In the winter of 2003, right after my college graduation, I struggled with a number of symptoms that are becoming more common these days: fatigue, brain fog, digestive problems abnormal liver tests and a period that was absent for about a year.
None of the doctors I visited could find out what was going on. Blood tests, physical examinations and even a brain scan were back to normal. Although I had recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis my symptoms continued even after I started on a medication that brought my thyroid levels back to normal. The digestive problems were diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but that did not explain the missing period or other non-intestinal complaints.
Obviously, something went beyond my thyroid gland. but nobody could tell me what.
The search for answers continued for years, through a jumble of false diagnoses ( gluten sensitivity polycystic ovarian syndrome insulin resistance ). I was understandably frustrated, but also fascinated by science – or its lack – under the conditions that I thought I had. Around 2005, I began to focus my career as a journalist on food and nutrition, mainly to master my own unexplained health problems. I believed that food is medicine and that I have to learn how to use it to heal myself – and to help others in the same boat.
These mysterious health problems were not the only reason for my sudden interest in food and nutrition. Looking back now, I notice that my relationship with food and drink has changed dramatically since I focused on losing weight during my junior year. I can trace it back to the summer of 2002 (a year and a half before these mysterious symptoms ended up in several doctors' offices). Since then, I've been limiting my calorie and carbohydrate intake and exercising too much to make my body smaller. But my daily calorie count, compulsory training, and the "reasonable" portions of "healthy" low-carbohydrate foods soon led to nocturnal seizures in all the things I'd denied myself – cookies, chips, bread and sweets.
] In desperation, when I banished almost all carbohydrates and gluten from the house, I drank raw gluten-free pancake batter and maple syrup directly from the bottle. The next day, I would decide to "eat better" and move harder, and the cycle would be repeated.
At the time, I never realized that this pattern itself was the problem. Although I desperately wanted the seizures to stop, I could not see how my weight loss efforts triggered them at all. I thought that restrictive eating and over-training was exactly what it meant to have a "healthy lifestyle" and that I had to diet through my "mistakes" in keeping up with my lifestyle and balance even harder ones. In my life up to that point, all I've ever known about diet and fitness was what I had picked up from the food culture we live in. "Being healthy" means getting the food You want to be able to approach physical activity without pain and without gain, and to keep an eye on the balance. I have equated this nutritional behavior with a serious approach to my health. I really did not see my lifestyle as problematic – and apparently no one else did it.
I was so connected to these behaviors that friends and family noticed my nutritional discipline and complimented me. People became more and more interested in my opinion about nutrition – both because I was a journalist on these topics and because I was such a healthy eater. And so I started giving my family and friends advice on how to eat. Of course, I never mentioned my nocturnal jokes. My nutritionist was purposeful and based on the "clean" way I ate when I was not bingeing .
In the meantime, my health problems continued. Although I was routinely examined and tested, none of my physicians suggested that my relationship with food could be the problem, as I never looked emaciated at how people with eating disorders are almost always portrayed in popular culture. Although my weight was lower than my body can comfortably withstand, I was still in the "normal" body mass index (BMI) category, and my healthcare providers never saw anything wrong (which is just one of the many problems ) with BMI as a measure of health).
Throughout that time, my doctors asked me about my stress levels and my alcohol intake and bowel habits, and whether or not I ate gluten, none of them ever asked me about how I ate – and in fact I was in terms of food unbelievable confused .
It's shocking to consider this pretty much all the time I was struggling With eating disorders, I worked in jobs where I wrote and spoke about foods from positions of relative authority. He initially worked as a journalist covering food and nutrition for national magazines and respected websites. Then, as a nutritionist in the public health field, as I was doing my degree in public health nutrition science and went through the many steps to get my registered dietitian certificate.
As a journalist and nutritionist, I praised daily the virtues of whole and unprocessed foods, spread the gluten-free diet gospel, and taught people how to read nutritional labels and save calories and fat. During the night, I rushed unchecked for banned processed foods, plunged into internet rabbit holes to examine my current health problems, and spent hours at the health food store to consider whether I liked the native or organic kale, the industrially vegan milk, or The sustainable milk should buy cow's milk. I was consumed with food, weight and health.
I knew that bingeing was a problem, but I still did not associate it with my restrictive and obsessive eating behavior. I have not seen the out-of-control eating episodes a direct result of the "healthy" (restrictive) behavior that I have dealt with the rest of the time, and I thought the way to stop the bingeing be the exercise of  more control over my food and my movement. I still saw these controlling behaviors as normal, rational parts of a healthy lifestyle. They felt part of my job – because in a way they were. Especially at the time – in the Aughts and the early 2010s – as a journalist and nutritionist, it felt to me that the media and nutrition sectors were rigid and rewards strict diet and health considerations. Yet, all this attention to nutritional science and the details of nutritional science has undoubtedly worsened my relationship to nutrition and my overall well-being – as do dozens of other dieticians and nutritional journalists I know
] Of course Not everyone in the field of nutrition and dietetics is referring to a disturbed relationship to food, but among the professionals in my orbit – many of whom now advocate intuitive eating and talking about the dietary culture – this is fairly common experience.
Laura Thomas now admitted to the UK as a nutritionist, started after her doctorate a wellness blog. in nutrition science, and it triggered many of the same disorderly eating habits that I experienced. As she told me in my podcast Food Psych "I spent the whole day meticulously preparing and photographing all those spa foods that had no oil and did not and did not have that and blah blah blah blah. And then I would turn my face in the evening, and I would wonder why. I projected this illusion of control and well-being, and it was just pure illusion.
In another Food Psych Interview Virginia Sole-Smith author of The Eating Instinct and another journalist who in the years I joined Fighting diet and nutrition, said that she did not realize until much later that what she considered wellness was actually just a diet. "We had the idea that if you just switch off and eat whole grains or make other changes, that will change everything," she said about herself and her co-journalists [people’s] body smaller. "
Nutritionist Emily Fonnesbeck who now practices from a non-dietetic perspective, but was struggling with restrictive eating and exaggeration at the beginning of her career, told me in her Food Psychic Episode: "I probably lived in [a] functionally disturbed relationship to food and exercise for five or six years. It was super easy for me to fly under the radar, especially because I was a dietician. As if I could be anal while eating, right? And just be one of those, [people] it's great with fitness and & # 39; clean & # 39; Had food to do. "
Many years later, when I started working as a dietician in the field of eating disorders, I realized that this was never the case. The gluten (or carbohydrates or processed foods) that caused my health problems – it was disturbed food. The pursuit of well-being had made me extremely uncomfortable both physically and mentally.
In fact, symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, missing periods IBS, bloating and other indigestion are common reactions to eating disorders. And if the cause of these problems is actually disordered eating habits, it's often the first step in feeling better about those behaviors.
Fortunately, this happened to me. Eventually, I was able to recover from a long and winding road that involved a great therapy (which I was allowed to afford) and a lot of self-help (hello, Intuitive Food, 19659037). I built my career to help people with eating disorders recover. Today it's been about six years since I've been infected, overworked, or restricted in any way, and my period is regular. my liver enzymes are normal; My IBS flares up only in times of extreme stress. and I'm not tired or brain-fogged anymore, as long as I sleep well and consume my thyroid medications consistently.
But I'll never forget how easy it was for my illness to camouflage myself for well-being, or like the same nutritional advice I professionally spent turning my own relationship to eating into a nightmare. Of course, not everyone who advocates for certain health beliefs necessarily has an unhealthy relationship with food or their body. But eating disorders (including eating disorders) are far more common than may appear in the wellness culture: in the US alone 30 million adults of all ages and sexes suffer from eating disorders.
I am incredibly grateful that I somehow managed to make it to the 25 percent who do not deal with these issues, and I work hard to keep it that way. I've learned that trying to follow the rules of wellbeing does far more harm to me than good. Instead, I've found that my best food guide is not an external source, but a connection with my own hunger, gratification, needs, and desires – an innate wisdom that we were all born with, but unfortunately by diet culture of too many of us stripped and we often have to fight bravely to recapture ourselves.
In my professional life, I no longer give prescribed advice on what to eat or write articles that fuel anxiety about certain types of foods. Instead, I have learned how to guide people in dismantling internalized food culture beliefs and in researching foods that they find satisfying and sustainable. And when I help people recover from eating disorders, I show the cultural roots of their problems and let them know that they are not alone – because when I was in trouble, I wished someone had told me.
Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Guide, and author of the forthcoming book Anti-Diet: Challenge your time, money, well-being, and happiness through intuitive Diet back . Since 2013, she has moderated Food Psych a podcast that explores people's relationships to food and ways to liberate the body. It is now one of iTunes' top 100 health podcasts, reaching tens of thousands of listeners worldwide every week. In her private practice, Christy offers online courses and an Intuitive Food Coaching to help people around the world make peace with food and their bodies. Christy began her career in 2003 as a journalist for food, nutrition and health. She has written and published for major publications such as Gourmet, The Food Network, Refinery29, Slate, Buzzfeed, Modernist Cuisine, Epicurious and many more. Learn more about Christy and her work at christyharrison.com and find her on Instagram and Twitter .