chronic illness and orthorexia


Orthorexia: a proposed eating disorder involving an obsessive preoccupation with eating healthy food. (Wikipedia)

In my 30’s — especially after my MS diagnosis (which was barely my 30’s, but whatever) — I made a concerted effort to “eat more healthfully”. To eat more of those plant-like things that I despised as a child, and still had to occasionally convince myself to eat.

When I severely flared up in 2017 and was told I may not regain left side function, I started exploring more extreme measures. During my hospitalization, I researched everything that was in my control. What exercise and diet regimes could help me?

If you’re familiar with any of the autoimmune diets, you know a) that they’re restrictive, and b) different people have slightly different opinions. While they’ll all say that sugar/alcohol/gluten/dairy are out, some also shun citrus and nightshades, for instance.

In any case, during that hospitalization, I drove their dieticians crazy, since I ordered limited items from their menu (I didn’t trust anything in a sauce) and I had people bring outside food in for me, from places like Whole Foods, who list their ingredients. The hospital apparently thought I was starving myself; no, I just was very concerned about what I ate, at the time.

Which led to several months of extremely restricted eating after that. I didn’t restrict calories, since that’s needed for energy; but I started restricting categories of food, since I feared another flareup and loss of function. No alcohol is easy for me, and so is no dairy, for the most part (also an IBS trigger for me); but no gluten, no sugar? No legumes? Those were rough.

But it’s SO easy to see how those of us in fear of a chronic illness flare can go down the path of orthorexia, or similar disordered eating, right???

Luckily for me, as I regained most of my function from that relapse and hospital stay, I relaxed my eating standards. I still don’t drink alcohol, I hardly ever have dairy (because it also makes my stomach hurt) — but those other categories? I don’t think gluten or legumes are a trigger for me, so I just minimize sugar and refined carbs… like anyone should, in my opinion. 🙂

2 Responses to “chronic illness and orthorexia”

  1. I have found a wide range of diet opinions. Gluten hurts me and I never thought it would. I still cheat. Dairy was hard but when I stopped it completely, I lost those nagging few pounds. my dairy, for decades, has been mostly yogurt. I now do some plain Greek yogurt as I need calcium and protein for the osteoporosis. Sugar is the killer, literally. And I will limp for chocolate

    • Hey Tresswann, glad you’ve found options that help ease your symptoms! (And, agreed that everyone could seriously cut back on their sugar…) I’m still fine-tuning, but my go-to is a solid amount of fruit and veg — can’t go wrong! 🙂

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