Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation

by Kylie Jensen
Dietetics Student Senior WMU ED Survivor

Earlier today, a classmate of mine (and good friend) had posted an article on Facebook about the dangers of social media promoted orthorexia. While the article, “When being Healthy is Unhealthy,” by Nicole Schmidt from The Walrus (found here: https://thewalrus.ca/when-being-healthy-is-unhealthy/#.WUK3-XGk5Mg.twitter) had many good points, it boiled down the whole healthy body promotion of Instagram to the phrase, “Strong is the New Skinny.” As the article described, this phrase and mentality “strong is the new skinny” allows orthorexia to flourish and be praised in plain sight without friends, families, and followers noticing the development of this disease. After I finished reading this article, I read the comments.
      Another classmate (and also a good friend) had agreed that, yes, the article raised some important points, but the methods many use to become healthier and their documentation on social media should not be punished as dangerous. Most importantly, she had discussed that it is possible to live a healthier lifestyle without pushing it to extreme measures.
      Now, this article did contain some good food for thought and opportunity for discussion, but it really reminded me of a time when I had been prone to using the phrase “strong is the new skinny.”
      In the summer of my junior year of high school, my parents told me they would drive me to any college I wanted for a tour. I was overly excited to begin my college career as a dietetics student so I eagerly made my list and packed my bags for a college tour road trip. Our first stop was Northern Michigan University, a beautiful school at the top of my list.
      During this time, Northern was still in the process of developing a dietetics program, so I did not necessarily see what I had wanted, I kind of plugged my ears and plastered a fake smile as I toured the campus. After a few hours of touring the various facilities and landscapes, my parents and I met with a professor who was head of the developing program that would cover dietetics. Again, this professor, although very nice was not what I was looking for. Being a stubborn high school student, I continued to sit completely absent-minded while my parents conversed with the professor. About half way through our time with her, she had said something that would change my life forever:
     
      “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
        
      At this point in my life, I had “begun” recovery from anorexia and bulimia and I still had a long ways to go. Looking back at it, my anorexia had mated with orthorexia at the beginning of this period of my life and end. I had used the “strong is the new skinny” approach to hide my troubles with my body image and promote my new “healthy lifestyle” while receiving praise from loved ones for doing so before and after my climax with anorexia.
      So at this point in my life, I had just passed my climax with Ana, and was convincing myself and those around me that I was recovering through excess amounts of working out and still strict dieting to be strong instead of skinny. Immediately after this professor, God bless her, had spoke those words, I became present again.
      Through years to come, I became a dietetics student at Western Michigan University, and a fully recovered individual from anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Although the reasons for me wanting to become a dietitian had greatly changed with recovery, this phrase still prompts me to stop and think.
      We often say, “everything in moderation,” to justify our behaviors that others and ourselves disagree with. We may say it before eating something our current diet restricts or considers a “bad food.” We may even say it to others as a response to their comments on our “lifestyle change” that had prompted quick weight loss. We may say it and have said for a multitude of reasons, but phrases like this one and ‘strong is the new skinny” should not have to be used to justify our behavior.
      
      “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
          
      It may seem confusing, but moderation and this justifying of our actions should also be in moderation. What happens when someone with orthorexia hiding behind the “everything in moderation phrase” actually listens to herself? Does she actually enjoy the cupcake instead of half-heartedly convincing herself it is okay to eat this once because of moderation? Does he consider his “lifestyle” change could use some moderation in itself?
      If we begin moderating our moderation, maybe our relationship with others and ourselves and food could be whole-hearted. Maybe we could actually enjoy something without having to justify our actions to ourselves. Food for thought.