13 Things My Eating Disorder Taught Me

By Katie Dalebout

We all have an open wound that leads us to find a new perspective.

For me, it was orthorexia.

I was so obsessed with healthy foods, high vibe foods, and the latest green juice that I couldn’t focus on anything else.

As health and wellness becomes more trendy and prevalent in mainstream society orthorexia is becoming more prevalent as well, especially with young, impressionable people. This is not only what happened to me but also a real danger in the health movement.

Here are the lessons I learned from hitting my bottom through an eating disorder at a young age. Hopefully, by reading this list, you can learn these lessons too without having to hit the bottom that I did.


My body is not my art project to manipulate by force to look a certain way. My body is not a project that needs fixing. When you’re focused on dogmatically following a diet or way of eating you can’t focus on your life.  You only have so much mental bandwidth and willpower and when you use all of it to control your food and body it doesn’t leave much space to accomplish anything else.

Isolation is sad and lonely and unnecessary. Food is meant to connect us, not divide us. Look at the way you’re eating and notice if food is still a source of connection or if it is creating separation in your relationships. While you don’t need to eat the same thing as all the people you hang out with, occasionally it is powerful to share a meal, snack, or dish with people and not obsess about the ingredients, food combination, or calories.

Stress and deprivation are worse for you than gluten, dairy, and sugar combined. If not eating the cake or cookies is going to stress you out and you feel like you’re depriving yourself you should just eat it, be present and enjoy the sensational pleasure of the food because denying yourself could cause stress and result in a binge later.

Labels are for containers, not people. It is easy to get wrapped up in labels like paleo, vegan, gluten-free but if you’re denying your body of what it actually craves simply to fit into a label because you fear leaving that camp you’ve placed yourself in you’re missing the point. Listening to your body trumps all labels.

Pleasure is an important and crucial part of life and even true health. When we deny ourselves pleasure we will feel deprived which is likely to eventually make rebel. Would you deny yourself something that feels good forever just to look a certain way? Focusing on how you want to feel physically is valid, but get honest on your intentions. Usually enjoying something decant in moderation won’t drastically alter your health how you feel physically, or how you look.

Fear of getting fat or of my body changing is silly and out of my control. My body will change constantly throughout my life and loving it at every stage and as it ages makes for a happier life, than fearing what is inevitable.

Beauty standards have existed since the beginning of civilization, however only in the past 100 years have they included thinness. Beauty standards aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and that’s fine. I follow mainstream beauty standards every day and enjoy curling my hair and wearing mascara, however I won’t physically harm myself anymore through manipulating my physical body size in an unhealthy way for a beauty standard.

My life as a whole is beautiful not just my body. This includes my spirit, relationships, home, and career. When you’re hyper focused on your physical body you are only capable of achieving a fraction of what you are capable of in the other {more important} areas of your life. Ask yourself what you want to be remembered for? How ‘clean’ your diet was? How often you went to yoga class? or the legacy you left.

Obsessing over food, exercise, and weight are a waste of time. When I realized I could write a book, start a business, and change the world with the amount of mental bandwidth I was using shaming my body, controlling my food, and making sure I was exercising enough I knew it was time to make a change.

My worth in not inherent in my physical appearance. I am good enough as I am and I don’t have to compensate for not feeling good enough by being thin enough instead. I thought being thin or being ‘perfectly healthy’ could make up for the fact I didn’t feel confident being myself.

Loving and accepting yourself as you are even if that is different than how you want to look is the healthiest thing you can do. Hating your body never made anyone healthier it only results in negative behaviors.

I don’t need to validate my worth and find community through my body, weight, and external appearance. It is liberating to just be yourself. When you are authentic and vulnerable the people who are meant to be in your life will and those who weren’t will fall away naturally.

People don’t really care how I look or how I eat, they care more if I’m being real with them. Authenticity trumps skinny every time.