I like to think of myself as vegetarian, but technically I’m pescatarian – I don’t eat meat, but may sneak some salmon occasionaly. I’d like to be vegan, because animals. I avoid dairy and added sugars, I don’t eat gluten and I frequently teach people how to pronounce quinoa.
Occasionally I will break all the rules and eats a cronut. You would say I don’t have the best relationship with food, but this is actually a lot better than it was a few years ago.
In 2011 I was in the midst of doing my HSC and eating had become my way of procrastinating studying. And studying kept me sedentary.
So, I gained weight. I gained about 7 kilos. Now, I realise 7 kilos doesn’t make me fat; at my biggest I was probably a size 10. But for a person who had been naturally skinny most of my whole life, I wasn’t prepared. I know, poor me.
I finally decided to do something about it after seeing some less-than flattering photos of myself, like the one above. At the time I was freshly 18 so when it came to the weekends I had a mainly liquid diet (read: alcohol). This was about the time my unhealthy relationship with health foods developed.
When you are trying to lose weight there is so much contradictory information out there. You should count calories, you shouldn’t count calories, just eat wholefoods, don’t eat carbs, you need carbs, don’t eat too much fruit because sugar, but then Loni Jane eats 10 bananas for breakfast and has a 6 pack???
And social media doesn’t help. I can’t scroll through my Instagram feed without seeing at least two #eatclean meal posts, and some f*cking amazing photo of Tash Oakley that makes me want to shoot myself. Ah, the pleasures of modern technology.
I began obsessing about food. I would program my calories in everyday, sometimes even the night before to make sure I was only eating 1200 calories. No bread, no butter, no carbs. Even oats and avocado were deemed too high calorie. I’d decline dinner invitations because the thought of eating the “wrong” food literally gave me anxiety, and I knew my friends would question my choice of salad.
What I was eating wasn’t realistic, and it created a vicious cycle of starving myself followed by binge eating everything in my pantry. Yes I lost weight, but I wasn’t healthy or happy.
Recently I’ve come to learn I wasn’t alone in this struggle, in fact it it even has a name now; orthorexia nervosa, literally meaning a “fixation on righteous eating.” The National Eating Disorders Association defines orthorexia nervosa as an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Whilst the term was coined in 1997, the disease has become a lot more prevalent recently, with a new fad/fruit/food being hyped up every day, and the obsession with having a perfect body scrawled all over our screens.
Whilst I don’t think I suffered from the full scope of the disease, I can recognise a lot of the red flags in myself at the time; the self loathing, the researching of foods nutritional value, the anxiety of eating a meal you didn’t prepare yourself… Looking back, I think my fixation was with me everyday for over three years.
Now, I no longer count calories. I still am mindful of what I eat, but for other reasons, like compassion (to all the little animals). I eat healthy but it isn’t an obsession, it is a lifestyle choice.
I have no shame ordering a salad when I am out to dinner, but I also have no shame ordering a brownie.
Being vegetarian isn’t for everyone, but I now know a plant-based diet works best for my body, and having an 80/20 mindset about food works for my mind. 80% good, the other 20% pizza.