What started out as an attempt to cut out unhealthy food and way to relieve stress turned into an obsession that almost killed Christina Rice.
The Addicted To Lovely blogger, 23, became obsessed with clean eating after experiencing digestive issues in college. She believed that cutting sugar, carbs and fat could help her get healthy, so she changed her diet to only eating food that is minimally processed.
“I had read ‘this food is going to do X, Y and Z to your body,’ and I got it in my head that that food was evil, and so I was afraid of it,” Rice told Delish.
Around the same time, the former UCLA student started exercising 75 minutes per day at least six days per week as a way to manage stress.
Before long, the combination turned into an obsession that made Rice drop 40 lbs. in under three months. Rice eventually realized was experiencing exercise addiction and orthorexia, a fixation with healthy eating that actually has an adverse effect. However, she and those in her life didn’t see how diet and exercise could be a problem.
RELATED VIDEO: Woman Creates Cookbook for Others Suffering with Eating Disorders to Help Them Become Comfortable with Food Again
In addition to changing her body, her compulsion was affecting her entire life.
“I wouldn’t hang out with friends, because they wanted to hang out during a time when I wanted to work out, or they wanted to eat at a place that didn’t fit my dietary needs,” she said. “I felt like such a nuisance when I’d go to visit [my parents at] home. I was so stressed out: What time were we going to eat? What were we going to eat? What time could I work out? Everything was just revolving around that.”
It wasn’t until Rice dropped to a mere 73 lbs. with just 6.8 percent body fat that someone finally stepped in and made her realize how dangerous the situation had become.
“‘You could have a heart attack and die at any second,'” Rice recalled a nutritionist telling her. “When she said that to me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. No one had ever been that direct with me before.”
With the help of nutritionist and a psychologist, Rice began making changes immediately. Despite her initial resistance, she stopped exercising and changed her attitude towards food.
“What they taught me to do was do what I was afraid of. I had to stop working out. I had to eat foods I was afraid to eat,” she explained. “I had to prove to myself that nothing horrible was going to happen when I did those things.”
Taking small steps to expand her diet, Rice discovered gluten was behind her digestive issues and kept a journal documenting how she felt about facing food.
She now follows a whole foods-based Paleo diet, calling the paper on which her nutritionist laid out meal plans her “prescription.”
“I’ve come to a place where every single food somebody says, nowadays, that there’s something bad about it. And there’s somebody else who’s saying there’s something great about it,” she said. “You just have to tune into yourself and eat what works for you.”