‘I had an unhealthy obsession with not eating’
THIS time last year, Roxy Jacenko had hit rock bottom.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis while her husband served time behind bars after being sentenced for insider trading, the mother-of-two says her life was completely "out of control".
But while the world crumbled down around her, the 37-year-old says she was able to keep a tight grasp on one aspect of her life - her body, and her weight.
Dropping to just 49kg at her lowest around Christmas time in 2016, Ms Jacenko says she became obsessed with what went in her mouth, and would even spit out food to avoid the "guilt".
"I look at it now and I don't know how I managed to do what I was doing to myself for 12 months," Ms Jacenko told news.com.au from her Sweaty Betty office in Sydney's Paddington.
"I got to a point where I'd put a Mintie in my mouth, taste it and then spit it out. I wouldn't consume the Mintie in full because there was such guilt and it just wasn't worth it."
Ms Jacenko, who says she's put on four kilos since her husband was released from Cooma Correctional Centre in June 2017, restricted her diet to just four pieces of sushi each day. A measure in hindsight she knows was "ridiculous".
"I look at photos now ... and I looked disgusting," she said.
"Yeah I had a four pack, but that's because I was malnourished. It wasn't because of a great gym regimen. I had an unhealthy obsession with not eating.
"I was almost concave ... I looked like a f**king idiot."
Ms Jacenko, who is mother to Pixie, 6, and Hunter, 3, says she couldn't maintain her unhealthy eating regimen, but the reaction and compliments she received on social media pushed her further.
"I was going out and drinking ... my husband went to jail, my marriage was falling to bits, and I had two kids and three businesses to run," she said.
"So not eating was a coping mechanism. It was a challenge.
"Imagine looking at your Instagram and everyone is saying to you 'How do you do it?' and that eggs you on.
"I look back now and I didn't have a clear mindset at all."
American doctor Steven Bratman coined the term 'orthorexia nervosa' in 1997, after he developed an obsession with eating healthy food. The term uses the Greek word "orthos," which means "straight," "right," or "correct," and is a modification of the disorder anorexia nervosa. The US National Eating Disorders Association calls it a "fixation on righteous eating."
Dr Bratman developed a short questionnaire, the Bratman Test, to help diagnose the condition. Some questions include: "Do you spend more than three hours a day thinking about your diet? Is the nutritional value of your meal more important than the pleasure of eating it? Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet has increased? Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, distancing you from family and friends?"
Answering 'yes' to 4 or 5 questions means it is "time to relax more about food". Answering yes to all of the questions "means a full-blown obsession with eating healthy food."
In Australia, The Butterfly Foundation says eating disorders affect almost 1 million Australians.
A 2016 study conducted by the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative at the QIMR in Brisbane revealed that just one in three sufferers of an eating disorder will seek medical assistance, an alarming figure according to professionals involved in the study.
Ms Jacenko, who this week will launch her new range of self tanning dubbed Roxy Tan, said while she is still "obsessive with food", she now allows herself to eat what she wants without being overwhelmed with guilt.
"I thought I was looking a million dollars ... but my life became normal again and I found clarity on my marriage and there was warmth in the family environment.
"Then over time this obsession with the food fell to the side a bit. When you're around people who are eating, you begin to eat.
"When you have a normal home life, stability in your life, you have a proper diet and a proper exercise regimen how everything else falls in to place. But if you don't have the base organised, you don't have stability organised and you don't eat so your brain can't think and you're at the gym more than you're having hot dinners, you've got no hope. But it was a very hard thing for me to see at that time."
Parents who are concerned about their children can seek advice, support and access to resources by calling Butterfly's National Support Line on 1800 33 4673 or email@example.com