With access to millions of clean eating diets, recipes, juice cleanses and workout plans at our fingertips, it’s more possible than ever to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
There’s a line
But how far is too far when it comes to living a healthy life? According to Dr. Steven Bratman, there’s a line between healthy eating enthusiasts and people who are completely obsessed with putting nothing but clean food in their body.
This obsession is called orthorexia nervosa, and we’re not sure why no one’s talking about it. By definition, orthorexia is “an unhealthy fixation on eating healthy or “pure foods.” It’s closely related to anorexia, but instead of fearing gaining weight, people fear putting anything “unclean” in their body.
It’s an obsession
To be completely clear, orthorexia is NOT a desire to eat healthy. It’s not trying to eat clean but having a few cheat days without feeling guilty. Orthorexia is an obsession. It’s damaging physically, socially and emotionally and it consumes people to the point where all they can think about is pure, healthy food.
A friend of mine who was wrongly diagnosed with anorexia wrote a blog post about this condition. She said, “I specifically remember arguing with the doctors that ‘I am not anorexic because I eat! I’m not trying to starve myself! I eat SO HEALTHY’ … and THAT right there was my problem.”
She went on to say, “I legitimately became AFRAID of the ‘unhealthy’ foods … I BAWLED when I had to eat a slice of pizza. I screamed at my parents that I hated them when I had to eat ice cream.”
The health risks
You might be wondering what the big deal is — eating healthy is good for you, isn’t it? Our society thinks that as long as someone’s eating healthy, they are healthy. This is false for people with orthorexia. This disorder comes with psychological problems such as OCD, isolation from friends and family because of food obsession and in extreme cases, malnutrition that could result in death.
Orthorexia can occur for many different underlying reasons. Maybe someone wants to get healthy and becomes obsessed with it, while another person feels like food is the one thing they can control, so they try to control every little thing that goes in their body. Whatever the underlying reason might be, it’s important to recognize it and get help.
Ask yourself these questions
If you think you might have orthorexia,the National Eating Disorder Association provides a list of questions to ask yourself to help you know if you need professional guidance. If you answer “yes” to most or all of these questions, you could have orthorexia:
- Do you ever wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
- Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
- Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else — one single meal — and not try to control what is served?
- Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
- Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
- Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
- Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
- Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat?
We need to start talking about it
Although this disorder isn’t “officially” a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it needs to be talked about.
Again, striving to live a healthy life in a healthy way DOES NOT mean you’re orthorexic. Everyone deserves to live a happy guilt-free life, so don’t hesitate to reach out to people you think may need a helping hand, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Share this to help others who might be struggling and let them know they’re not alone.