The Great Grand Diet Trial Of 2011: Introduction

October 4th, 2011 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles

Okay first! When I say “diet”, I very much mean “a way of eating”, and NOT “a way of eating to lose weight“. Yes? Important difference. So with that said, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve spent the past nine months engaged in a series of experiments: a set of proofs and challenges leading to a catalogue of responses and eventually, to results. I’ve kept this to myself for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my concern that people may take my own experience as a some sort of prescriptive advice. Which is really not my intention.

But, I think this journey has been pretty interesting, and I’ve learned a whole lot, and ultimately, I’ve been able to take myself from a piss-poor state, to a really amazing place. Maybe others will find solace in my story? I hope so.

But first, some background.

My Relationship With Food
I have never had an eating disorder. However, I also haven’t always had an easy relationship with food, and I think that at times my behavior could have been considered borderline “disordered”.

I’m not any kind of -rexic and I only ever made myself puke one time, when I was 17, and that was way more about drama than it was about food. What I can be is an emotional eater, though I’m not convinced that “emotional eating” is, by definition, always unhealthy. For example when I quit smoking, I made the completely conscious decision to use food as a coping mechanism (quitting was incredibly emotional and very stressful for me). I went into that situation with my eyes wide open, and I used food as a tool . . . and it worked! I’m really not so sure that I would have been able to quit smoking otherwise (at least not with my lifestyle/relationships in tact). So part of me feels like there is a place for mindful emotional eating, though I’m certainly no expert on the subject.

To be clear, I’m not talking about full-on stress-induced indiscriminate binging, which is unhealthy under any circumstances. And in those situations there seems to be a physiological, as well as a psychological, component. I know that in my own experience it’s always a combination of the two, but seems predominantly driven by an actual physical response (more on that later). But when I say that emotional eating may not be unhealthy, I’m not referring to binging. I’m talking about . . . getting to the end of a very long, very hard day, and thinking “I would really love to curl up with a cookie and a cup of cocoa”, and then being comforted by doing it. Is that inherently unhealthy? Your thoughts?

Why The Experiments?
After Waits was born my wellness took a nose dive. A few weeks after giving birth, I had developed an internal Candida (yeast) infection, my hormones were all over the place, my moods were up and down, and I was tired all the time. A lot of this is typical “new mom” stuff, but everything was exacerbated – and rooted in – what I knew was a problem with the way I was eating. I was plagued by a cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes (physiological), seemingly out of my control, which wreaked havoc on my emotional stability (psychological). I was quickly reaching a breaking point.

As all this was happening, I was saturating myself nutrition literature, and I quickly learned of the contradictions and inconsistency that run rampant in the health world. Was I suffering from a sluggish thyroid? Metabolic disorder? Gluten allergy? Adrenal fatigue? No one agreed on anything! And even if they did, they couldn’t agree on the cause, and they wouldn’t agree on a treatment!

That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands. Drawing on all my research, cutting and pasting theories to create a general framework, I pieced together my own mish-mash of an agenda. The new year seemed as good a time as any, so on January 1st, I began my testing.

Why I Didn’t Blog It
Honestly? I was worried about being judged. I worry the same way about posting my food journals (WIAW). I mean, I know what’s going on in my head and I know that I’m alright, but I also know that people perceive things in wildly different ways. Do people look at me and think I’m crazy? Do they think I have an eating disorder?

Truth: there IS a lot of disordered eating in the “healthy living” blogosphere. Period. But it’s not always so cut and dry.

Orthorexia is defined as “an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy”, but do you see the problem with that definition? Um, doesn’t the premise assume that we’ve agreed on what “healthy” means? Because, you know, we haven’t!

Orthorexia is an accusation that’s hurled around a lot these days, the en vogue ED of our day. But I’m not sure I buy orthorexia as anything more than a subset of anorexia. What seems normal and “healthy” to one person may seem extreme and insane to another. That’s a slippery slope. For example, I’ve read articles where the author (a professional, mind you) insists that all raw foodists – even all vegans! – are de facto orthorexic. And certainly, if you’ve got yourself convinced that grains are evil, gluten is satan, soy is toxic, sugar in all forms causes cancer, processed foods are pure poison, and on and on until all that you’re eating is organic raw kale, well then yes, you have a problem. But really, if all you’re eating is [calorie-deficient] raw kale, then isn’t your problem actually just anorexia? Am I wrong?

Anyway, the truth is that in the world of diet and nutrition, there is someone who will tell you that anything is dangerous. If you can eat it, then somebody somewhere will tell you not to. Its easy to see how someone could become frightened and thus misled, writing off more and more foods as “bad”, until there’s very little left that feels “safe”. That’s why, in my opinion, there comes a point where seeking guidance outside of yourself is simply ineffective. (note: I’m not suggesting you forego actual treatment for actual disease)

For me, I had to trust my body and do my work from the inside out. And I did. Over the course of the last nine months I’ve gone from feeling horrible and unhealthy, to experiencing sustained energy and vibrant health. I cured my Candida. My blood sugar is almost always stable. And my mood swings, when they do occur, can most likely be attributed to my lady bits and their monthly cycles (damn it!). Best of all, I have an awesome, positive, easy and enjoyable relationship with food, choosing my meals based on what makes me feel the best. Most of the time that takes the form of foods that most people would deem as “super healthy” (I just call them yummy), and some of the time that turns out to be . . . coconut ice cream! Or whatever. I don’t stress about it, because finally, FINALLY, I’ve found my balance.

It’s a beautiful thing. And over the next few weeks, I look forward to sharing how I got here.

Edited to link in the rest of the series:
Putting It All Together

  • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan

    I agree with you here in so many ways. I’m doing a cleanse right now that I’m not blogging about for very similar reasons. Can’t wait to read more about what you’ve found that works for you!

  • raechel

    Great post, Sayward. I think your comment about the fact that disordered eating exists in the “healthy living” blogosphere is really brave, and something a lot of us may not want to admit. So bravo! Looking forward to hearing about your path to balance! : )

  • Adrienneaudrey

    cool, can’t wait to hear more about your journey!

  • Ashlae Warner

    Oof, orthorexia – that term gives me a headache. What about a disorder for people who have an unhealthy obsession with eating unhealthy? And I’m not talking about binge eating, I’m talking about people who refuse to eat a salad becuase it’s ‘healthy’. Now that is a disorder.

    I find the term ‘orthorexia’ very offensive and usually turn my nose up at people who suggest I fall into such a category. Sorry I eat what feels right for my body; what makes me have regular bowel movements; what gives me the most energy, etc. etc.

    PS – great post! And I loved your insight on diet and nutrition.

  • Kate in SB

    Wow, this was a great post, Sayward. I can’t wait to read more.

    I’ve never heard the term orthorexia but the phenomenon of accusing vegans as thinly veiled anorexic sounds familiar. Actually, it reminds me of that post “Stereotyping People by Their Favorite Author”

    under Michael Pollan: “The girl who just turned vegan to cover up her eating disorder.”

  • Mel

    Congrats on your bravery Sayward. I think a lot of people will feel like a weight has been lifted when they read this.

  • Leslie

    Hooray for you Sayward!!! What you summed up in a few paragraphs is what many of us “healthy eaters” struggle with almost daily. I have pretty much stopped reading any food advice or info (EXCEPT FOR YOURS) because it is so contradictory and very frustrating at times. I pretty much trust my body when it comes to food. She usually clues me in on what I do and do not need. A quick example, was up in Portland a few weeks ago visiting our new Grandbaby, who is sooooo awesome, (sorry we didn’t run into you) and basically lived on coffee and vegan pastries for about a week. No time to cook, just to hold and coodle the new one. After about day 6 of the above diet my body started to CRAVE anything green and raw, headed to “new seasons” and got my fix!!!
    Can not wait to read about your food journey, and the new book looks like it will be awesome. Any idea when your un-cook book will be available. Hope to give a few away as gifts!!!

  • Lauren

    I think reading your blog has made me orthorexic. I am envious of how you eat and have been trying to emulate it, but I think I’m doing it wrong. I wish there was an easy objective scientific answer to nutrition like a super vitamin pill we could all take instead of eating food and hoping we’re getting the nutrients we need.

  • 28cooks

    I am very much looking forward to reading about your food journey and your own personal eating philosophies.

  • Georgia

    Hey Sayward,
    I’ve been following your blog for about 6 months now, and am just finding the courage to speak up.
    I have eating disorder, and speaking as someone with that perspective, I maybe see disordered eating in your blog (as on the majority of food blogs/magazines/books/people – disordered eating seems to be the norm), but certainly not a fully blown eating disorder.
    I’ve been seeing a holistic nutritionist for the past 6 months, and in my journey of recovery, I have turned joyfully vegan, partly due to the inspiration I’ve gotten from Bonzai Aphrodite.
    We’re all different, each of our body shapes and sizes are our own. We all have our own set points, and instincts around weight, exercise and diet. I don’t think anyone has a right to say that one way of eating is good for everyone. We’re lucky, we get to decide for ourselves.
    On the other hand, I have been in the living hell that an eating disorder is. It was slowly but surely eating away at my immune system, making me a prime candidate for osteoporosis. I know that I needed help, and that I had to ask for it to get it.

    I think that all eating is emotional! At least it is for me! I think that as long as we don’t eat to stuff feelings, or use food to abuse ourselves, a cookie and some cocoa after a rough day is simply self-care.

    Anyways, I think your blog is an inspiration, and I really admire your courage to be honest about your journey!
    Thanks for letting me put my 2 cents in!

  • Angela

    I’m curious as to how you learned that you had an internal Candida infection. What are the tests for such a thing? I’ve read a bit about systematic Candida and have always had it in the back of my mind that I may have that issue (I am chronically fatigued and received the dreaded fibromyalgia diagnosis). However, like you said, when you research fatigue and things a million possible causes come up! Looking forward to reading more about your health journey!

  • Angela

    Er, that would be systemic. Darn sleepy commenting!

  • Katie

    “But really, if all you’re eating is [calorie-deficient] raw kale, then isn’t your problem actually just anorexia? Am I wrong?”

    Dude, Sayward, I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. The subject of EDs is hard to write about in any venue, really, especially on a blog/in a book/magazine/etc. that claims to be all about eating well (and “well” can mean vegan or bloody barbecue, depending on where you’re looking). The bottom line is that an unhealthy relationship to food is an unhealthy relationship to food is an unhealthy relationship to food. Sure, it can take many different forms and have many different roots, but that’s the basic fact of the matter. People will try to hunt out other root causes – veganism, raw diets, atkins b.s. – but the unhealthy relationship to food and eating is the deep common factor for anyone who uses any particular diet to their physical and psychological detriment. (And, at least as far as I’m concerned, developing a mild dependence on food when one is quitting smoking is not to one’s detriment, especially when the Quitter is being conscious about it). It seems consistently clear on here that you derive real joy from food because it nourishes your body and your mind and your family; sure, you *think* about food maybe more than the next person, but that’s pretty much your job at this point, right?

    Anyway, I really look forward to reading about your experiences with this. I’ve turned my mom onto your blog, too, and she, as a nutritionist and longtime WIC-worker, has told me a few times that she really admires what you’re doing, and I’ll get her to follow along with this saga also, and if she has any words of wisdom or enlightening responses, I’ll pass them along to you (she’s not much for commenting). In the meantime, veganmofo it up! And congrats on the book!

  • Jen Roger

    Definitely looking forward to hearing more!!

  • Ali Seiter

    Thank you for this absolutely astounding and resonating post.
    As a teen recovering from disordered eating, I often find that people have a hard time accepting my extremely health-conscious vegan eating habits and seem to think that I should include dairy/meat back into my diet so I don’t fall into a pattern of restrictive eating again (my close-minded doctor, included). However, I’ve managed to gain 15 pounds to achieve a healthy weight, maintain that weight for the past 8 months, and boast a toned muscular body thanks to yoga, gymnastics, and running. This has already proved to many of my acquaintances that veganism is not necessarily the cause of disordered eating, rather it is an individual’s psychological instability.

    I also want to point out that veganism helped me recover from, not sink into, an eating disorder. I felt more comfortable eating and gaining weight with wholesome foods that nourished my body, rather than junky processed cookies. Often struggling with guilt about overeating on my bulking diet, I justified it by reminding myself that the food I “ate too much of” was darn good for me! I don’t think I could have ever recovered without becoming a vegan.

    My friends have noticed a new vitality in me to which I always credit my veganism. To their admiring questions, I reply “being a vegan just makes me feel good, inside and out. Why would I want to wreck my body with chemicals when I can treat it well with wholesome food?” So kudos to you, Sayward, for rejecting the convoluted messages about “healthy” eating and listening to your own body. Keep up the wonderful blogging.

    Sincerely, Ali.

  • Lauren

    I’ve basically been trying to count nutrients (rather than count calories) and I think I forget to eat enough calories and fat sometimes. Which is bad because I’m still breastfeeding. I know I can’t take care of somebody else until I can take care of myself – but that’s all I’m trying to do by eating healthy.

  • Georgia

    I totally agree with you Ali, nice to hear another young vegan out there!

  • Kathryn

    Sayward, thank you so much for sharing this. I really look forward to reading about your experience.

    I too went through a drastic revision of the way I eat (though I’m not vegan) due to a mysterious and undefinable illness. It was incredibly tough.., not making the changes but actually figuring out what changes to make. I saw several holistic and allopathic professionals of various stripes, and one woman diagnosed me with multiple, severe food allergies. According to this woman, I was allergic to dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, sugar, nuts, corn, gluten… you name it. I was beside myself, and I wasn’t sure I believed her, but I was desperate to feel better, so I tried restricting all those things. There was hardly anything I could actually eat on the diet she prescribed. Finally my regular doctor, who was excellent and very open minded, begged me to stop because she was worried I would develop seriously disordered eating. Fortunately, I did find a wonderful person to work with who, though we never got to a diagnosis, helped me adjust my diet and nutrition until we figured out what worked, and thankfully, I’ve been healthy for years.

    A very important part of that for me was realizing that what was good for my body 10 years ago may not be what it needs now.

  • Jmessier

    Hey Sayward, could you talk (blog) more specifically your experiments and results, about how you got rid of your candida.

  • Kate

    My best friend in the entire world, who I would literally die for, and have her lips tattooed on my butt, has Candida something fierce. She’s very, very ill, and honestly, I think she was pretty close to death earlier this year. I’m really looking forward to more recipes I can make for her (being sick really wipes her out), and anything else I can add to her already-food-based-healing process.

    As for your concerns, everyone deals with food differently, I agree (for example, my dinner tonight is dark chocolate and apple pie).

    You are an incredibly inspiring person, and while we may not see eye to eye on everything, your insights are something I admire, and even consider, when I make my own decisions. If I were you, I wouldn’t worry so much about the way it’s received…You can only co’ntrol so much when it comes to what your readers/the world does, no? :)

    Also, because you’ll love this, I keep making more and more vegan choices. But man, seafood is *really* hard to kick. My junk food dinner is totally vegan. NOM NOM NOM

  • Court

    i find this dialogue very interesting. i wanted to give another perspective: i have actually gained weight being vegan. everyone thinks by being vegan you are supposed to be super skinny? i am not. i like cooking my own food, experimenting with new recipes and just overall enjoy eating a vegan diet. i work out regularly, but i am rather short and just have a stocky, athletic build. i know i could lose some weight, just to be more healthy. i am going to focus more on quantities than the specifics of the food. i know–because i feel it, that the food i eat is good for me. no one has ever looked at me and questioned my health. except that maybe i enjoy food a little too much? i laugh and think of other cultures and wonder: is there such a thing? :)

  • Jess22

    Man, I loved this post. Thank you for talking about this so open and honestly. I look forward to the rest of the story.

  • Steph

    YES, YES AND YEEEEESSSSSSSS @ the whole “orthorexia” ordeal. From now on I will direct everyone who tells me I have an ED (er, didn’t think people with EDs counted calories to get ENOUGH in and lived the life of abundance HCRVs do) to this post. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

  • Bridget

    I am DYING to hear about your candida experience because my research has been all over the place & I’ve been plagued with it for years :(

  • Rebecca

    Oh man, oh man! Did those post come at the *exact* right time! I am only 29 but I have had my fair share (well, MORE than my fair share) of health issues. I have tried every “diet” in the book and then some!

    It drives me CRAZY how much conflicting info there is out there. It used to make my head spin and drive me a bit nuts—until I realized that A) nutrition is still a super-new science when you think about it B) EveryBODY is different! Strict adherents to any “diet” tend to like to convince everyone else otherwise. But I can tell you first hand that what makes my body sing might make someone else crash—and vice versa. (Prime example: One of the kids I babysit for is allergic to rice—RICE! Probably one of the least allergenic foods on earth. Another kid I babysit for is allergic to nightshade veggies and berries. Thus, someone might prescribe a macrobiotic diet with rice or a fruititarian diet for another—yet it might make one person sick and another person feel awesome.)

    Once I came to that conclusion, I got a lot more comfortable with the conflicting info and decided that I would just keep experimenting and see what was right for *ME* (ain’t empowerment grand??). I also no longer see the doctors, fitness/health “professionals” (yes, that is in quotes for a reason!), nutritionists, and so on, as ignorant or evil people (ha ha) but rather as people with good intentions but simply not enough information and resources at their disposal. They are still experimenting and learning too.

    That being said—I have always had fatigue issues and chronic muscle aches but lately I have been feeling like pure crap. Ugh. SOOOO tired and my neck/shoulders hurt so much that the pain wakes me up at night (grrr…as if my insomnia wasn’t annoying enough! LOL).

    So, although I have done plenty of elimination diets, allergy testing, etc., etc., I am starting up again. I have to say though, I am not looking forward to it. I wish I was but as someone who has had some eating issues in the past, the thought of going on an elimination diet scares me a bit (yep—not eating for a prolonged period of time and then eating again has the tendency to make people freak out that there will be no food available to them—hence a lot of the binging that goes on after “recovering” from anorexia (again, recovering in quotes for various reasons that I won’t get into).

    I don’t eat lots of junk or anything, but elimination diets are pretty well…uninspired! But I will plod on for at least 4 weeks. I figure that even if I don’t have any sensitivities (which have never come up on any tests and I have never felt much relief with elimination programs in the past) simplifying my diet and packing it with *only* nutritious food (i.e. fruits and veggies) will at least help fuel my body and hopefully get me feeling somewhat better.

    Honestly, I think people freak out too much about eating too little calories. So many folks are overfed and undernourished. I would much prefer to eat less calories but more nutritious food than eat to simply meet a (somewhat arbitrary) calorie requirement. (I see this all the time with children—parents can get hyperfocused on adding more calories to their kid’s diet because they are on the low end of the height/weight chart. Listen, if the kid is happy, has energy to run around, and isn’t gaunt, I say let them do their thing. Don’t make meal time such an issue! Kids are not going to let themselves starve. Give them a healthy meal and if they eat it, fine—and if they don’t want it they will just eat at the next meal when they are hungry. Drama averted!) my soapbox! Phew—felt good to get that all out on virtual paper!

  • Sonja

    very interesting and open post! I can’t wait to read more on this topic. I really love your passion!!

  • AJ

    I don’t comment much, but a avid reader of the blog. I agree with everyone…really looking forward to hearing more about your candida problem. I thought (self-diagnosed) I had a problem, but not so sure after trying to cure it with food. Hopefully going to see a nutritionist/naturopathic doc soon about it. Very interested to hear about your experience!

    However, I know that you know this and you aren’t trying to downplay the seriousness of ED’s, but anorexia and bulimia are very serious health and mental health issues. Anorexia is much more than insisting on eating the caloric-less raw kale. It is about control. It is about FEAR of gaining weight. It is an absolute distortion of your body image and not so much about the FOOD as it is about an over-evaluation about your own body image and weight. Everyone experiences it differently, I’m not trying to singularize the experience. I just wanted to put my thoughts out there, as I felt un-easy reading some parts of this post, and this is not a reflection on your post, but more about the stigma mental illnesses face in society and even more so eating disorders.

    Thank you so much for the post and starting a MUCH NEEDED discussion in the blogosphere about this topic. Rock on.

  • Laura Agar Wilson

    This is such a great post, there has been a lot of talk of orthorexia amongst a lot of the blogs I read and I made exactly the same point as you – just because I’m vegan and enjoy raw food doesn’t mean I have a problem, and I think your correct in saying that once someone is overly restricting their diet in terms of volume and energy then surely that is anorexia? I think the only way you can navigate nutrition reading is by doing as you have done and experimenting with what works for you, I’ve gradually changed my diet over a couple of years and only now I’m starting to settle into a way of eating and nourishing myself that does not only my body, but my mind good. As you say I think the pleasure of food should never be overlooked, its just important to ‘feed’ our mental health as our physical health! xxx

  • agacz

    Ohh, I can’t wait to read more about your diet discoveries and about what made you feel better! I am going through some hard time dietary-wise right now, because it turns out that I have some serious issues with my digestive system. I even had to go back to eating meat because I couldn’t figure out any other way to put some reasonable amounts of protein into my body. I decided to play it safe because I’m planning on getting pregnant soon so I want to keep myself in the best shape I can, but going back to meat makes me sad.
    Anyway, researching was CRAZY. Really. Every source, no matter English or Polish had different opinion on how much protein is in what and how much of it should be eaten and so on. I wish there was some trustworthy guide about food and eating, not only for vegans or vegetarians but also for alergic people.
    So I can’t wait to read about your method of testing what’s good for you and what it turned out to be. I’m probably not going to copycat that since I probably can’t eat half of what you’re eating, but it might give some hints :)

  • Lauren

    Ahhhh, balance, it’s a grand thing! Maybe someday soon I’ll find mine. While I am not vegan and differ in view from you in a few things I find you so inspiring and you help keep me on track (or maybe I should say you’re helping me find my track.) I wouldn’t worry about what others think, sounds like you found the right balance for YOU and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how you got there! Have an absolutely wonderful day!

  • Ginger Baker

    ” Listen, if the kid is happy, has energy to run around, and isn’t gaunt, I say let them do their thing. Don’t make meal time such an issue! ”

    Hear, hear! Especially since if you teach your kids to eat past their natural fullness, you are only setting them up for major weight issues in the future…

  • Melisann1981

    Hi! I just started following your blog recently and love it. Thank you so much for this post. I did a very strict Candida diet for a year and a half (with minimal results b/c the diet itself stressed me out so much which worsened symptoms!) and became frightened to death of nearly all foods and finally had to just stop b/c the diet was running (and ruining) my life. I’m now tuning into myself and what I feel I should eat and things are so much better! Thank you for this post!

  • anonymous

    I really appreciate your post and am looking forward to reading more! As a family member of a person with an eating disorder, I have definitely seen symptoms of orthorexia. I know that you take issue with defining it as an obsession with healthy eating when no one agrees on the definition of “healthy”, but I would argue that it’s an obsession with the individual’s own version of healthy eating, which is usually a bit skewed. For example, I had a family member who, though not a vegetarian or vegan, wouldn’t touch a chicken breast if it had any sort of sauce on it. Wouldn’t eat salad with ANY sort of dressing. Etc. Irrationally, this person viewed the dressings or sauces as “ruining” the healthful benefits of the food. The relatively small amount of calories added to the dish by placing a dollop of barbeque sauce on the chicken far outweighed the healthful qualities of eating the chicken (lean protein and other benefits), so the chicken wouldn’t be eaten at all. Another example: in this person’s mind, drinking too much water can make one bloated, so therefore it was more “healthy” not to drink water than risk being bloated. The person hardly drank anything. Etc.

    I think that orthorexia is very real, but is not necessarily symbolized only by an “unhealthy” relationship with food, but also a psychologically irrational approach to eating. I hope this makes sense!

    I don’t think that all emotional eating is bad, as long as we understand the emotions behind it and it’s part of our life balance. Every night, I have a snack and a glass of wine and have done for years. It’s okay to look forward to savoring those tastes at the end of a long day, but I allow myself that emotional indulgence by not eating desserts during the day and staying on an exercise regimen.

    Thanks for starting this discussion!

  • Nat

    I totally get reluctance to share food journals. People are SO judgmental of the non SAD!! I really enjoy facebooking pics of vegan meals I make because they are so pretty and colorful and I want my friends to see how yummy vegan food can be! I’m not a fulltime vegan, nor have I ever claimed to be (still do fish and eggs and honey occasionally) and I have never criticized others’ eating, but boy do some people jump on my food pics with the judgy comments! “you dont get enough protein!” “thats disordered eating” “too many veggies gross!” “vegan diet is lacking in nutriets” “you dont know what you are doing” “oh so now you think people shouldnt eat animals?! I saw you eating susi the other day!” etc etc. The funny thing is if someone posted a pic of a bacon cheeseburger and a huge milk shake, no one would post comments about trichinosis or artery clogging fat or the hormones in the milk or wrecking your body with sugar empty junk. Such an unfair double standard. Oh well. I will keep eating and loving my homemade guac and hummus veggie plates and curried tempeh salad no matter what anyone says ;)

  • Natalia

    “What about a disorder for people who have an unhealthy obsession with eating unhealthy? And I’m not talking about binge eating, I’m talking about people who refuse to eat a salad becuase it’s ‘healthy’. Now that is a disorder.”

    Yes! Totally!! A friend of mine is this way. He eats ZERO vegetable, none of ANY kind, bc they are “healthy and I’m not into health food.” Like if we are in a restaurant he will order a plain burger and tell the server if there is one veggie on the plate, even as a garnish, he will send it back. He will not even tolerate like pieces of onions and tomatoes in his chili! (Did you hear that sound? That was the sound of his colon scream for help ;) ) And the funny thing is he gets on my case for not eating meat because I’m not “normal” but no one would even think of criticizing his food choices! Haha its nuts!

  • Natalia

    You are awesome Ali! It sounds like you are really tuned in with your body and committed to being as healthy as possible! Hang in there and know that you are not alone in your struggles and triumphs :) My ex roomie and best friend in the entire world who is practically my sister suffered with purging and food restriction for years. Going strict vegan (she has since relaxed into a more vegetarian diet) helper her SO much with her food struggles! Eating strict vegan helped her reconcile in her mind that there was no reason for her to purge bc everything she was putting in her body was high quality nutrient rich food that she felt good about eating. She lost her fear of “getting fat” and developed a much healthier relationship with food. She made me her “talk it out buddy” whenever she felt like purging, and I am so proud of her and happy to say she has not felt like purging in months and months! She, like you, definitely credits her new vitality to her lifestyle change. I think the medical and mental health world should really open their minds and looks into researching and prescribing this sort of lifestyle as a therapy in dealing with EDs. Keep up the amazing world Ali <3

  • Natalia

    sorry that should say *work* not world. oops!

  • Amelia

    I’ve been a stalker for a while, but never commented. I love this post and absolutely agree with you that we have not, by any means, come to an agreement on what “healthy” means. My husband has experienced very rude comments by his coworkers regarding what he brings to lunch (vegetables/rice/beans – crazy, I know!), and one of these co-workers actually thinks that fruit roll-ups count as eating fruit and are “healthy.”

    Since my husband and I are now roughly 95% vegan, I think that my family would define us as orthorexic. This, when we very seldomly eat meat/dairy and have yet to give up processed sugar (which is a goal of mine). If only they knew how much stricter we could be, they’d die! But, they also think that my excercising 30-45 minutes, 6 days a week is also “obsessive.” In one sense it’s all relative. However, anything that is detrimental to one’s psychological and physical health should be considered a problem.

    Thank you, Sayward, for sharing your journey with us. I look forward to reading more! You are an inspiration!

  • jill

    I am so interested in hearing more!

    Shouldn’t we be obsessed with healthful eating?!? The government and medical world suggest we should eat vegetables grown in sewage (um, biosolids), meat grown by sickly, mistreated animals, take drugs to cover up problems caused by such things…we’re on our own out here! Food is one of the few environmental concerns we can help ourselves with.

    Also, I find it interesting that things conventional-diet people call “super healthy” are sometimes things I don’t want to eat much of. Like cookies, made gluten free, with home-ground whole grains, unprocessed sugars, etc…if I eat too many of them, I feel as sick as if I’d eaten a vat of cotton candy (I assume).

    I’m currently feeling crappy–my kids are very young, so I get little sleep, am always rushing to get everyone fed well and having simple yet fun days for all…I too need to find the diet that works well for me right now.

  • Courtney Bliss

    I am really looking forward to this! I’m trying to figure out what my body’s telling me, but it keeps giving me mixed signals. It’ll be great to see how someone else has done it. I may finally figure out some of those signals!

  • Gina

    “…if somone posted a pic of a bacon cheeseburger and huge milk shake no one would post comments about trichinosis or artery clogging fat or the hormones in the milk or wrecking your body with sugar empty junk.”

    I totally agree with this. I think it is so ironic because, at least for me, I know that I get a wide variety of nutrients, far more than my non-veg friends. But o no, if you cut out meat and dairy all of a sudden you have a nutrient deficiency?

  • Betsy

    I’m really interested to hear what you have to say on this! Lately I’ve been having energy issues (and probably mood as well), and I’m fairly sure that food is a significant factor in this – I haven’t been eating very well, and I’m having trouble changing that as it’s a bit of a vicious cycle. So yes, I’m really interested to hear your methods for figuring your issues out, hopefully I can get some good ideas :)

  • Ann

    Sayward, I’m a little surprised that you were worried about being judged about your approach to eating, but I suppose there are a lot of judgmental people in “blog-land.” I appreciate everything you have to say about nutrition and your approach to eating. I’m so conflicted with all of the different approaches to eating and how to be healthy. There is simply no balance to most of the approaches and, in the end, I’m sure most of them are for commercial profit. Unfortunately, so many people invest time, money, hopes, and dreams in the effort to gain health and well being through them. I look forward to your reflections from your past year’s experiences.

  • Sarah Poulette

    Its easy to see how someone could become frightened and thus misled, writing off more and more foods as “bad”, until there’s very little left that feels “safe”. That’s why, in my opinion, there comes a point where seeking guidance outside of yourself is simply ineffective.
    I loved this whole entry, but especially this quote. Thanks for your sane words, and for giving me the words to be able to defend my own choices!

  • Sarah Poulette

    Argh, I’m annoyed the sign-in thingie wouldn’t let me link to my website up there! But this is Sarah P from vegetalion.

  • Lauren

    I’m having the same problem. I’ve heard that exercise helps improve energy level (and appetite), but there’s that vicious cycle you mentioned. I need energy to exercise in the first place.

  • Cat

    Love your “too healthy” point! I try and influence my boyfriend to eat healthy and pack him wholesome treats for work. (Side note- he works in an enviroment where people eat pretty badly everyday for lunch and start their day with 45 oz. colas) He often gets comments like, “What’s that?!” and after he offers them some he’ll get a “No way! Looks too healthy for me!” Mind you we are talking about Steel Cut Oats! hahahahahha

  • Ali Seiter

    Wow, thanks a bunch for completely understanding where I’m coming from! Hearing other’s stories of recovering from disordered eating thanks to a vegan diet never ceases to inspire me and I appreciate you sharing your point of view. I especially agree with your comment about health professionals!
    Thanks again.

  • Rebecca

    I have to slightly disagree—or perhaps clarify…I do think orthorexia can be a term that is thrown around too loosely and people who are just healthy are labeled as having an ED. However, being so obsessed with eating “healthy” (and, really, who defines that anyway?!?! Some people think meat is healthy, others thing vegetables are healthy, others think natural fats are fantastic while others think they are the devil…gotta love it!) *can* become an obsessive disorder that affects one’s health. Being into fueling your body with nutritious food is one thing—but if someone weeds out more and more foods (mostly due to all of the conflicting info out there on what is considered healthy), there is sometimes very little left—to the point of starvation (actual starvation…not just eating what many consider “bird food”).

    I guess my point is that orthorexia is an actual condition (although more likely it starts out as a well-intentioned path) that can dovetail into a full-blown health problem/eating disorder. Nonetheless, people are often too quick to judge other people’s diets. Talk about offensive—I think people who are truly suffering from the mental and physical effects of an eating disorder would be very offended by people nonchalantly throwing ED terms around.

    I hope you don’t take this response offensively. I totally hear your point—just wanted to shed a little light—as someone who has experience with taking *supposedly* healthy eating too far. I always think Bonzai readers are pretty open to..well…open discussions. Ha ha. So my hope is that you see this response for what it is…just a friendly dialogue. : )

  • Sayward Rebhal

    So many amazing comments here and I want to reply to a lot of them individually, but it’ll take me some time with my newly-busted computer. Ack!

    So I just wanted to quickly say THANK YOU to EVERYONE for such an incredible response. I think I was more nervous about hitting “publish” on this post than I ever have been before. It’s such a sensitive subject, so thank you guys for keeping it so calm and courteous. I really, *really* appreciate all the feedback. Now I’m even more excited to get started on this series!

    K, I’ll write more when I can. Love you guys!