ORTHOREXIA – THE NEW HOLLYWOOD DIET OBSESSION

This may be the most controversial topic in Hollywood. Like…more controversial than plastic surgery or sex tapes.

Diet.

And in this post, I am not talking short term “get skinny quick” type things, although there are TONS of those too and I will talk about some of them and my experiences at other times.

What I’m talking about are LABELS. For example: Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Keto(genic), Pescatarian, Raw, etc.

People swear by their label, they ingratiate it into their personality. It becomes one of their traits and they cling to each trait like it’s a life line in the original Who Wants To Be a Millionaire (not the remakes, only Regis can do that shit justice).

I have been there. I have been obsessed with my label. I loved talking about it, and I truly loved that it made me different. Let me discuss that a bit more.

I was a vegetarian for a lot of reasons. I had read a ton of books and articles when I was younger, and I dabbled in it when I was even a preteen. I think everyone goes through that “Mom, I decided to be a vegetarian now so I can’t eat that but I’ll take some macaroni and cheese” stage.

As I got older I solidified that more and more. I went to a summer camp full of hippie veggies, literally so many of them that there was a separate bell that rang at meals for the “Veggie” food. Honestly, I really committed to it during those summers because they got better food. It was cooked in non-mass amounts and usually not fried. So my concept started in a healthy place.

As I started in college I clung to this idea as it became a way people described me, “Oh that girl who had lunch with us yesterday, the brunette? The vegetarian?” That was a crazy time in my life (and most people’s) when you try so hard to figure out who you are and what you want to be. And any and all suggestions are welcomed. So my food preferences easily added to  my self-worth.

Except that I was not taking care of my body. College food in the midwest is crappy already and add in the complications of very little protein, good fats, or B vitamins and you have a recipe for a vodka soaked health-crazed and yet still malnourished girl. I would get wasted and consume tons of food and not know it. There was a particular incident on a Spring Break trip to Panama City, FL in which I was found alone eating a McDonald’s Chicken Sandwich and then realized I was busted and threw it across the room.

I have zero memory of this. I blame the lack of vitamins…not the tequila.

When I moved to LA I continued with my vegetarianism. I also started doing Crossfit 4-5x a week. And I was so hungry all the time. Morning noon and night…even middle of the night. I would wake up at 3am and go make a bowl of oatmeal with a huge scoop of peanut butter so I could go back to sleep.

As if that wasn’t enough of an indicator light flashing for me, I decided to try Veganism. I was newly friends with some LA vegans and they touted their diet like it was the Soho House. Hell yea, I am all about that. Yup. No dairy for me! But a jar of almond butter in 2 days? Yea thats ok!

I even juiced cleansed. 7 days of veggie/fruit juices I made in my kitchen. While Crossfitting. WTF was I thinking. I did it a second time a year or so later too.

I can’t tell you what broke my vegan streak. Or my vegetarian streak. But something did. I went to Whole Foods one day and bought pre-grilled chicken (I had NO idea how to cook meat) and ate it post-workout. And I felt like I had given up a part of my soul. But when I figured out how to push past my inner monologue, I felt fantastic. I felt full and satiated for the first time in years! So what did I do next?

Naturally I looked for my next label because I didn’t know how to function without one. And landed hard on Paleo.

I was immersed in the Crossfit community and this way of eating (foods from the Paleolithic era: a little fruit and nuts, veggies, fat, and MEAT) was easy to fall into. Except for the idea of “cheat days” was also heavily prevalent. I remember I booked a commercial (non paying) right after my 23rd birthday that flew me to Paris to pretend to be a tourist for 10 days. After having followed a strict Paleo-protocol for the weeks leading up to it, I wanted to take in all the joys of France! Duh! The bread, the macaroons, the cheese, the wine, the croissants, everything! My body however, was not up to it. After cutting these items SO hard out of my diet, they reacted very badly. In all honesty here, I didn’t poop for almost the entire trip. And I felt awful and uncomfortable and bloated AF. And what is the very last thing you want to do when you feel disgusting in your own body?

Put it on camera.

I remember being so grumpy by the end, I was so mad at myself. But production asked me to do some shots trying on clothes at a boutique (including some particularly awful TIGHT white pants) and I wanted to die. But when I got home, I unthinkingly jumped back on my label, clinging to the threads of it, because I wanted to lose the “weight I gained in France”….pretty sure that poundage was minimal at best and gone within a week anyway.

When did I decide enough was enough and I was done with this? I think somewhere around the time I went to a friends house for dinner and the second I got there she rushed to the door and said. “Shit, I didn’t even ask you, what aren’t you eating right now??” My habits of changing my labels, and “cheat days”, and obsession had become a part of my personality instead of my intended current “healthy” intention. I was so embarrassed and couldn’t even put it into words.

So yes, here in LA you have lots of different people on lots of different lifestyle eating habits. I have done almost all of them. I have spent wayyyy too much money on supplements that didn’t do anything for me (except a mild placebo effect and a loss of money to Whole Foods). I have obsessively read book after book and article after article (and still do actually) on diets and eating plans and macros (oh, I didn’t even touch on the time I did the Zone Diet or the time I went on 1,000 calories a day for 3 weeks…a post for another time!). And what has it led me to now? How do I keep up and maintain and not lose my mind?

Well…sometimes I still lose my mind. But, mostly I just eat food that makes me feel good. Sometimes it’s a huge salad. Sometimes it’s a pizza (I try very hard not to eat the whole thing). Do I still feel like that was “bad food” afterwards sometimes? Yes. And that’s my battle. But I don’t leave that thought in my mind nearly as long as I use to. I don’t restrict any specific food (gluten, dairy, alcohol, soy, etc) but if I don’t think it’s great for me, I don’t usually eat it while I’m filming or on the regular. That’s pretty much it.

PS: I believe what I had/have is called Orthorexia. It’s classified as an eating disorder that is an obsession with healthy eating. I don’t like labels OBVIOUSLY, but this is a good thing to look into if this sounds like you or someone you know. Google away, there are several good books and references. Just remember, everyone is fighting their own battles.

CREDITS

  • Kmac

    This is great! What an article and you were able to dive into the minds of all of us when we become obsessed with food and labels and diets. God knows I did it for years. Fantastic writing, Sam!

    • Sam Valentine

      Thank you so much! That means a lot to me, I think we should all talk about these things more. Everyone feels isolated in their own head until they open up 🙂