A few weeks ago I had a life-changing experience. After years of keeping up with social media, following all the foodie fads and latest innovations, I got tired of seeing beautiful acai bowls all over Instagram and not understanding what all the hype was about. So I finally did it. I had my first ever acai bowl.
Let’s back track a little, shall we? I’ve only posted a handful of times on this blog now, so most of you know absolutely nothing about me. (If you are a reader of my other blog then you probably know way too much about me. Sorry, lol.) Allow me to introduce myself: Hi, my name is Kiersten and I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, not to mention a few other mental health issues, for 15+ years now. I developed anorexia in my early teenage years, which I, thankfully, received help for and am now recovering from. The reason I say “recovering” and not “recovered” is because I have had a few relapses over the years. Most of my relapses have been fueled by one thing: my desire to be healthy. It always starts off innocently and with good intentions. I decide that I’m not feeling great and want to eat more fruits/veggies. Or I’m feeling kinda “blah” and know that exercising more will help. Fast forward a month or two and I am fully absorbed in “health” and am starting to obsess about what I’m eating a little too much. This is what psychologists refer to as orthorexia. (Click the link to learn more about it.)
It sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? How can a fixation on being healthy actually be something that’s unhealthy for you? Like all things, there is a limit. It’s absolutely fine to eat healthy foods, but when your rules surrounding what is and isn’t healthy become so narrow that you’re eliminating most foods from your diet, it becomes a problem. Not to mention, labeling foods in black and white terms such as “good” and “bad” can also be severely problematic, as it can create feelings of guilt or negative self-worth when you allow yourself to indulge in the “bad” foods. There are a million things wrong with diet culture and the way food and body image are presented in society, but I won’t go into all of that right now.
Even when I am doing well in my recovery, there have been plenty of times I’ve slipped up and caught myself avoiding certain foods because they were “unhealthy,” even when I really wanted them. It’s not always a conscious decision, but something that is so deep-rooted in our society and considered normal, that I don’t always realize it’s happening. Lately, as I have found myself slipping back into my old orthorexic patterns of behavior, I am forcing myself to reevaluate some of my beliefs about food.
For years Instagrammers have been posting beautifully vibrant pictures of acai bowls topped with fresh fruits, granolas, nut butters, and other various toppings. For years I’ve thought “Hey, that sounds delicious!” Because of course it does. Fresh fruit, nut butters, and granola are some of my very favorite things. But, then that little nagging voice in my head (whom I like to refer to as ED) creeps in and says “You can’t eat that. There is way too much sugar in that,” quoting a handful of articles written by so-called health experts that we’ve read in the past. It’s a stupid thought. I eat fruit regularly and allow myself to periodically indulge in other sweet treats, like cookies and cakes. Realistically, there is no reason that eating a bunch of fruit blended up is going to be worse for me than any other form of sugar that I’m already eating. Plus, acai bowls have lots of essential vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats. So take that, ED.