You’ll Never Believe How This Woman’s Healthy Eating Habits Turned Into an Eating Disorder

Is it possible to take healthy eating too far? To the point where what you eat can take over your life and create an eating disorder?

Unfortunately the answer is yes. Sometimes the best of intentions can turn dangerous when the dieter becomes so obsessed with “eating clean” it results in unhealthy food control. “I’ve seen many clients who get so afraid of foods they see as ‘processed’ and ‘unclean’ that they end up eating hardly anything,” registered dietitian Christy Harrison told Self.

Blogger Hannah Matthews shared her struggle with Self, which sent her spiraling out of control and into the depths and dangers of an eating disorder. This is what happened.

1. The eating plan starts with ‘clean eating’

Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable

It’s pretty simple. | iStock.com/Elenathewise

 Initially, Matthews embarked upon a pretty solid plan of cutting sugar and alcohol. She wanted to try “clean eating,” which is a concept where you eat “whole” or “real” foods, according to Fitness. Your diet should consist of foods that are minimally processed or refined, essentially derived from nature.

Next: Once you start removing certain foods, others go too.

2. Entire food groups are eliminated 

junk food consisting of fries, onion ring,s chips, soda, and a burger

Looking at you, pizza. | iStock/Getty Images

While avoiding sugar and alcohol is not a bad thing, eliminating an entire food group can lead to nutritional deficiencies. One dietician reports about what she saw when a client removed entire food groups: ‘I saw one woman who’d cut out dairy and grains, and cooked everything in coconut oil,” she told Daily Mail. “She felt awful, losing weight she didn’t need to and suffering serious gastrointestinal issues.”

“By restricting my diet in an attempt to make it ‘pure,’ all I ended up doing was imposing nutritional deficits on my body (a body which, by the way, is already full of organs meant to filter what I eat, and which is perfectly capable of digesting pretty much any kind of food I could throw at it),” Matthews wrote.

Next: And suddenly you aren’t sure what is o.k. to eat.

3. And some foods provoked fear

Female worried about eating

She got a bit obsessive. | jayfish/Getty Images

As you eliminate foods and try to gain control over your “clean eating” program, you may develop food phobias. “Any unexpected divergence—a glass of champagne or bite of cake at a party, a failure to double-check the ingredients listed on the wrapper of a protein bar—would send me spiraling into a total panic, followed by a compulsive workout-and-cleanse routine to rid my body of the intruders,” Matthews wrote.

Next: Eventually the food ran her life.

4. A rigid lifestyle set in

Person Reading Nutrition Label on Packaged Food

There’s such a thing as being too aware of what you eat. | Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Food consumed Matthews as her diet became the most important thing in her life. This condition is orthorexia. Some symptoms of orthorexia include over-checking food labels, refusing to eat food not deemed as “pure,” and being obsessed with following a healthy lifestyle, according to National Eating Disorders Association.

Next: Matthew’s body started breaking down. 

5. Family and friends praised Matthews but she was getting sick

Side view of sick woman having coffee

Her health started to decline. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

“By restricting my diet in an attempt to make it ‘pure,’ all I ended up doing was imposing nutritional deficits on my body,” she wrote in Self.

“Eventually, deprived of adequate nutrition and rest over the course of a year, my body and brain suffered,” Matthews added. “I experienced heart irregularities, dizziness and exhaustion, an inability to focus, and the loss of my period, all symptoms of anorexia, according to the Mayo Clinic.”

Next: Isolation is another symptom of an eating disorder.

6. Matthews isolated herself

Woman sitting alone and worried in her rorom

And finally, isolation set in. | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

 As Matthews sunk further into orthorexia, connectivity to the rest of the world faded. She skipped birthdays and celebrations, worried people might expect her to eat or drink something not considered to be healthy.

“My family walked on eggshells around me, buying my separate, ‘special’ groceries from the health food store when I was home and watching me agonize over our holiday meals,” she wrote in Self. “I lived in the prison that orthorexia had built around me, isolated in a life devoid of joy and connection with others.”

Next: But her best friend didn’t give up on her.

7.  She finally sought help

Female Doctor Meeting With Patient In Exam Room

Doctors were able to support her. | monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

 Matthews’ best friend reached out and made her an appointment at a local treatment center. While in treatment, Matthew learned her orthorexia became anorexia nervosa. Upon meeting with counselors Matthews found, “If I didn’t learn how to find balance, my restrictive diet could end up killing me.”

Know the signs of an eating disorder. This includes anxiety, guilt and creating an environment that interferes with activities or relationships. Distance yourself with social media personalities or friends who strictly practice the orthorexic lifestyle and seek treatment if you spot the warning signs.

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