This post deals with eating disorders and might be triggering for some readers.
We’re taught to strive for a healthy lifestyle, to eat well and exercise often. But I discovered there can be a dark side to this “healthy” way of living. It can turn quickly sinister and all-consuming.
I first became interested in health when I was 16, after watching my classmates attempt the cabbage soup diet, Paleo diet, every trending diet under the sun.
Around this time, we started interacting with boys. Naturally I started scrutinising my appearance, wearing makeup for the first time and taking notice of my body.
Watch: Seven health myths debunked. Post continues below.
For the first time, I began comparing myself to the girls around me.
Suddenly, every compliment anyone gave me became about my physical appearance.
The boys I hung out with would often comment on my bum or my legs, saying I had a “great ass” and other trivial comments. Instead of finding this flattering, I found it incredibly stressful.
I didn’t hear these as “compliments”. Instead, I heard “I have good legs? I better hit the gym an additional two times weekly to maintain them, or no one will think twice about me,” or “Great, I’ll just cut out carbs now so my legs continue to be complimented.”
It sounds absurd, but this was the beginning of my struggles with orthorexia.
Gone were the days I prized intelligence, wit, humour. Now, all I cared about was staying a certain weight and size, so the people around me would validate me.