I Overcame Orthorexia And Fibromyalgia—And Finally Feel Whole

As told by Kim Capella

It was during middle school that I first felt self-conscious about being heavier than other kids. I stopped participating in sports and eating in front of people because I thought they’d judge me for being overweight. I spent much of my time being bored at home, making boxes of flavored rice or hash browns.

In high school, I decided to try to lose weight. I thought I just needed to eat less in order to shed the pounds, so I restricted myself to 800 calories a day. But that definitely wasn’t the answer. I’d lose 10 pounds, gain it back, then lose it again, gain it back. The cycle continued until I was 20 years old.

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Setting a Goal

One night while I was searching around on tumblr, I came across a blogger who talked about eating healthy foods instead of restricting calories. She made it seem so realistic, so I wrote down my goal weight and decided to take a healthier approach. I wanted to lose 65 pounds over the next year.

In the kitchen, I started off simple. I had no idea how to cook and felt lost in the produce aisle, so I swapped white rice for brown and tried a new type of fruit or vegetable every week. I swapped the bag of Goldfish snacks I ate for breakfast for a whole wheat English muffin with a slice of cheese and an egg on top.

Related: Check Out The Vitamin Shoppe’s Healthy Kitchen 

The gym totally scared me, so I asked a friend to try a Zumba class with me. For a while I went just once a week, but as I grew more and more comfortable I went more often. After a few months of classes, I ventured into the gym to use the cardio machines. I kept going to the gym a few times a week and the pounds started to drop.

After just nine months, I’d lost those 65 pounds and reached my goal weight of 120 pounds.

Unexpected Hurdles

As I grew more and more interested in food and healthy eating, I found myself taking it too far. I started obsessing over eating uber-healthy and looking at foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ My weight continued to drop and when I hit 105 pounds, I developed an eating disorder called ‘orthorexia.’ Defined by the National Eating Disorders Association as an unhealthy obsession with “food quality and purity,” orthorexia can lead to extremely restrictive dieting. It all made sense. I’d become so afraid of foods I thought were unhealthy, and would even skip outings with friends to avoid them.

It took about a year—and a lot of help from my friends and family—to really mend my relationship with food and put 15 pounds back on. When I finally felt more balanced mentally, I started noticing pain in my back, knees, and elbows, like my body was one giant bruise.

Another year and tons of doctor appointments later, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a neuromuscular disorder classified by chronic pain and sensitivity. By the time I was diagnosed, I’d stopped exercising and started working from home because I felt so awful all of the time.

Finding A Solution In Food

I took medication for a few months, but felt even worse. After noticing that dairy seemed to make me feel stiff and sharpen my pain, I decided to quit my meds and experiment with how my diet affected my symptoms.

After a few weeks without dairy, I felt noticeably better. I’d also stopped eating meat (in those months of terrible pain, I just stopped craving it). I realized I was only a few changes shy of being vegan and was curious whether going all-out would continue to help ease my symptoms. So I nixed eggs and the little fish I’d been eating.

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Three months in, I knew 100 percent it was for me. I felt strong enough to exercise again (though running was still too harsh on my body). I fell in love with cycling and could eventually ride more than 40 miles without pain. I even felt confident enough to return to work.

The Reward

My entire rollercoaster of an experience completely shaped me into the optimistic and confident person I am now. When my self-consciousness almost kept me out of the gym, orthorexia tested my relationship with food, and fibromyalgia forced me to stop working out, I had to really work to shift my mindset and practice positive thinking. Now, positivity is my first reaction.

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I know now that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to—because I’ve already done it! Right now, I’m training to do a 100-mile bike ride called a ‘century,’ and the challenge doesn’t intimidate me.

Advice For Others

You always need an end goal, whether it’s losing 50 pounds or completing a race. But once you’ve picked that end goal, just focus on the day-to-day steps that will move you toward it.

When you think about the workout you’ll do tonight or the healthy dinner you’ll make instead of everything that stands between you and your goal, you’ll feel less overwhelmed by the task ahead. Those little baby steps add up; you’ll get there!

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Kim’s Go-To Products At The Vitamin Shoppe

I’ve found that turmeric has helped ease my post-exercise pain. I love plnt’s Turmeric Capsules and take one every morning.

As a vegan, it’s hard to find protein bars that fit my dietary restrictions and still taste good. I love D’s Naturals No Cow Bars in Blueberry Cobbler and Chocolate Fudge Brownie, because they’re nice and chewy. I also love the S’mores and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Orgain Plant Based Protein Bars.

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