with another.

The reason I said reason #2 is because I do think about food... a lot. I pre-prepare a lot, I wonder about ingredients, I still calorie-count as well as monitor carbs/fats/proteins. I have eliminated entire HUGE food groups from my life.

I read some years ago about orthorexia, and discussion about it pops up here and there in relation to paleo.

On Wikipedia, orthorexia is described as:   a non-medically recognized term first used by Steven Bratman to characterize people who develop an obsession with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy.

Now, to be clear... I do not believe most people eating paleo fall into this category. I do not think paleo is a fad or a crock or a passing fancy. It is a real and healthy way of eating. Most orthorexics have very arbitrary ideas about what foods are good/bad or safe/unsafe. That's not what paleo is about.

But what about people pre-disposed to disordered eating?

Am I obsessing?

These are things I think about. I don't have answers.

I am glad I haven't had any obsessive thoughts about purging in two months. It is a weight off my shoulders... a tenseness I no longer have to deal with.

It seems a little too good to be true, though?

I am taking steps to be a little more relaxed with my eating. Very simple rules, but allowing me to have a broad variety of foods to eat: whole ingredients, no wheat or dairy. That's it.

I want to be moderate and balanced.

I think I am getting there. But there is always that fear that this is temporary. That I will lapse. That I might turn this into something ugly.

It's why I have written this post. To put it out there. To be accountable. To be at peace with food and my body.

I plan to write a post tomorrow about calorie-counting (which most proponents of Paleo says it not necessary and shouldn't be done).



  1. I own the term orthorexic. The people who use it as something to fear are the same ones who insist a couple of sodas a day are just fine or that you can't possibly enjoy life if you don't eat greasy pizza every weekend (your dedicated lifestyle makes them acutely aware of their failure in that department) OR the people who have never had been overweight/experienced disordered eating and just don't "get" why people who have NEED to be vigilant about their food choices and its nutritional value. Yes, if you're a Paleo/primal-ish or general "clean eater" who still includes real grain and dairy products in her diet, you are, by default, thinking about food a lot. The way we eat REQUIRES it. We plan, we prepare, we pack...we don't just cruise to the nearest drive-thru when it's time to eat (or just because a burger and fries sounds good right now!), we don't just grab a couple of candy bars when we're in line for something at Best Buy (and WHY does Best Buy have a massive candy department by the checkout counter?) and mindlessly inhale them in the car, we don't shovel down slices of pizza at a party so quickly that we lose track of how much we've had. There is nothing more important you can do for your health than choose the best possible foods and that requires THOUGHT. Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated. Orthorexic is a word junk food junkies and couch potatoes use to describe those who put care into what goes in their mouths.

  2. You are the bravest girl I know and totally my hero. I also blog fully exposed but with very few people who actually know me aware that it even exists. I also have things that I would love to discuss if only I could filter who could see them... so yup, love it. I also experience a calm when I'm on a diet that's kicking ass. For me, it's all about control so if I can take it by dieting then I don't need to go nuts thinking about it. I think it's short lived for me because no matter how many weeks or months I stay on a diet, it all eventually ends when I realize that I can't live that way permanently. Not sure where my balance is but I'm trying my best to find it. Maybe I should try paleo... :) I'm a vegetarian so it's rough but that won't stop me from trying!

  3. Well, I'm not as committed as some others here but felt the need to weigh in (Ha! I love that pun!). Anyway, I think for those of us who have fought a weight issue, it's always been about control. We lost control to food and with each diet (fad or otherwise), we are attempting to regain it. I think some lifestyles necessitate obsessive planning. But at some point, does it become second nature? That part I'm not sure about? I mean...if you think about it, when you're a kid and you're learning to ride a bike, you try over and over and over again. All afternoon long, day after day. Would this be considered obsessing or just practicing? Eventually, you get it and you ride when you want to and you don't think twice about HOW to do it. I wonder if a healthy lifestyle is ever the same way?