THE EATING DISORDER THAT’S NOT A DISORDER (BUT CAN KILL YOU)
Updated: Jan 9
I know, right? Confronting stuff. But this is serious and I shamelessly want your attention.
Because if every post I do inspires even ONE PERSON, one drop in the ocean, then it's worth it. There’s a 'new' eating disorder kid on the block (that’s not classified as a disorder). And it can kill you. As if that hasn’t taken you by surprise, hardly anyone I know actually knows what it’s called let alone what it is. So I’m going where agents fear to tread.
I’ve worked with 1000’S of teens and young people within four different agencies in my 16 years as a model agent. I think I’ve almost seen it all. There’s the usual suspects when working with teens, and you don't need me to tell you.
There’s the lack of self-esteem/confidence/belief/fear of failure …the issues which really frighten us as parents/family etc. Equally challenging is overconfidence, arrogance and a sense of self-entitlement. Not to mention one of m personal biggest concerns: depression.
And eating disorders. I fell victim to anorexia and bulimia. I blame my first job as a bakery assistant where we were allowed to eat food too ‘damaged’ to sell. So if I wanted a meat pie, I’d grab the tongs and ‘accidentally’ squeeze down too hard on the food. I’d apologise and put it aside for devouring later.
Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I was about 88 kilos, looking like I was eating the company profits. Not to mention my plummeting self esteem. I moved on.
I was 16 when I landed myself a sweet new job as a customer service assistant.
There was a hot guy and I wanted a date. I wanted that weight gone. Now. A few months later, I’d plummeted to 40-something kilos, way too light for me considering my height (5’8”).
But I couldn’t stand the hunger. Eventually, my body won out over my mind, much to my distaste, and I developed bulimia instead. Frypan. Fire. I couldn’t tell you which was worse: pushing around two boiled eggs, a mug of cup-a-soup a day and not much more or eating followed by regular trips to the bathrooms followed by nightly binge eating. Torture.
Call it delusional but honestly, I had no idea how thin I looked. All I could see in the mirror was room for improvement. I’d pinch some skin at my hip and plot how I could get rid of just that little bit there, because then I'd be happy.
I’m sure this is familiar to you or someone you know. I got through it eventually, obviously. Though it took my body years to recover. Took my mind longer, and the suffering of that was way more torturous.
As is always the case in life when you make positive changes, good came out of winning my eating disorder battles: I went on to model fairly successfully, though I danced close to both disorders at times. And it had NOTHING to do with modelling, it was from my own head.
In 1997, I became pregnant and that was the end of the eating disorders, fortunately, for good.
In my time as a model agent, I’d encountered people who had what I came to coin a ‘discipline disorder’. It’s where people are extremely disciplined in what they eat. They have no interest in eating rubbish food and were almost as skinny as the models banned from Milan Fashion Week for being too thin. To me, this ‘discipline disorder’ was the most dangerous of all the disorders because the person eats healthily.
In 2013, I was one of three woman invited to share our stories of rising in the face of adversity in an article for The New Zealand Herald called ‘With Pain Comes Triumph’. A woman called Anna Coventry talked about her eating disorders, and how her bulimia developed into an extreme health anxiety and discipline with health.
After over 28 years in the fashion and modeling business, starting out as an ex-model myself, I discovered my ‘discipline disorder’ actually had a name: ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA
I’ve put together a few different sites that offer different perspectives on Orthorexia Nervosa, and how it isn’t actually classified as a disorder. Here's a video of my top tips on WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR (in my humble opinion):
I want everyone to know about this crippling dis-ease. Because if someone you care for seems to eat healthy food and is rake-thin, if the legs of their skinny jeans could fit your arms, then do the right thing, as much as they’ll probably hate you, and at least point them in the direction of these websites below.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY?
KNOW WHAT ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA IS. Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? Symptoms of orthorexia may look very similar to anorexia, but there are some significant differences. For one, orthorexics don’t restrict their calorie consumption to lose weight. Calories are restricted simply because orthorexics only eat foods that are “good enough.”
HAS ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA EVER KILLED ANYONE? Yes.
WHAT ABOUT TREATMENT?
RECOVERY STARTS WITH UNDERSTANDING. ROMY GRBIC of REDOX BODY is my trusted clinical nutritionist I call upon for nutrition information. She’s the nutrition columnist for bONLINE and runs her own BLOG. She has a section called HEALTHY TEENS which talks about how interlinked depression is with nutrition.
And she knew about Orthorexia Nervosa.
NOTE: This story is written and shared from my heart, personal and professional experience. I always recommend going to EXPERTS IN THEIR FIELD so the best thing you can do is take the person concerned to the doctor, and/or get in touch with the much-trusted EATING DISORDERS ASSOCIATION.
Thanks for joining me! If you pick up any info at that could be useful to someone else, share it.
Until next time,