My husband and I started dating about a year after I lost 150 pounds. Like many women who set out to lose the excess weight for good, I was fully committed to my new, healthier lifestyle, so when I met my future husband, I was eating super-clean 90 percent of the time and worked out every morning.
These days, what I was doing is called orthorexia; "obsessed" is the best word I can think of to describe my relationship with eating back then, with "proper nutrition" ruling my world every single day.
Knowing exact macronutrients of my meals, how certain carbohydrates affected my blood sugar, how clean and pure my food was, judging others for their poor food choices, and offering unsolicited nutritional advice were the highlights of my day.
When I met Adrean (my now-husband), he joked that his doctor called him "a beast" instead of "obese." Truthfully, he was just an average-sized guy.
As all couples do, Adrean and I regularly ate meals together. When I cooked, I enthusiastically told him all about the food I was preparing and how healthy it was. Most of the time, he showed no indication that he was interested in the nutritional value of what we were eating. When we dined in restaurants, I openly shamed Adrean for poor food choices, which only upset him.
The look of disgust that crossed my face as he ate his sugary artery-clogging meal spoke for itself. He wasn’t allowed to enjoy his meal or the time we spent together because I disapproved.
To make matters worse, we also shopped for groceries together each week and, you guessed it, I scrutinized every item he put into the cart. We'd stand in the aisles, bickering about how many grams of sugar were in everything he picked up off the shelves. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before Adrean stopped buying his favorite fruit jams, ice cream, pasta, wine, and frozen pizzas.
Just a few months into our relationship, Adrean lost about 30 pounds. I assumed it was because of my good influence and not the fact that he had stopped eating junk food to win my love and approval, things he thought were inextricably linked.
When we finally moved in together, it became very apparent that he had a real problem with how much time I spent talking to him about food. He told me on several occasions that it bothered him and made him feel guilty for his food choices. We fought about it frequently.
I took his concerns into consideration and started making a point to limit how much I chose to speak about the importance of healthy food while I was in his presence. I continued controlling his food by cooking us the healthiest meals possible and even prepared salads for Adrean to take for lunch. So, why did I often find junk food wrappers in his car and our garbage bins? Little did I know that Adrean had started eating in secret.
He was cheating on me with food. But the truth is, I was doing the same thing.
While he made excuses to run errands without me so he could stop by Dairy Queen to fulfill an ice cream craving, I silently judged him for eating junk food behind my back, but I was secretly binge-eating also.
But we were eating so clean! Eating a healthy, low-sugar, well-balanced diet is supposed to be the key to living a life free of food cravings and weight gain. How could Adrean and I both be secretly binge-eating? Why were we both hiding junk food while talking about what rock stars we were for eating local, organic, grass-fed, non-GMO foods?
Eventually, Adrean confided in me that he felt like a sugar addict. He was scared; he’d never felt so controlled by sugar before. I often felt the same way about my experience with sugar and confirmed his concern by agreeing that yes, we must be sugar addicts. That had to be the reason for the binges we both had.
But here’s the truth: As I slowly stopped judging his food choices (and mine) and gave us both permission to stop obsessing about clean eating, gave up some control over how our eating "should be," and openly ate junk food in front of other people, his sugar addiction magically faded away ... and so did mine.
Going on a diet or detox may seem like it’s an innocent thing we do to improve our health and lose some unwanted weight. But often it deeply affects our friends, children, and partners when we make it the focal point of our lives, taking it way too far.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and make better, smarter food choices, and to care about the health of our loved ones. But when that desire turns into an obsession, it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate whether you're actually doing more harm than good.
Here are a few indicators that your passion for healthy eating may be taking a dangerous turn:
- More than 50 percent of your social media updates are food-related.
- You judge other people’s food choices (secretly or openly).
- You spend hours analyzing what you've eaten and are going to eat.
- You refuse to dine at a friend’s home because their food doesn't line up with your nutritional values.
- You routinely get eye rolls from waiters because you ask too many questions about a restaurant menu.
- You regularly get into debates with others over food and nutrition.
- You eat junk food in secret and feel ashamed.
Have you ever experienced this or is this a concern for you? How has your passion for healthy eating negatively affected your relationships with others?
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