You’d think that an obsession with healthy eating would be a good thing.. But for some, it can be quite the opposite. How does healthy eating become an Eating Disorder?
When it becomes an obsession; it takes over our minds and consumes our days. When we’re doing it because we feel guilty if we don’t.
At first, a lot of us health nuts get into the exploration of nutrition, clean eating, detoxification, and things of this nature because we may feel inspired to be more healthy..
We start researching more about nutrition, the foods we’re consuming, the good and the bad nutritional information that’s out there, the macronutrients, micronutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and everything down to the molecular level and more.
…But as time goes on, we can either go one of two ways: one way is the extreme and disordered way (the way I went and many people are falling into these days) and the other way which is a more balanced approach.
…That is, you know the nutritional information but you remain flexible in your choices and lifestyle. It doesn’t control you. You don’t always abide by or think about the rules and restrictions constantly that you’ve learned from all the teachers and leaders along the way.
You can still do what works for you and implement a few things from others here and there, but are able to remain true to yourself and listen to what works for your body. It’s not an all or nothing approach.
I want to talk about the extreme way.
We cross this fine line and boundary of being “aware” of nutrition and implementing it to a degree, and knowing too much about nutrition and obsessing upon our lifestyle choices. We think to ourself, if we do enough research, the answer must be out there, and eventually we will find the most “perfect and optimal diet.”
There are already so many people out there that believe they’ve found the perfect diet. All these conflicting and trendy fad diet wars out there are each claiming to be the perfect one and the only way to health, healing, and ideal weight.
Yet in every group, there’s both success and failure, so how could only one specific diet be for everyone?
These restrictive diet trends (as in, restricting some form of food, caloric intake, etc.) are all ultimately very unbalanced. After the initial so-called “benefits,” a dieter will run into some major and detrimental problems, physically, mentally, or both.
“These diets instill fear in you for whatever the “fear food” or “food groups” in each trend are; the claims are that the foods are “poison, evil, and addictive,” and they must be avoided for true and optimal health.”
These diet groups become cult-like and exclusive; the members within the groups ultimately believe they are superior and right and everyone else is ignorant and wrong.
Lets paint a picture: You study nutrition and as the months and/or years go by you explore every angle and every aspect of the nutritional profiles of foods. You see the good and the bad for each food or lifestyle practice, and the arguments around what’s supposedly true, and whats not.
A simple example: Coffee.
You read hundreds of statistics, studies, theories and debates about how coffee is the worst thing for your body and wellbeing.. On the flip side, you have just as much evidence claiming Coffee to be the ultimate superfood known to humans. Which is it then?
Another example: Salt.
You go through the same amount of info touting salt as the enemy, but with that, comes the same amount of people suggesting salt as an important aspect of our diet.
Dare I bring up the example: Carbohydrates… or even animal based foods?
So there’s all these divides and controversies that are all contradicting each other. This is a setup for confusion and an overwhelming feeling not knowing what to do anymore.
In Orthorexia, you back yourself into this isolated and restrictive corner because you see the bad and the good, but focus and perseverate on the bad. You’re only allowed a certain few foods and/or liquids whether as a mental decision or forced into it because the overly clean eating created digestive problems or mental fears for you over time.
So even if you wanted to eat more than what was on your “good and clean list” you struggle and suffer.
We can literally get to a point where we focus “too much” on nutrition. This is a problem because you know too much about the conflicting information that you don’t know what’s true anymore. You don’t know what to do for yourself any longer and put all your trust into what others tell you to do.
Lets briefly define Orthorexia: Ortho means “righteous.” Orthorexia is like Bulimia and Anorexia, in the sense that it is an Eating Disorder, with an emphasis on eating “righteously.” Or, simply put, a “health food” eating disorder. You know like, #cleaneating, #paleo, #rawfood, #sugarfree, #ketogenic, #mealprep and other fad diets out there today..
We justify our restrictions through the shields of these lifestyles. We become so attached to having a label, if it’s not vegan it’s then paleo. When really the best way to be is just being okay with food being food, and making your own tailored lifestyle guidelines if anything.
Every single day is filled with anxiety over food. You’re too much in your head and not enough in your body to listen to what would work for you despite all the external claims.
You may “think” these certain foods are bad for you, but you actually have thrived on them personally, or did thrive on them in the past just prior to changing your diet up.
Why is this?
Because there is no one-diet-fits-all approach..
Once you make the decision to follow what someone else is doing, or follow a new fad diet that’s black and white and easy to follow, and begin to neglect what your body truly wants and needs, is when the problems arise.
Once you deem food as a threat, and you restrict yourself from certain foods and food groups, is when the food now has power over you, and it becomes an obsession. Your life revolves around food.
You may have seen someone on social media, or read someones book, or followed a wellness blog, or talked to a friend, or idolized a model and decided to follow what they were preaching.
They were doing something you weren’t doing, and made claims that it was the ultimate golden ticket and answer to true health, fitness, healing and weight loss.
You thought it sounded good and it was time to switch things up.
You believed this was a new and superior way to follow. 4 weeks or 4 months into the new lifestyle, you gradually start to become out of balance. You get more and more restrictive around food cutting one thing, then another, then another..
First the sugar, then the gluten, then all grains, then the dairy, then the meat.. You focus on quality above all, aiming for foods that were as pure and organic as possible and eliminating all toxins.
You begin to stress out if you were in situations that you didn’t have access to pure and clean foods.
You don’t feel like you deserve as many calories despite your body’s hunger signals because you didn’t exercise that day. You’re not able to follow yourself anymore because after following someone else’s voice for so long, in the process you lose and suppress your own voice.
There really is a thing of overthinking and overanalyzing food, nutrition, exercise, our bodies and it’s a very big part of Orthorexia.
Nutrition has become a fanatical religion for many people. Healthy eating has been taken to an unhealthy extreme creating a whole host of side effects mentally and physically. It has become quite dangerous and debilitating to many when taken too far.
The thing is: You don’t need to cut out all carbs, all dairy, all animal products, all fats, and only eat foods when they’re raw to be healthy.
Finding your balance and redeveloping a healthy relationship with food, your body and exercise is healthy.
The process of getting back to a place of balance takes time, patience and consistency. But it’s doable and it’s so worth it!