**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Jason Wood is currently in recovery from orthorexia. He is now determined to turn this battle into a movement aimed at raising awareness of orthorexia as well as eating disorders in males. You may read more about his journey and movement at orthorexiabites.com.
Trees amaze me with their relentless nature. They bend to the mercy of the wind. They shield from the heat of the sun. We watch them strip in the fall and awaken in the spring. Such a resilient force, rooted into the earth with unwavering confidence. Do you ever stop to think how stout they are?
Imagine what they’ve witnessed and experienced. Scientists have found olive trees in the Middle East that exceed 5,000 years in age. Talk about a lifetime full of memories! In California, redwoods are known to be almost indestructible, thanks to their thick bark. Some trees are even known to regenerate after wildfires. Here in Colorado, I love seeing the evergreens that stick true to their name. Always green, come snow and ice or heat and sun. These trees seem to know their identity and wear it proudly.
Why can’t humans be so courageous, so resilient, and so stout? Well, my friends, I believe we are! Just look at our bodies. They are our only true home. No mortgage or rent payment required. All they need is love and nutrition. And talk about sturdy–the human body amazes me just like the forest full of trees.
When is the last time you broke a bone or injured yourself? My friend demolished my pinky finger several years ago during a game of catch. As the nurse later told me, I am no Jerry Rice, but that’s okay because my body rose to the challenge. Sure, my finger turned several crazy colors, hurt for a couple of weeks, and I had to wear a gaudy brace, but it recovered. My body rebounded like it had a game plan or instruction manual.
The symptoms we experience when sick are the result of our immune system fighting back. How cool is that? It’s like our own private military. But what about those times when illness doesn’t sound like a stuffy nose or scratch like a sore throat? What about those times when the disease is deeper than that and takes control of thoughts and behaviors?
I was sick for many years and didn’t even realize it. I abused my one true home, my tree, my body. I hated the way it looked and behaved. My eating disorder put glasses on me that only allowed me to see the imperfections. Social media and fad diets made me think that if I only put the “cleanest” foods in my body, then these imperfections would vanish. Perhaps I could live longer and look better.
As a result of this magic trick gone bad, I actually did more harm than good. My body ached for food. I watched the leaves fall off, leaving me ill-prepared for the long winter ahead. My body’s military went AWOL. Orthorexia turned me into a lumberjack destined to chop down the only thing I fully own.
But now, spring has sprung. My body is rejuvenating and my amazement knows no words. I abused my vessel. I starved it, I snarked it, I scolded it. My body withstood the hurricane-force winds orthorexia sent its way. And now, somehow, it’s forgiven me. What a gift!
Like trees in the forest, my body faced the fire and wind. It faced its own man-made climate change, but now it thrives. My home, my body, grows stronger by the day. I feel new parts of me every day, leaves that weren’t there several months ago. These leaves used to scare me but now I know these are just a sign of mutual love and understanding. They are my warmth, my protection, and my character. I wear this body with pride, like an apple blossom in spring. I’ve learned to love my body, perhaps because I almost lost it. The best part is that my body always loved me.
Friends, we are our own trees. We are solid and sturdy. We have the opportunity to grow strong roots as long as we listen to our body and ignore the cicada-like chirps of an eating disorder. Love your body for what it is meant to be, not what you want or think it should be. Be that evergreen or redwood that stays true to its word and endures the test of seasons.
The next time you see a tree, take a moment to admire its journey and then look at yourself and remember your own story. We only get one body, so cherish it, take care of it, and let it grow into a beautiful home.