How Orthorexia Prevented Me From Truly Finding Health

It all started with fatigue. I was 25 and falling asleep at work. I’ve always been the type to listen to my gut and it was telling me that something just wasn’t right.  After seeing a few doctors who told me my labs were normal (thanks but no thanks), I found a naturopathic doctor who diagnosed me with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), adrenal fatigue, and hormonal imbalances.

Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a long, sometimes arduous, health journey that, over eight years later, finally feels like it is coming to a close (mainly thanks to my work with my dietitian Victoria at Nourishing Minds Nutrition!). Talk about a long time coming.

unnamed (1).jpg

But back to the beginning for a sec… Being diagnosed with these issues opened my eyes to a whole new world of health and natural living. I had been an athlete all of my life and considered myself to be pretty healthy, but clearly my body was trying to tell me that not all was okay. I decided to listen.

After that initial diagnosis I became pretty obsessed with what I ate and focused on eating a super natural, whole foods diet. I began cutting out whole food groups (dairy, gluten, and sugar were the main ones) and was extreme in my ways to avoid them (case in point, one birthday my coworkers ate my cake and I had fruit instead). I have always been a Type A perfectionist and these new habits fed into this tendency and made it even worse.

Changing my way of eating drastically improved how I felt and I thought that I had found my answer, my ticket out of this mess. I also lost weight, which my inner perfectionist was ecstatic about. Over time I developed a really sensitive stomach and would feel awful if I ate anything on my “forbidden food groups” list. So I took that as a sign that I just wasn’t meant to eat them.

My health stayed at a steady state for a few more years, at times worse, at times better. Always an ebb and flow. Then the digestion issues started. Extreme bloating, constipation, and pain. I was miserable. I found a new functional medicine doctor, got some tests done, and was diagnosed with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), candida overgrowth, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and severe gut imbalances (which included some nasty intestinal parasites). I had hit a new low. How could this be happening? I went through treatment and felt better for a time, but the symptoms would always come back.

Enter Victoria. I first discovered her and Meg via Instagram and have been an avid listener of their podcast from the beginning. I loved their blend of bad-a** knowledge about the health issues I was struggling with and seriously entertaining conversation. I learned so much from them and their conversations on wellness without obsession, intuitive eating, and body positivity really made me think.

I also learned the term orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy and avoiding specific foods due to the belief that they are harmful. Was I just stuck in a pseudo-recovery stage and was my obsession with being healthy actually orthorexia? Was my orthorexia actually making me worse and preventing full recovery? Maybe I was onto something. Maybe I had found the answer to heal once and for all.

So I decided to take a chance and started a six month program with Victoria, primarily focusing on healing my SIBO and gut issues, and secondarily addressing my hormonal issues that have impacted my cycle for years. For once in my life I stopped obsessing over what I ate and instead listened to my body, trying to follow what I believe it wanted (and needed).

My six months with Victoria were life changing. Today I can happily say that my SIBO is in remission and my thyroid numbers are improving for the first time since my diagnosis eight years ago. I have learned what FODMAPs impact me and how to minimize my digestive symptoms without cutting out whole foods or food groups. I am on a path to a healthier body image and to loving myself exactly as I am right now. Some days are still harder than others, but I have learned the tools I need to get back to myself when I start to feel disconnected from my body.

Throughout my journey, through all the ups and downs, I learned that everything in life happens for a reason. During the past eight years I rediscovered my love for yoga and meditation, both of which were key in healing my adrenal issues. I learned energy therapy and methods to clear blocked energy from the body that can manifest as illnesses. I discovered my love for cooking and healthy living, which led to me becoming a health coach trained by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I started a blog to share my story and all that I had learned. I got into essential oils. I met the love of my life.

It has been quite a journey and I can’t wait for what comes next. I have a plan to pursue my love of health, nutrition, and essential oils and make it into a career of my own. There are a lot of unknowns in life, but these days my health isn’t one of them. And for that I am extremely grateful.

For more information on Victoria, Meg, and Nourishing Minds Nutrition, click here.