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When does it get to be an obsession?

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Old 01-27-2011, 08:53 PM   #1
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Default When does it get to be an obsession?

By it, I mean "healthy eating". I put this in parantheses because I believe many people out there who think they are healthy are in fact, depriving their body of valuable nutrients. Right now I am making an effort to eat healthier, but if going a little over my calories means getting some more fiber, vitamins, protein, etc. I will do it because I want to be healthy, which does not always correlate with what I see on the scale.

The reason I ask is I have a friend that I am concerned about. I believe she is far too obsessed with healthy eating and controlling her weight. We went out to eat the other weekend at Red Lobster, which has lots of healthy options. She kept going on about the bread they had and trying to guess the calorie counts. She would pick up a piece of bread, sniff it, put it back, repeat, before eventually picking out a small corner and nibbling it (she once ate 1/4 of a pickle). For her entree, she ordered a side salad of shrimp and iceberg lettuce and ate half, all while trying to pawn her shrimp off on me and my other friend. Sadly, this behavior is incredibly typical of her as I have eaten out with her a few times and only ever seen her eat iceberg lettuce salad and restrict her portions of even small, healthy food (not that I consider iceberg lettuce to be healthy). Eating in with her is not much better as she will pick at other's food or smell it and eat the smallest serving possible.

As I am trying to watch what I eat and manage portions, I get upset when people talk about how healthy I am being or what I am eating, but where is the line when you want to help a friend who you believe is eating in a disordered manner? I am not a mental health professional so I can't make a diagnosis, but as this girl's friend I genuinely want her to be ok with food and her obsession with being healthy and managing her weight is slightly scary and honestly drives me crazy. Is this a conversation I can bring up with her? She talks about food all the time and how healthy she is and complains if she gains one pound in a semester (how much I gain if I don't go poo). I want her to be happy and healthy, not starving and convincing herself she is healthy. What should I do???? I want to help, but I don't want to interfere
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Old 01-27-2011, 09:17 PM   #2
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Chloe, you may want to Google "orthorexia," a term coined back in 1997.

This website is a good place to start:

http://www.orthorexia.com/
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Old 01-27-2011, 09:27 PM   #3
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it's one of those situations where you must tread lightly - she probably wouldn't welcome your opinion, probably the same as any of us wouldn't have welcomed comments on how UNhealthy we used to be -- she's a grown up, and if that's how she wants to live, it's her business I suppose.

I have to bite my lip at work all the time, at a person who says she's losing weight "healthily, just like you did" and ALL she eats is frozen dinners, 100 calorie packs, pre-packaged Franken-food garbage, and I bite my tongue clean thru some days
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Old 01-27-2011, 10:43 PM   #4
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www.something-fishy.org

And check "helping loved ones" on the side bar.

GL!
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Old 01-27-2011, 11:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chloekinsicle View Post
As I am trying to watch what I eat and manage portions, I get upset when people talk about how healthy I am being or what I am eating, but where is the line when you want to help a friend who you believe is eating in a disordered manner? I am not a mental health professional so I can't make a diagnosis, but as this girl's friend I genuinely want her to be ok with food and her obsession with being healthy and managing her weight is slightly scary and honestly drives me crazy. Is this a conversation I can bring up with her?
It's a topic you can bring up with her, but likely one that you shouldn't. People with eating disorders (just like people who are losing weight) do not like others to interfere with their choices. If they want your help, they will ask for it and they won't ask for it until they are ready.

What you can, and if you care about her should, do is be a good friend. Express concern for her overall state of mind. Ask her about her life. Listen when she talks about things other than food (as this is not really the problem though body issues probably are). Her issues aren't tied up in what she eats. What she eats is how she deals with her issues. You can support her by being a good friend in every sense of the word, but I'd say stay away from talking about her food habits unless she makes it the topic of conversation. Confronting her will either make her distance herself from you, become defensive and possibly attack you and your choices, or start to hide her behaviors from you. Confronting her will only give you a false sense that you are "doing something" to mitigate your sense of helplessness in the face of her problems. Its a noble impulse, but you don't want to drive her away or into hiding her behavior.
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Old 01-28-2011, 12:11 AM   #6
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I had a friend with orthoexia.

I have had friends with most eating disorders and orthoexia is one of the most annoying. Generally people I knew who binged or were anorexic or ednos, did not try and convince anyone they were trying to be healthy by being disordered, they were well aware of their problem.

The orthoexia thing is like,they are so sure they are being uber healthy and you can't convince them otherwise.

My one friend went from that, to binging and purging ...I assume she got sick of eating things like 1/4 of a pickle as well and then went nuts.

This all probably sounds insensitive, and it's nothing against anyone except the people I know and it's not because they have a problem, lord knows I have them too, but...they seem blissfully unaware that anything is wrong and disagree if you call it to their attention. If I were you, I wouldn't say anything, simply because she will grate on your nerves even more when she denies it and refuses help you know she needs.

*frustrated*
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Old 01-28-2011, 06:19 AM   #7
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I've been thinking about your post all night, Chloe, and was still thinking about it when I woke up this morning, and I decided that leaving you with a link to th definitions of "orthorexia" was an inadequate response on my part.

I'm not a medical professional, but I've had an eating disorder, and am in recovery from it. (It's sort of a lifetime thing, like alcoholism, which you need always to be somewhat aware of.)

For me, it was like being possessed. By that,I mean, the rigid, rule-making part of myself took over my body & all other aspects of my personality, and it ran things. It was like a prison guard. And I behaved as though it was always watching me. I was full of fear & desperation. (Bingeing, BTW, was when I started rebelling against the surveillance I put myself under.) The behaviors you describe sound typical:

Quote:
She kept going on about the bread they had and trying to guess the calorie counts. She would pick up a piece of bread, sniff it, put it back, repeat, before eventually picking out a small corner and nibbling it (she once ate 1/4 of a pickle). For her entree, she ordered a side salad of shrimp and iceberg lettuce and ate half, all while trying to pawn her shrimp off on me and my other friend.
These are the signs of someone who's in deep conflict: Attracted to food, but fighting her attraction. Thus the fixation on the bread, handling, sniffing, not daring to eat. She's afraid of that bread, but she really wants some. Same with the shrimp. One of my behaviors was to want to see other people eat, even to feed them: There was an incredibly voyeuristic impulse, getting off on other people's enjoyment of food that I wouldn't let myself have. They were like surrogates, eating for me.

Okay, I don't want to be all about diagnosing your friend, as I'm not qualified to do so; I just saw myself in some of the behaviors you described, and I wanted to give you a feeling of what it's like being that person, trapped inside those behaviors & rituals. It's an unhappy, lonely place.

What should you do, as a friend?

Others here have given excellent advice. Proceed with caution. If you do care about her, if you're not completely irritated, repulsed & a little frightened of what you're seeing, then just reassure her that she is all right, that she is still a good person, and that you do care about her. Talk about the interests & passions in her life other than food & her weight -- if there are any, if her life hasn't already narrowed down to nothing but not-eating & weight loss. Be there. That's all. Try to show her that your liking for her is for the person she really is (or once was, since I assumed something about her attracted you & made you friends with her at one time or another?) and has nothing at all to do with her appearance. In other words, she doesn't have to EARN your friendship by being attractive & looking a certain way.

My eating disorder sprang from feelings of being profoundly unacceptable, and seeking a way to look more like other people, to be "normal," and since I felt I was already starting in the hole, that I had to overcompensate like crazy & become thin & absolutely beautiful to, at minimum, be okay to be around.

It also came from feeling a lack of purpose in my life, not having a clear goal, so I seized with relief upon something to pour all my energies into, and that thing was losing weight & the way I looked. That was my highest aspiration in life, at that point. Yes, I was **that** spiritually & emotionally empty.

Sorry for the novel, but I was thinking about this all night ....
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Old 01-28-2011, 06:57 AM   #8
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Saef your post is excellent.
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Old 01-29-2011, 08:27 AM   #9
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Michou, thanks for getting through it all. ;-)
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Old 01-29-2011, 12:01 PM   #10
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Oh I could't find this thread and now I can! Thanks for bumping it up.

Saef, your post is excellent. The reason I am so concerned with her behavior is that I used to do all of those things and I restricted myself to the point of losing 17 pounds in one month, even though I tend to lose *very* slowly. Her relationship with food is very concerning and it gets to the point that it makes me feel self-conscious of what I eat and brings up all my disordered eating feelings that have gotten me to bingeing and 270 pounds. This sounds selfish, but how do I take care of myself too? I can't be around a constantly toxic food environment; it's too much. And whoever posted upthread about orthorexics being difficult to talk to because they believe they are the epitome of health is right. I don't even know how to begin something like this in order to keep myself healthy and happy.

Thanks for all your fabulous input!
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Old 01-29-2011, 12:11 PM   #11
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My friend who was ortho, I had to stop being friends with her, we both had eds at the time (So, I'm sure I was pretty annoying as well, to my bf at least, who was the only other person who knew.), I was ednos, moving between starving myself and binging, but anyhow, I was trying to get better right around the time she was getting worse. It was too much so we had to kind of break off our friendship.

I probably would have invited her back into my life when *I* was in a better headspace, but... unfortunately, when I had time away from her it became clear there were other ways that she was way too toxic for my life.

Maybe just be honest with her? Maybe if you don't feel like she will take news of your concern for HER well, maybe frame it in a way that is like, these are the problems I've had and maybe find the nicest least blaming way of telling her that her ...relationship with food ...brings that stuff up for you as well?

Maybe she'd care more about helping you than helping herself, maybe it would inadvertently help her? I dunno those person though, but good luck either way.
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