Letting Go of Health Perfectionism

  1. Ann says:

    You know, a certain degree of fatalism actually can bring a lot of peace. Letting go of the need for perfection is definitely part of that! I love natural cures as much as the next hippie – and I say if you need progesterone to have kids, well, your life will go on, and not any differently than before. 🙂 For me, my quest for perfect health was really a desire to control my life – essentially a response to the realization that the world is scary, bad things happen, and sometimes we don’t get a choice. Some people work hard and earn tons of money in response to this realization, and others turn to substances (drugs, alcohol) that numb the pain. I say we just accept it. This is our reality, this is beautiful, and we have this moment. And that’s all we have. All the organic, grass-fed beef and raw milk in the world isn’t going to change that. But enjoying an awesome and totally unhealthy meal with friends once in a while isn’t bad either. So yes, fuck it. And then we can live, love and let go of the desire to control everything.

    • Caroline says:

      You are so right that it is about control. That is the other huge part of disordered eating. I am planning on writing all about that too.

      There used to be an exercise that one of our teaching did in acting school. Imaging that the world was ending in 5 minutes and there was nothing we could do about it. The purpose was to let go of the pointless worries and just be in the moment. Everyone in the class freaked out in panic, but I was the only one that it calmed down! Fatalism seems to do me well 🙂

    • Aaron Fontaine says:

      I think when I became orthorexic I was very much looking for my own safe little corner of the world. It is definitely about control. Ultimately what made me quit was continuously learning that whatever I believed was wrong. That and the lack of freedom it causes. I still have trouble getting feeling rested but I’ve always had trouble getting decent sleep and I don’t I ever completely recovered from my orthorexia.

      • Caroline says:

        It is definitely about control. I wanted to control my health diagnosis and then, my weight, so badly. I would often pretend I was proving those asshole doctors wrong while I was running or… whatever torture I did. But, unfortunately it was just making me scared, and cut off, and not helping me at all.
        And you are right- we are crazy to not eventually snap out of it once we keep on learning that our facts are constantly being debunked or disproved. In fact, that is a BIG part about this last and final time I snapped out of it (it better be the last time- this site will keep me in check 🙂 ) I finally learned, and believed, that sugar was not as bad for your body as I had learned so many times. I had already gotten over fat phobia (though, YES FAT CAN MAKE YOU FAT. BINGEING ON ANYTHING CAN MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT EVEN IF IT IS LC PALEO!) But, I think the cold hard facts why ANY food can be “good for you” and how the body can learn to deal if you just EAT NORMALLY is helpful for people who need support getting over orthorexia.
        And yes…. there are levels of recovery. I would NEVER eat at McDonalds. And I just looked up the ingredients to Mr. Softee, because I was curious if there was HFCS or hydrogenated fat.

  2. Hell yeah.

    this reminds me of a (Buddhist?) principle- always leave an incomplete, an “imperfection”, because that way there is always room to grow, room to move. Rigid perfection leaves no room to live. The only absolute, the only perfection, is the cessation of life and the only absolute- i.e. death. In essence, the idea of imperfection *is* perfection.

  3. Camila says:

    Hi Again. Yes. I gave up acting last year. I don’t need to fit someone else’s mold, some character. Feeling like part of being cast was my looks.
    I have now gotten into stand-up comedy and I highly recommend it. It’s just you on the stage, baby, and the audience wants to love you no matter how you come! Just letting go all the control is BEAUTIFUL. It was perfect for this healing transition I am doing.
    And thanks again for this blog. Keeps me going through the potatoes that help me sleep like a baby.

  4. Awesome blog, thanks for starting this! I’m pretty much at the same point, coming off LC Paleo (can you believe I put myself through that just to try to heal a tiny bit of eczema? Fuck that!) and trying to get back to being a normal human being again.

    All this this dietary fear and restriction only served to make my minor little health problems 100x worse than they were in the first place.

    It’s a good feeling not to be deathly afraid of eating a bowl of pasta again, for sure. Looking forward to reading more from you!

    • Caroline says:

      So glad it resonates! Yes, I went on Paleo to even out hormones, and instead I stopped being able to digest things all-together! I NEVER had digestion problems before. So I put myself through the GAPS insanity and ended up…. just a disaster! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Argh, the exact same here. Before Paleo I was “eating healthily” by all counts, whole grain bread, low fat milk. Now post-Paleo, I can’t even digest these things anymore!

        Ah well, white bread tastes better anyway!

      • Tara says:

        Ugh me too. I’m over it. Just bought a loaf of “hippie bread” at the farmer’s market and couldn’t be happier!

  5. I love your blog. I am 4 months post- low carb paleo. I tried it for 18 months, craved carbs terribly the whole time and felt exhausted and depressed. I did it because I discovered four years ago that I am gluten intolerant, and after cutting gluten saw such massive improvement, but I had some residual issues (main ones are joint pain, fatigue, IBS and GERD). I thought maybe cutting grains and dairy would fix it, but ended up worse.

    Just after giving up low carb paleo I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder which is the actual cause of all my issues. I’m still gluten free as I get very clear adverse symptoms (aching bones from top to toe is not pleasant), but am trying to chill on everything else. It’s frustrating because I just can’t get my energy back (the bit I had before going paleo). I’m at the level now where my lifeis significantly curtailed. I am hoping with lots of nourishing food, and the physio I am waiting for, I can start to move forward.

    I am scared stiff of sugar. I bought bigtime into the whole sugar addiction thing (Radiant Recovery for 10 years). I have dieted all my life. My mum had my on a diet virtually from birth, she was so scared I’d end up fat. She put me on my first diet aged 13 and 140lbs. Well now I have a lovely combination of orthorexia and BED and am 270lbs, so that turned out well lol.

    It’s such a huge relief knowing my health problems are not due to food intolerances. I hope it’ll help me become a “normal” eater. Your blog is a tonic and I’ll definately be following it. I just happened to be eating some mint choc chip ice cream whilst reading. I have had enough ice cream now. There’s hope! But it is hard, because I am so overweight, and combined with my weak joints, it limits my activity. It’s hard not to get sucked into “Must stop eating chocolate, must lose weight right now!”.

    • Caroline says:

      Hi Katherine, glad to connect with you. It is so hard. I really believe health problems turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. My mother was also quite neurotic about health and weight, and that set me on a miserable path. I was a thin and healthy child with a BED just from pure perceived “denial” (though I ate plenty). I just wanted some damn junk! 🙂 That of course, led to PCOS, which led to more denial and Bingeing and weight fluctuation… ahhhhh Its hard. It is so hard to weed out what is a legitimate belief about food, and what were just scare tactics that we deeply ingrained as truths.

      What you said about the ice cream is very telling. “I have had enough ice cream now”. I don’t believe anymore, that sugar is addictive. I think it is just as addictive as it is supposed to be in order for us to thrive off of it. Because thankfully, I have come to the point where I truly don’t binge on it anymore. 98% much of my overeating and bingeing was emotional and denial-based, I truly believe that! When you really can eat as much ice cream as you want, after a few weeks of going a little nusto (eek!) You start craving… other things. And a bit of ice cream does the trick. I am also in the process of writing a post (and then a series of posts) on specific food phobias and debunking them. Sugar is First!!!!

      I have also plateaued with weight and even come down a little bit eating just as much as I ever was coming off of paleo. It takes time to #1 truly trust your own eating, #2 get your body processing carbs well again, #3 not NEED to overeat. I think for a time, coming off anything restrictive (physically or mentally, or both) you NEED to overeat. Your body and bind are begging for it. And it is SO SCARY but you need to do it, trusting that your body will not let you down (which is hard to do when you have health problems I know). But almost, talking to it saying “I am going to feed you and give you what you need. Let me know if you need anything specific”. The whole fear of gaining more weight is a hard and scary thing, but this whole process is quite a spiritual one as well. Trusting. I intend to write more on that too. Have you looked into Health at Every Size? It is lovely. I recommend it highly.

      Anyway, thank you for commenting! I hope to see you around here more!

      • Thanks. Next conundrum is how to make the shift into intuitive eating with a family to feed, a very limited budget, and knowing that if I eat sugary stuff I end up getting more and more fatigued until all I can do is lie around eating sugary stuff lol (is like being intolerant really). I can’t just go out and stock the freezer with Haagen Dazs (hubby totally freaked out when I tried to talk to him this morning, he’s so worried about money at the moment, any mentionof a chage and he just panics about whether it’ll cost more), and if I don’t eat regular proper meals I’ll be catatonic. It’s hard to feel free with so many restrictions. Ones like body image can be worked on, ones like budget and being ill and having food intolerances, I have to find a way to work with, but don’t know how.

      • Caroline says:

        My mom always says she is intolerant to sugar. I believe it with her to a point, but because so many of my problems have stemmed from the mental even if they have had physical manifestations (I would definitely lie around all day eating sugar at times. Feeling absolutely addicted. And if I don’t have “real food” as well I am a wreck). But yes, that is hard. All of it. Money makes everything so much harder. And can make feelings of true denial and lack hard to separate from the unnecessary feelings you have put on yourself in the past. Are your children good eaters?

        Luckily, rice and potatoes are some of the cheapest foods! I would start there. Can you eat dairy? Co-op near you? I suppose the most economical way to eat food you crave is to make it yourself- but it is a hassle. Making food is definitely not my passion… I know you have probably tried all these suggestions, they are pretty mainstream. Here is to your continued liberation, even within constricted circumstances.

        Also, my “sugar intolerant mother” claims, and this could be true, that she feels like cane sugar can make her high, but fruit sugar and honey do not. Do you notice any specifics between the different kinds of sugar?

  6. […] I have mentioned to in a few other posts, I was debilitatingly afraid of what sugar would to do my health for years. It was the main reason I never fully trusted myself to eat intuitively. The taste of […]

  7. I don’t notice any difference between honey and refined sugar, or even fruit, if I eat a loty of sweet fruit. The most extreme is boiled sweets- two hours of ectopic heartbeats put me off ever doing that again!

    I have no doubt that sugar causes me physical symptoms. I see no reason to doubt it really, it’s not as if it’s a new idea that if you eat a lot of sugar you don’t feel well. It’s an unnatural substance and it is hard for the body to handle, especially in large amounts. I was sugar free for three years and saw reduction or elimination of many troublesome symptoms including severe headaches, dizzy spells, nausea, palpitations and significant reduction in joint pain. I had no idea that sugar could contribute to these things at that time, and it makes no sense to suggest it is not a genuine physical experience. People are so quick to label things in that way, hence I was told for several years my joint pain must be depression, before a GP specialist in musculoskeletal health took one look at me and diagnosed me within 5 minutes. I’m sure some people think my gluten intolerance is in my mind as well, since I tested negative for celiac disease. Maybe they think I am imagining going to the bathroom ten times a day! I can’t be imagining that I have fluid retention and red, swollen hands and feet for example.

    When it comes down to it, if I know something makes me ill, but can’t stop eating it, then there is an aspect of addiction in there. For example, if you were told to give up eating steak, you might miss it, sometimes crave it, maybe sneak some every now and then, but you wouldn’t binge on it daily, you’d soon get sick of it if you did. The difference with sugar is that for some people, they just can’t get enough and the more the eat the more they want until life revolves around it.

    Debating whether addiction is physiological or psychological doesn’t make sense to me, the mind and the brain cannot be dealt with as two separate entities. In addition to that, there is a significant body of research now which supports the idea of sugar being addictive through it;s stimulastion of the release of endogenous opiates. This is not to say that intuitive eating can’t work, clearly for some it does, and that’s great, but for some it doesn’t, and for some it can only ever be a way of managing their addiction. When I read Geneen Roth’s books, I was sugar free, and what I came away with was a clear picture of how she was managingher problems rather than solving them, and clearly still had the unbalanced neurochemistry of someone who is vulnerable to sugar. I would rather be free of cravings than be managing them, but since I became more ill with the joint condition, I have not been able to get stable no matter how carefully I eat my regular meals of protein, wholegrains and veggies, so at the moment that is not a viable option for me.

    My children are all good eaters and very healthy. The two older ones (13 and 15) are interesting, they both like their sugary things and buy themselves sweets etc with their pocket money. However, one of them I have never seen an effect from sugar beyond being extra energetic after a coke. When she was small she’d eat half a biscuit and say she was full. The other clearly takes after me, she gets mood swings, tiredness and cravings if she eats too much sugar and doesn’t eat enough real food along with it. When she was small if she could she’d eat puddings at buffets until she felt sick. There is clearly a physiological difference between them. Having said that, the 15 yr old who is the one who has issues with sugar, is not at all overweight and seems to self regulate her overall food intake, she has never dieted, and I am glad I have been able to teach her about that, instead of watching her weight and restricting her food like my mum did.

    I’d love to be able to take or leave sugar like their dad, but although I might be able to achieve an approximation of that through intuitive eating, I don’t believe I’ll ever be free of needing to watch my sugar intake or risk falling into a spiral of eating more and more and feeling worse and worse. It’s just how my body is.

  8. ellieb says:

    I am also an ex-actor. i quit to raise a family and because I was tired of having to look the same way all the time. You can’t even cut you hair without it being a big deal and if you gain a little weight – forget it. The irony is that in signing up to use your creativity to be a variety of other people, you have to restrict your real self expression/ being in sooooo many ways. Once I quit acting, i felt like i could finally be myself…or start to re-discover that…

    • Caroline says:

      Hi Ellie, Isn’t it sad? About acting I mean. Some people are strong enough and brave enough (or stupid enough 🙂 ) to go for it anyway, regardless of being the perfect look. And when they make it, you see their talent more than you see their imperfect looks, but I have to remind myself how much they had to believe in themselves, no matter what society says, to get where they are. It is very inspiring. However, some people are also tougher, more charactery (vague, yes) and unfortunately I have a “sweet” energy (that I fight sometimes, because it puts me in a box). So being “overweight” or less than pretty is a liability. I am done for a while. I have feint dreams of writing my own stuff, or coming back in in 5 years with a vigor and irreverence for the box they try to put you in. But for a while, I think I need to re-discover who I am without it, as you said.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      • Ann B says:

        When/if you go back to acting, remind the employer that being right for the part through your talent is the issue. Makeup and clothes can make you look like anyone…as well as older/younger/fantasy. I truly enjoyed seeing Liv Ullmann at age 65 in Saraband (2003 subtitled) the other evening. She is still beautiful and graceful with no signs of Botox or surgeries. She is now nearing 75 and this most recent photo shows no evidence of manipulation of appearance. http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2950082048/nm0880521

  9. rick says:

    This isn’t acceptance, its giving up.

    • Caroline says:

      Hi Rick, I did not approve your other comments, purely because they were quite menacing and not constructive. However, I would live to reply to this comment only because it brings up a good question, and I would like to clarify:

      I am not “giving up”. I have started taking progesterone which is a more direct cure for my direct symptoms, I work on stress management, I exercise lightly/moderately, eat a 90% whole foods diet by choice, and try to help inspire people to nourish themselves instead of depriving themselves. Maybe if you have never had an obsessive eating disorder you may not fully empathize, but making food choices out of fear and obsession is not the most direct path to health and happiness. If some people need to cure their fear of certain taboo foods, in my opinion, that is far more important than Food Purity Fanaticism. I still care deeply about my health and happiness, but I have come to the realization that all the things I tried before failed, and I was left with such a feeling of incompleteness having imperfect hormones. What if I accepted my life and health as is, and made choices out of pure love for myself, instead of fear of never having “perfect health” (whatever that is)- wouldn’t that be a better life and existence?

      That is what this site is about.

      • Rick says:

        hahahahahaha hey, sorry I cannot stop laughing about the fact that my posts made you make a whole post. It was the biggest laugh I have had all night. You’ve got to keep in mind that men and women are different when it comes to nutrition. Maybe in YOUR case things have failed, but there is more than one way of doing something and different things work for different people. Some people may be like you and some may not. To me, accepting your life the way it is means that you are no longer improving and no longer striving for success. To me accepting your life the way it is means not striving to achieve your goals and live life to your fullest potential and just saying okay I quit. it troubles me to see that people use acceptance as a cop out. Accepting a half-assed life is no bueno lol and its just a disgrace if someone gives up on life and does that. So, according to your theory, that means a heroin addict should “accept their life and health as it is” and keep shooting up. Look, I suffered constipation, depression, acne, bad posture, bad motor skills, ticks, stomach cramps, cramps all over different parts of my body, a feeling of no energy, laziness, lack of motivation, and many other issues for years. Ever since I cut all soda out about 2 years ago(which was the best choice I ever made and I would never go back to drinking that poison), a lot of the cramps have dissapeared. My bloodwork used to always come up as iron deficient, but now it all comes up fine. I feel a lot less fatigued. Cutting fast food out(such as taco bell, mcdonalds, burger king) has eliminated my constipation, cleared up my acne, made me feel a lot more energy, has made my skin look better in general, I almost never get eczema anymore, and my body cramps(such as lower back pain) have dissapeared completely, I breath better, I don’t run out of breath and want to doze off after every task that requires effort anymore. Ever since I started exercising with weights and running miles and also doing some sprints and just getting into the healthy lifestyle in general, I have had a lot more motivation and determination to do things in life, my mood is elevated and it allows me to cope better, I have discovered plenty of new interests, all of my motor skill problems dissappeared, my posture is great now, i have eliminated all of those horrible ticks, I have discipline, I have energy, again my bowels are finally moving, I’ve gained a new way of logic and reasoning, my body language has improved, i make a better overall impression on people, girls actually check me out now, i have confidence, i have more drive to be successful, i actually smile now, my libido has improved, I have become a very social person, I carry myself well professionally, I have goals and ambitions now, I overcame so many things, I’ve developed plenty of new abilities and the list goes on. As for my diet, the foods that i eat consist of eggs( I eat 6 yolks a week because the yolk is actually good cholesterol), fish, chicken, pasta, vegetables, pizza(I don’t count that as fast food because I go to the best italian pizza places that taste awesome, not that nasty fake pizza like pizza hut and dominos), frozen yogurt, ice cream here and there, muffins, some fruit, whey protein shakes, protein bars, dark chocolate sometimes, peanuts. I take a men’s multivitamin a day as well as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, a serenity complex, and some melatonin for sleep. I drink a glass of orange juice a day and I drink good amounts of water each day and gatorade before I exercise. I think that is a very good diet and my body feels amazing. I am 5 ft. 7 3/4in. and weigh about 150 down from almost 190 at the end of senior year in high school. I am 21 now and since getting out of that hellhole high school i went to, i finally begun my life, developed social skills, fixed all of the issues i mentioned earlier in this post and overcame a lot. I achieved things I never thought I would ever achieve. Exercise, discipline, determination, and the desire to improve made this great and extremely necessary change happen once I graduated hs. Looks and body language do matter, think about it, better looks and body language make a better impression professionally. Looking the best you could possibly look is important, so yea inner and outer self go hand in hand. You have to see past this one society we live in and get educated on the way people do things all over the world. All of our media here is left wing, right wing, corporate owned, and a bunch of propaganda. The reason I posted those 10 posts in the first place was because I think it is beyond ignorant to say nutrition and exercise don’t make a complete and transforming difference and coming across this site troubled me because I believe it propagates coping out. I am very proud of where I am now and I’m sure theres many more great things to come in life. Living a long, healthy and fulfilling life sounds good to me:DDD

  10. Nutrition and exercise don’t make a complete and transforming difference for someone who has a medical condition which cannot be cured by diet and fitness. For me, acceptance is about acknowledging and facing that I have a medical condition, and then going on from there to build the best and healthiest life that is possible for me.

    For me, acceptance is a fundamental part of improving my life, because without it, I will continue to fail. For example, if I don’t accept my physical limitations (I have a connective tissue disorder) I will continue to overdo it and end up injured and then losing the gains I have made. Now I have a diagnosis and can work with the facts, I can work at a level that is sustainable (I hope, it’s early days yet).

    I think you are missing the point of what is said here to be honest. This blog is about orthorexia, an unhealthy and damaging obsession with healthy eating. Accepting that eating some kind of “perfect, pure” diet is an important part of recovery. It is not a condition which I have suffered from, but I hope I have some understanding of the issues involved. I think it is a somewhat similar journey to the one I have undergone after learning that my symptoms are due to a hereditary and fundamental defect in my body, and not things that can be fixed, such as food intolerances (which is what I was working with before).

    Caroline can do much to improve her health, as can I, but neither of us can cure our problems by changing our diet, and following a path into an increasingly overwhelming obsession with diet and fitness is not going to be beneficial for either of us. A “fierce desire” to be healthy is referring to an unhelpful obession with health and a desperation to find something that will fix health problems. I have a desire to be as healthy as I can be, taking into consideration my condition and the need to not become obsessive.

    As for what is obsessive, only the individual can decide whether their attitude to food is a healthy one. Just as one person can drink without a problem whereas another becomes an alcoholic, one person may thrive following a very strict health foods diet, whereas for another that may lead to orthorexia, or indeed to anorexia or bulimia.

    It is not about giving up, it is about accepting reality and getting on with the business of living and all that entails. As you said, different things work for different people, so I don’t see why you would not be able to understand that Caroline is coming from a very different place to you, and needs different things at this time. Her “giving up” is an important part of her healing.

  11. Just to add that I do not claim to be an expert on orthorexia, and do not consider myself to suffer from it. My diagnosis is Ehlers-Danlos type III, a hereditary connective tissue disorder. I don’t really care about terms, but I do know that it is possible to have an unhealthy and destructive obsession with healthy eating, although it is not something I have experienced myself. If an “obsession” bears good fruit, then go for it, but if it bears negative fruit, then it is time for a change. If Caroline considers that is the case for her, well she sounds like a thoughtful, intelligent and self-aware person to me, so I think she probably knows what she is talking about.

  12. Pat says:

    If I prefer to buy “natural, whole grain, no preservative” breads but can still finish 1/4 of a box of Oreos a day because I craved them for some reason: eh.

    Fuck it. It’s been like 2 years since I’ve had Oreos.

  13. Ann B says:

    I’ve noticed in more recent posts you’ve changed your tune a bit. At 21 I wanted to believe I had it all figured out, too. But at age 57, I must concede, my body knows better than I do. Trust that it knows what to do with food. Trust the cravings and my food choices will be in alignment. I also concede I will never achieve through my efforts the perfect body, health. My body was born perfect and healthy and all I ever did was ruin it with obsessive efforts to control first my rate of growth/girth at a very young age. And it started earlier by my very young mother who took away my milk bottle at 9 months because I bit through the nipple. Most likely my body’s first insult of food restriction by a mother’s ignorance. AND I’ve been told as a toddler I would clean up/attempt to clean up leftovers on my siblings’ food plates. I would guess I was hungry and not being served enough to start with. Ya think?
    Then as a preschooler I was taunted by my own father in regards to my roundness…still within normal limits. Until I had had enough at around age 10 and told him his derisive nicknames hurt me.
    I hope you will allow yourself the FREEDOM to stop trying to control your body and just listen to it and let it guide you. You’ll be surprised what errors you’ve created will correct when you let your body do it’s own thing.