Canadian dietitian Abbey Sharp opens up about eating disorder orthorexia: 'I made myself believe I was healthy'

"My life was a perfect storm for brewing up a wicked ED," the dietitian admitted.

Canadian dietician Abbey Sharp reflects on mental health and orthorexia journey in candid YouTube video. Photo via Instagram/ @abbeyskitchen
Canadian dietician Abbey Sharp reflects on mental health and orthorexia journey in candid YouTube video. Photo via Instagram/ @abbeyskitchen

Abbey Sharp is opening up about her experience with an eating disorder. In a heartfelt YouTube video, the Canadian dietitian shared her struggle with orthorexia nervosa and how she overcame years of disordered eating.

Orthorexia nervosa, although not as widely known as other eating disorders, involves an obsession with eating "clean" foods, often leading to extreme dietary restrictions that can cause emotional distress.

According to PHE Canada, the National Initiative for Eating Disorders reported in 2017 that between two to three per cent of Canadians meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder. However, due its easy-to-disguise nature, orthorexia often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed.

Sharp began by reflecting on her "golden days" in high school before her relationship with food began to take a turn. "My anxiety was basically as low as it had ever been and probably has ever been since then even today... I literally ate whatever the heck I wanted," she recalled.

Her relationship with food changed after high school when she moved away to pursue a singing career before university. It was during this time that her lifelong struggles with anxiety started to resurface, triggering gut health issues. After seeking advice from a homeopathic naturopath, Sharp eliminated all sugar from her diet.

"I don't remember what the reason was but I wasn't a nutrition expert at the time so I just trusted the advice blindly," Sharp admitted, warning her followers not to make that same mistake.

This shift marked the beginning of her restrictive eating habits. Sharp described how quickly she narrowed down her "safe foods" and began losing weight, saying: "Not surprisingly, I started to lose weight, and people at my day job or when I went to visit back home you know people would start to compliment me asking me like, 'Abbey what have you been doing? You look so good.'"

The positive feedback she received felt like a "rush of dopamine" that temporarily boosted her morale and motivated her to take her restrictive eating habits to the next level.

Driven by her "all or nothing personality," she additionally cut out all fats and followed a strict regime that prevented her from eating food prepared by anyone but herself. While loved ones were concerned for Sharp, she assured them the extreme lengths she was going to were all in the name of being healthy.

"What people with EDS often do — and I was so good at — making myself believe that all of this was just for good health or to help my digestion. I had convinced them and everybody else that there was nothing wrong with what I was doing," she confessed.

I had convinced them and everybody else that there was nothing wrong with what I was doingAbbey Sharp, via YouTube

She described following a very rigid and healthy diet six days of the week, but fasting all day on Sundays so that she could binge eat a "cheat meal" at a restaurant for dinner.

Sharp noted that she was never motivated to lose weight for "aesthetic" reasons. "I truly did not want to get skinnier and skinnier. In fact, when I really started to lose a lot of weight, I hated my body even more. I was so embarrassed by it, and I would try to hide it with all of these baggy clothes or wearing multiple layers. But it was like, meticulously controlling what went into my body felt exhilarating — and also calming at the same time," she explained.

"At the time I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, OCPD — which is basically obsessive compulsive perfectionism — and ADHD," she shared. Sharp said things got "really really bad" before they ever got better.

"Looking back, I have so much empathy for my former self at 17," Sharp admitted. "My life was really a perfect storm for brewing up a wicked ED. I was lonely and anxious about the timeline that I had arbitrarily set for myself on my singing career... controlling food kind of gave me that false sense of control as like a sort of game that I could seemingly succeed at."

As her weight continued to drop, Sharp's loved ones chose to intervene, she recounted. "I somehow kept this up this crazy pattern of eating for like two long miserable years... that left me severely underweight, to the point that laying in a comfortable bed on a comfortable soft mattress hurt my bones because there was no fat to protect them... I was definitely in denial that anything was wrong but I ended up being convinced by my doctor and my parents to see a dietitian."

Through professional help and personal determination, Sharp began to rebuild her relationship with food and herself.

Sharp's journey with food inspired her to become a nutritionist, and later a food blogger. She recalled making the "very scary decision" to start embracing life fully again, challenging her fears by attending food events and enjoying restaurant meals.

"It was like the ultimate crash course in intuitive eating," she said.

Anyone, including youth, can reach out to a NEDIC helpline or live chat for support. The number for the toll-free helpline is 1-866-633-4220 and its email is:

Youth struggling with mental health can also use an anonymous texting service available 24/7 with Kids Help Phone, by texting CONNECT to 686868.

Let us know what you think by emailing us, commenting below and tweeting @YahooStyleCA! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram.