I had heard clean eating made you feel better – but for me it went wrong

My healthy eating plan led to anorexia and depression. Food bloggers should make it clear that everything is OK in moderation

I got into clean eating with a friend around my AS levels, when I was 16. My friends only followed the diet for about two weeks but when they all stopped I continued. I got addicted to it and I lost loads of weight.

We all started the diet because we were really stressed and tired and had heard eating better made you feel better, but for me it went wrong.

I cut out snacking, I had smaller portions, and everything was a health food. I prepared all my meals myself from scratch.

I cut out dairy and any drinks that weren’t water. I was eating fruit and vegetables and no carbohydrates and no snacking. I was eating no processed food – I would have a handful of dried fruit if I had a snack. An average dinner would be just meat or fish and a small side of vegetables.

I obsessively watched Lean in 15 – a YouTube channel on healthy eating by Joe Wicks. I used to watch a lot of his videos and also followed loads of “transformation” accounts where people ate healthily to lose weight.

At first I did this all to feel better in myself and then it became about losing weight. I liked how it felt and people saying: “Oh you’ve lost weight and you look great.” I used to limit food groups and obsessively weighed my food. I had foods I was afraid to eat and would avoid, such as carbohydrates. This went on for two years, from 16 to 18, and eventually I was diagnosed with anorexia with orthorexic tendencies.

As well as losing weight, orthorexia made me feel exhausted. I couldn’t sleep because I was really hungry the whole time. I had depression and anxiety and I couldn’t focus on anything at all.

My parents noticed that something was wrong. I actually didn’t know what was happening – they took me to the doctor. I went to the Priory for diagnoses and was referred to Camhs (child and adolescent mental health services). I then got sent there on an outpatient basis and got cognitive behavioural therapy. That helped a lot.

Because of my eating disorder I have body dysmorphic disorder and have always feel more overweight than I am. CBT helped me realise that this was not logical. Medication also helped with my depression and gradually everything got better.

I feel more normal about food now. I am a student at Leeds and cook for myself. I eat out with friends. I still suffer guilt when I eat unhealthily but I can cope.

I think health food bloggers have a big influence on young people and they should make it clear that everything should be eaten in moderation. For example, it’s OK to have a biscuit every now and then – it’s not going to kill you. The expression clean eating makes it sound like other foods are dirty; it’s like making an enemy out of everyday food, making it something negative in people’s heads.

Healthy eating is supposed to make you feel better, but not if you develop orthorexia. Although some people need to be careful about what they eat, others can take this lifestyle to the extreme.

Eliza Moyse

The GuardianTramp

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