Myth of eat­ing

Paulette Crow­ley sep­a­rates fact from fic­tion.

Waikato Times - Your Weekend (Waikato Times) - - Feature -

eat­ing a diet based on [en­vi­ron­men­tal] sus­tain­abil­ity, and eat­ing foods that are lo­cally grown and pro­duced. They might be choos­ing or­ganic, or avoid­ing foods that have preser­va­tives, ad­di­tives or binders added to them as well.”

For some, a yo­ghurt could be in­cluded as part of a whole food diet, but oth­ers might think it should be made from scratch with milk from the farm gate.

Elim­i­nat­ing sugar is of­ten part of a clean diet, which could mean ban­ning re­fined white ta­ble sugar but in­clud­ing things like agave syrup or co­conut sugar. “These may be per­ceived as clean but they still op­er­ate in the body the same way,” Ber­rill says.

For Karen, the ob­ses­sion with clean food meant eat­ing at cafes or with friends was not fea­si­ble. “I had to know ex­actly what was in my food, how it was pre­pared and the nu­tri­tional con­tent, oth­er­wise I wouldn’t and couldn’t eat it,” Karen says. “I tried to bring my own food but it an­noyed my friends, and cafe own­ers didn’t like it.”

Liv­ing up to her self-im­posed rules be­came im­pos­si­ble, and led to furtive binge-eat­ing ses­sions on so-called “dirty” foods. Sausage rolls, ice­cream, licorice all­sorts and take­away fried chicken were among the banned foods Karen scoffed on the sly. “They were ba­si­cally all the foods I thought were evil. When I was in clean eat­ing mode, I hated them, and raved about how bad they were. But I was se­cretly crav­ing them, and gave in to them more and more. I was ob­sessed.”

Too em­bar­rassed to dis­cuss the prob­lem with fam­ily or friends, she vis­ited her doc­tor. “I didn’t trust the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion, as I didn’t be­lieve they knew any­thing about nu­tri­tion. But I was des­per­ate.”

Her GP re­ferred her to an eat­ing dis­or­der spe­cial­ist, and she be­gan to ac­cept she had de­vel­oped or­thorexia ner­vosa, an ob­ses­sion with eat­ing foods that are per­ceived as healthy.

After 15 months of treat­ment with a doc­tor/di­eti­tian/ psy­chol­o­gist team, she’s stopped the de­struc­tive cy­cle of “clean food” fol­lowed by binges on “dirty food”.

Chat­ting over a lunch of a creamy egg salad, fresh toma­toes from the gar­den and crispy cia­batta with but­ter, Karen now rel­ishes eat­ing all foods with­out guilt or anx­i­ety. “I felt like a com­plete fail­ure if I couldn’t live up to my own stan­dards. I had an all-or-noth­ing at­ti­tude, and now re­alise I was in an ad­dic­tion mode: what­ever I did, I couldn’t stop.”

Can­celling her own so­cial me­dia clean eat­ing pages, and “un­lik­ing” the 40-50 wellness blog­gers she fol­lowed was es­sen­tial for Karen’s new healthy re­la­tion­ship with food. “The ab­so­lutes have to go: if there are no rules to break, then I can’t break them. I still want to be healthy – I mean, who doesn’t? – but I don’t want to be ruled by food any more. I want to en­joy ev­ery­thing.”

With her “food re­cov­ery” on track, her for­merly non-ex­is­tent so­cial life has flour­ished. “I have reignited friend­ships with peo­ple who I had alien­ated my­self from, be­cause I hated the way they ate. Now, I make it a point to share food with peo­ple as much as pos­si­ble. It’s a beau­ti­ful thing to bond over a meal.”

Tak­ing the fear out of food is key to hav­ing a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with it, Ber­rill says. “I’m a firm be­liever that healthy eat­ing is more than just eat­ing healthy food. We don’t need to re­sort to ex­tremes in or­der to be healthy. All foods can be part of a healthy diet. We need more of some and less of oth­ers, and we need to be look­ing at what is best for our over­all health within that.”

Guilt and shame have no place when you sit down to a meal, she says.

“Think of the big­ger pic­ture: food is more than just fuel. Yes, it’s there to pro­vide nour­ish­ment for our bod­ies but food also has this psy­cho­log­i­cal com­po­nent: it’s part of our mem­o­ries, so­cial gath­er­ings... We want to make sure peo­ple en­joy food while main­tain­ing op­ti­mal health.”

Karen says: “I think women, es­pe­cially, are so messed up about food – there’s al­ways some­one preach­ing at us, telling us how to eat and bom­bard­ing us with scary facts about bad and good foods. “It’s all such bull­shit. We have known for years that di­ets don’t work for weight loss and it’s time for us to re­alise that any type of food fads and band­wag­ons have the po­ten­tial to re­ally mess you up.

“Turn­ing off all the ‘noise’ from so-called nu­tri­tion ex­perts, who are just nut­ters, re­ally, and lis­ten­ing to my body is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

*Karen chose to keep her iden­tity pri­vate.

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