How OCD Affects My Diet

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It’s noon on a Thursday. I am in the drive-thru line at Zaxby’s. Just like yesterday and the day before… and the day before. I’m too nervous to eat in the restaurant. I’m too nervous to eat in my car. I get the food, drive home, turn on my favorite TV show and set out my lunch. This is how I have to eat lunch. It’s my routine. Without it, I won’t eat.

 Last month, it was Lunchables. Nachos Lunchables. It’s the only one I like. For lunch, I had to eat nachos Lunchables and watch Bob’s Burgers. After a few weeks, my stomach started to hurt. I knew that it wasn’t healthy, so I bargained with myself. You have to eat. You have to eat. I’ll take you anywhere you want. So I started going to Zaxby’s, and I haven’t stopped.

Why My OCD Symptoms Resurfaced

 It wasn’t always like this. It won’t always be like this. OCD affects my diet in waves. I lost my part-time job, which led to a spiraling depression. In between the self-loathing and fatigue of my depression, my OCD symptoms resurfaced. Instead of simply washing my hands a little more often, I’m back to scrutinizing my food with a watchful eye. Brown spot on a french fry? Trash it. Even my boyfriend breathing too close to my food can cause me to put my arms up around my plate like a protective barrier. In a meeting, there was a red-haired boy eating a sub. His lips were smacking on the soggy bread and cheese. I tried to distract myself from the noise and the image of the green lettuce stuck in his yellow teeth, but the sound and the smells all became too overwhelming. I began to dry heave.

OCD and Eating Disorders: How My OCD Affects My Weight

 It’s humiliating. The habits that stem from my obsessive-compulsive disorder. They’re illogical, and they’re hurting me. I’m losing weight, and my doctors are frowning at me as I step on the scale. 

“Are you trying to lose weight?” A woman asks me with mousy brown hair. I hate her. I want to scream. I know she only cares, but I have been asked by doctors if I’m trying to lose weight ever since I was 15. The answer has always been no.

 “Do you ever restrict your eating?” she asks. I don’t know what to say to her. I have odd eating habits, yes, but not because I think I’m overweight. It's because I’m scared of getting sick. Because I need to check and recheck if food is safe to eat. Dented bread and darker meat don’t feel safe. Leftovers are off limits after one day. Casseroles are an easy no. Too many ingredients to sort through and check. It’s much easier to sort through the layers of a hamburger. I have all these rules that resurface when I’m upset. I want to explain, but I don’t know how to put it into words. It sounds so silly. So stupid. But I had a friend in high school with an eating disorder. I know what the habits look like. I know, and it scares me.

Are OCD and Eating Disorders Related?

I was diagnosed with OCD at 15. Other diagnoses have come since then, but none of those having been an eating disorder. My symptoms overlap with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’ve been diagnosed with so many things that I’ve come to believe that I’m simply “on the spectrum.” I view mental illness as I do sexuality. There isn’t clear-cut answers or labels. It doesn’t matter what I’m diagnosed with as long as I’m treating the symptoms.

To be honest, though, I don’t want another diagnosis. I don’t want another thing to add to my list of problems, but I know that OCD and eating disorders occur together often. If I need help, I have to ask for it. The International OCD Foundation discussed how OCD and eating disorders are part of a spectrum, reporting that "64% of individuals with eating disorders also possess at least one anxiety disorder, and 41% of these individuals have OCD in particular." I’ve already been diagnosed with OCD and generalized anxiety disorder, so I know it may be a problem. A problem that will only grow bigger if I let it spiral out of control. It doesn't matter what I'm diagnosed with. It matters that I'm struggling and worried about my health.

The next time I’m on the scale and the doctor is shaking her head, I’ll probably still be angry and embarrassed, but I’ll tell the truth.

“Yes, I’m worried about my eating habits, but I don't want to lose weight. Can you help me?”

Written by: August Blair.