A Culture of The Glorified Eating Disorder

By Caroline Dooner, creator of The Fuck It Diet.

I was a dieter. I was a good dieter. I cared about health. I cared about sustainability. I knew how to lose weight. I knew which foods were the most natural versions of everything, I knew how to make a paleo version of anything. I knew which foods were highest in carbs, or highest in fructose, or high in polyunsaturated fats. I knew which foods were easy to digest. Which foods were lowest in sugar. Lowest in calories. Lowest in toxins. I knew which packages would leach the most plastic. I knew which fats had the highest smoke point. I knew which nuts were more natural to eat, and which ones would have been harder to crack in the wild, therefore more unnatural to eat high quantities… I knew it all.

I cared. I was responsible. Or at least that’s what I thought.

However, “eating well” also started becoming the most important part of my life. It became the part that, if I couldn’t do it right, I had major anxiety. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the ways it was going wrong. I couldn’t stop planning which meals I would be eating later, not out of a genuine joy of eating, but because I needed to make sure I was able to get my hands on the most perfect versions of foods.

I knew so much about nutrition and health, and took it all so much to heart, that in a way, my eating became sort of like a religion. It was the way I viewed the world. I thought my way was “right” and everyone else was lost. I thought that striving to do it perfectly was safe, and morally superior to the people who just didn’t care as much as I did.

Here’s the other thing that happened over the 10 years that I devoted to “healthy, clean eating”. My eating and binge eating got worse and way more erratic. My digestion got worse. I was constantly hungry and constantly thinking about food. I could gain weight at the drop of a hat. And I had no real ability to listen to my body’s signals and stop when I was full, even though I tried so hard to do that.

If you can relate to any of the parts of my relationship with food, you may want to re examine your relationship to eating and weight.

This way of relating to food is actually extremely common. Call it orthorexia (obsession with purity). Call it “Clean Eating Fixation.” But it is disordered, and our culture glorifies it. We call it healthy eating. And because we collectively prioritize thinness and fear weight gain so much, this obsession seems noble and responsible by default. But it’s actually a socially acceptable eating disorder. No, it’s not anorexia per se (though it can lean that way), but it is obsessive and restrictive, and therefore disordered.

What this means is that we are living in a culture that encourages and glorifies eating disorders, with no real transparency or conversation about how unhealthy living this way is, both psychologically and physically.

Psychologically, the obsession, the fear of gaining weight, the seeing our weight through our eating purity and weight, and the amount of time and energy this focus takes up, are all extremely unhealthy. (Not to mention miserable.)

Physically, just restricting a little bit can send the body into a suppressed metabolic state with the biological reaction of food fixation, increased hunger, bingeing, and holding onto extra weight. And that’s the part that nobody talks about. The fact that restricting and controlling food and trying to eat the smallest amount and most perfect versions of things, actually messes with our health, metabolism, and basic bodily functions. Not to mention it directly affects our relationship with food in the exact opposite way we hope it will.

It’s no fun. And honestly, it’s so prevalent that the majority of women I talk to think this way about food and their weight.

We deserve better than this. We deserve a relationship to food and weight that is nourishing, accepting, and wholistic. We deserve to be informed, that our fear of foods is actually baseless and perpetrated by a 20 billion dollar industry that thrives on our insecurities. We deserve to eat the damn cookie and move on with our day.

Caroline Dooner is the creator of The Fuck It Diet. She is an anti-diet vigilante and intuition teacher, as well as a writer and performer. She wants women to take up space, start speaking up, and enjoy their freaking lives. Follow her on instagram.

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