Not sure if your struggles with food fall under the category of Orthorexia? Start here: What Orthorexia is and Why You Need to Know About It
What This Guide Will Do For You
With diet products being peddled at you everywhere you look and eating disorders on the rise among young women, this guide will show you how to tune out that little voice that makes you feel guilty for eating anything “unclean” in six simple steps. Orthorexia, or the obsession with eating “healthy” foods only and fearing anything that could put one’s idea of a “healthy body” at risk, is tough to beat but this guide will show you that you are so much tougher, and a truly healthy relationship with food – one in which you eat intuitively, honor cravings, and end restrict-binge cycles – is possible.
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Beating Orthorexia
Step 1) Understand & Commit
The first step in addressing any problem or overcoming any addiction is admitting that there is a problem. Remember, acknowledging that you have a problem is different from you being a problem. We all have weaknesses that we could improve on. Consider orthorexia an exercise in strengthening your mental health and helping you become the raddest, happiest version of you. That being said, it’s time to take this recovery thing seriously. Understand that orthorexia is a powerful obsession, and breaking free of it will take some serious effort. Don’t be scared, you can do this. Commit to you and know that food freedom is the light at the end of the tunnel.
Step 2) Throw Out the Calorie Counters
Okay, so if you’re like me (and almost every other ED survivor) your calorie counter takes the form of an app on your phone. Don’t throw your phone out the window, just delete the app. Easier said than done right? The key is to keep deleting the app every time you slip up and redownload it. This is part of the process, just keep in mind that you will never be truly free from Orthorexia until you ditch the calorie counting (this includes IIFYM). Spoiler alert: mental tracking / counting without the app is a no-no too. If you need help with quitting counting calories specifically, check out 5 Tips to Quit Counting Calories for Good.
Step 3) Challenge Fear Foods Regularly
If you’re someone who loves structure, make every Friday night pint night and choose a new flavor of ice cream each time. If writing things down helps you accomplish them, keep a tiny journal of fear food challenges you’re planning (ex. I am going to have McDonalds fries this week). The more fear foods that you can fit into a week, the better and the faster you’ll start to see orthorexia fade away. Remember, orthorexia wants you to put only “clean” “low calorie” foods into your body, but that is neither health nor balance. The more often you defy those requirements, the more natural it will feel. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. Not sure which fear foods to start with? Check out my Four Week Fear Foods Challenge to get you in the habit of incorporating higher fat and calorie items into your meals and snacks.
Step 4) Say ‘Yes’ to the Unplanned
Challenging fear foods and working out your struggles with orthorexia from the comfort of your bed is fantastic, and a great place to start. Now it’s time to take it one step further and apply those principles of food freedom out in the real world. The next time that your friends or a family member invites you out to dinner, to a party, even just to come over and hang out – say yes. Say yes without configuring what you will eat there / how it’s different from what you had planned on eating / anything relating to food. Embrace unplanned adventures and outings, because guess what? Orthorexia hates them. Let orthorexia know it is no longer in control of your schedule by practicing spontaneity in terms of what you will eat when you’re out.
Step 5) Be Prepared for Weight Gain
For many people, weight gain and weight re-distribution is part of recovering from any eating disorder. I know that right now gaining weight seems terrifying, and may be what’s holding you back from steps 1-4, especially adding fear foods back into your diet. At this point you have to choose which is more important – being X pounds lighter or being happy and free from your eating disorder’s judgement and pain. Then, keep reminding yourself of this choice. Your body will naturally stabilize at the weight is is happiest and healthiest. Your job is to let it. And when you need some extra motivation, read up on these 10 reasons why being weight restored absolutely rocks.
Step 6) Utilize Tools to Help You Work Through The Highs and Lows
Recovery tools come in many forms from the support of a therapist to scrolling through Instagram to check out others’ recovery wins and fear food challenges. To get you started, I created the worksheet below to help you jot down what you’re currently struggling with in orthorexia, why you want to recover, and how you’re going to do it. You can save this printable to your phone and record the answers in your notes app, pin it for later, or print it out old school style and write in your responses. I recommend using this worksheet at least once a week to monitor your feelings, address challenges, and celebrate all your victories!
If you have questions or concerns about any of the steps, the worksheet, or just need someone to talk to about overcoming orthorexia, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know you can do this!
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