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  • Jason Wood

Stronger - What Doesn't Kill You

Kelly Clarkson’s voice isn’t the only thing that makes her so powerful. Her songs have meaning and depth to them. Nothing spoke to me more than 2011 hit Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You). I mean, these lyrics, come on!

You think you got the best of me

Think you had the last laugh

Bet you think that everything good is gone

Think you left me broken down

Think that I'd come running back

Baby, you don't know me, 'cause you're dead wrong

That sums up my relationship with orthorexia to a tee. I’ve recently read numerous publications about my eating disorder. Renee McGregor, author of Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Goes Bad, points to several personality traits found in orthorexics. After reading these traits, I quickly realized I was a ticking time bomb. Who I am, left me vulnerable for orthorexia to waltz in and take over my life. However, the tide has turned. And guess what? The same traits that left me vulnerable are now helping win the battle!


I place high expectations on myself to perform to the best of my abilities, dating back to school. I needed to be the best student, the one who everyone praised. I graduated from college summa cum laude, but that still didn’t feel like enough. I always pushed myself to do better. In the workplace, I strive for the praise of my superiors and coworkers. I need to be the star employee who excels at everything. This trait indeed invited orthorexia to the party, but now it’s helping to kick it to the curb.

While working with my support team, I strive to exceed their expectations of my recovery. This requires dedication and hard work. I don’t want to let them, my husband, or myself down. I am using my overachiever tendencies to my benefit by following and trusting the goals set in place for me and reaching for the stars. But I now know it’s okay to fall short. And I’m learning to live with that!


When I set my mind to something, it is going to happen come hell or high water. I am determined and resilient. Should something get in my way, I don’t give up. I keep pushing through until I am pleased with the results. This harmed me during the lowest times of orthorexia. Regardless of how my body felt or how sick I was becoming, I fought to achieve the disease’s unrealistic goals.

Now, I am using my drive and determination to overcome orthorexia. I read as much as I can about the disease. I’ve committed myself to the goal of living a life free of orthorexia and becoming an intuitive eater. I still face orthorexic thoughts and have my moments of weakness, but my grit and determination carry me through. Further, I am determined to use my story to help others, so I launched this movement.


I love the thrill of competition, whether I’m cheering for my Hawkeyes or playing tennis against my husband. When we first started dating, we would go bowling or mini-golfing, and I would get heated in the battle. We quickly realized we needed less competitive activities, lol! I thirst for the taste of victory. Perhaps that’s why I was always trying to beat the number on the scale.

Today, my only foe is that anxious orthorexic voice in my head. Dr. Reid Wilson mentions in his book Stopping the Noise in Your Head that we should view those thoughts like a competitor in the ring or on the field. Each time I overcome the voice by taking a bite of a “bad food” or tell it to shut up, I win a point. I’m playing a game with orthorexia now, and I look to go undefeated.


Funny story! In high school, an older gym teacher once referred to me as “a sensitive boy” when I had a meltdown over the local bakery messing up my cake order for the National Honor Society banquet. My friends and I still laugh at her raspy southern voice saying those words. But there is no denying she was right. I am sensitive, which is hard for a man this day in age. I’ve always been aware of what others think of me and can take it very personally. However, I bottled up the sensitive emotions for years and masqueraded around acting the way I thought men behaved. This inner turmoil allowed my eating disorder to thrive.

Now, I’m proud to be a “sensitive boy” because it enables me to hold compassion for myself and my friends. I am developing and strengthening my empathy skills, making me a better husband, friend, and neighbor.

Obsessive Planning

Ask any of my friends, and they’ll say I’ve got a spreadsheet for that! It’s true, take my wedding for example. I developed a 23-tab spreadsheet and even scheduled each movement of the day down to the minute. I was a groomzilla for sure! When I was a kid, I would spend hours mapping out an itinerary for our family trips to the Wisconsin Dells. I could provide countless other examples of my obsession with planning. Heck, I am an event planner for my job! Orthorexia loved this about me because all of my meals would be planned days in advance to ensure compliance with its strict rules. I fixated on restaurant and menu planning. Don’t even get me started on fitness tracking apps!

I still love planning, but I’m learning to use those skills more productively and healthily. Planning allows me to prepare for obstacles and challenges along my road to recovery. I am better prepared for triggers or hurdles that might appear. I can focus more on other tasks like organizing the grocery shopping list by aisle or putting together a fun party at work.


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Sounding the siren on men's mental health.

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