What do they share in common? Jordan’s abandoning veganism because of her anorexia. Katie’s “come out” as an excessive exerciser. And Amy’s shared that her lifelong struggle with disordered eating has once again reared its head.
I started living in a bubble of restriction. Entirely vegan, entirely plant-based, entirely gluten-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, flour-free, dressing/sauce-free, etc. and lived my life based off of when I could and could not eat and what I could and could not combine. There is nothing wrong with any of those things (many of them are great, actually!!) but my body didn’t feel GOOD & I wasn’t listening to it.
Does that sound crazy to you?
Similarly in her post titled “Coming Out”, Amy Kubal shares:
There were always rules around food – how much, what types, when I could eat – and exercise was mandatory. These behaviors and habits were my safeties, my coping mechanisms, the only things in my life that I could control – I didn’t know what to do without them.
In the follow-up questions to what I have called a brave and raw interview, Amy shares that, despite being professionally known as a “Paleo dietitian,” she has introduced foods that are typically avoided by Paleo eaters, such as oatmeal, as part of her healing process.
Katie, unlike Amy and Jordan, battled another challenge, which she relates in a post directly addressing rumors that she is anorexic:
Although I don’t have an eating disorder and have always eaten well, I’m finally able to fully admit (to you and to myself) that I did have an unhealthy and excessive relationship with exercise that took a toll on both my appearance and mental health. I can see now that, although genetics played a role, it was definitely unhealthy circumstances that kept me so skinny. While I’d thought I was happy during those years and was technically healthy—with normal labwork, few sick days, and a good relationship with food—the over-exercising was sabotaging my efforts to gain the curves I desired. I wouldn’t allow myself to even entertain the possibility my beloved running routine could be the cause of my inability to gain weight.
I share all of these with you as a backdrop to this post which hit the internet yesterday. It’s from Melissa and Dallas Hartwig of It Starts with Food and Whole 30 fame, and contains this line:
White potatoes are now allowed on the Whole30 program.
Now listen, I am not going to bash Melissa and Dallas. Their work has changed lives. And I have highlighted one friend’s journey with the Whole 30 program on this very blog. I have great respect for what they are trying to accomplish:
Think of it (Whole 30) as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.
That is all good.
And, I recognize that for a subset of people, having the kinds of rules and restrictions that Dallas and Melissa outline is absolutely necessary. Some people need the type of structure that the Whole 30 program offers.
However, for another subset of people, “rules,” “restrictions,” and food “permissions” allow disordered eating to emerge or re-emerge under the guise of “health” and well-being.” (See Jordan and Amy, above.)
Consider this, from yesterday’s Whole 30 post:
Eventually, we arrived at a consensus. Potatoes of all varieties are in, but fries and chips are not. (This should not be a surprise. Fries and chips are about as Whole30 as Paleo Pop-Tarts.) We’ve updated all of our Whole30 program rules on the site, and our official Can I Have…? guide with the new rules, and some guidelines about “fries” and “chips.”
I mean, I cut my kids’ sweet potatoes into circles tonight before I roasted them. Would that be “compliant?” (I don’t care as we are not a Whole 30 family … my point is this type of “rule-making” can lead one down a crazy-making path, I think.)
Food “legalese” scares me.
It scares me with Whole 30. It scares me with GAPS, when folks talk about foods being “GAPS legal” or not. It even scares me a little when people refer to their food as “clean,” as if consuming certain foods make one impure which kind of takes on religious overtones.
I don’t think Whole 30, Paleo, veganism, raw foodism, 100% carnivorism or any other restrictive diet will convert a person into an anorexic. But I do think that people who struggle with disordered eating very often seek out rules and restrictions as a way to exert “control” over their diet and so a lot of people who are tending towards dysfunction find a place to hide in these eating systems. They find support, a tribe and a justification.
I was a sorority girl in Texas in the early 1990s … I feel like I could have earned an advanced degree in disordered eating after what I witnessed in college. What I know, as a result, is that disordered eating is a complex, thorny, extremely serious issue. Accordingly, I take great, great care every single time I post on this blog or to social media. I would never want my messages to be used in support of dysfunctional eating or exercising.
I think dialogue around this issue is so, so crucial and that everyone in the fitness, nutrition, and wellness industries would be well-served by reading what Jordan, Amy, and Katie have to say.
What are your thoughts? Do food “rules” help you achieve your goals of eating the way you want to eat? Or, do they make you neurotic, nervous, or unduly restrictive?
(The irony in this post? As some of you may recall, I avoid eating white potatoes. As a member of the nightshade family, they cause me excruciating joint pain. N=1, folks. N=1.)