This is such an interesting topic for me. I think for two reasons. Being "too healthy" is commonly a topic that gets swept under the rug due to so much media exposure on the obesity epidemic and overall unhealthy habits many people have. And another reason - I've been on the "hellthy" spectrum before and it's not fun. It's stressful. And I want to help you understand more about the dark side of eating too healthy.
Orthorexia - a term defined by Dr. Steven Bratman, is the "obsession with righteous eating." Unlike anorexia and bulimia, those suffering from orthorexia are not exactly focused on being "skinny" but more so the quality of their food.
I can recall when I let my healthy eating habits go a bit too far. And I think the most heartbreaking thing about it is that your whole life gets put on the back burner and your focus is truly all things food and health. There is no room for anything else. I used to love going out to dinner and trying new cuisines. I can remember sitting on the floor with boyfriend trying to find a place to go out to eat and it was taking forever...because of all my rules.
I ruled out nearly every restaurant because after reviewing the menu it just didn't fit in my standards. I can't even remember what we ended up eating that night. Goes to show what could have been a fun, exciting night out turned into one that doesn't even hold a memory because health got in the way. Eating clean, following an arbitrarily set of “rules”, avoiding certain ingredients, and not trusting others to prepare your food is what makes orthorexia a disorder and not just a balanced healthy diet. There’s actually nothing balanced about it.
This was my red flag. And I feel fortunate I caught it when I did. Not everyone does, and that's when things can dangerously spiral downward.
Check in with yourself here: Do you feel like any of this describes you?
When you eat the way you’re supposed to, do you feel in total control?
Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet increased?
Have you become stricter with yourself?
Do you skip foods you once enjoyed in order to eat the “right” foods?
Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, distancing yourself from family and friends?
Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
You may be wondering what's the problem with focusing on eating healthy? It's when eating healthy turns into an obsession that rules your life. If all you do is focus on health you miss out cultivating relationships, talking over coffee, and being all in when your friends decide to just order appetizers that everyone can share.
Not to mention the health implications. Kind of funny right? Even the journey to leading the most healthful life has health implications. Which is why I always preach BALANCE. Those greasy pizza slices, fudgy brownies, and loaded nachos all fuel our brains in ways celery sticks can't. Being happy and satisfied is just as health promoting as the healthiest green smoothie. And if you're going to feel nothing but stress and anxiety over your food choices you're not doing yourself any good. Long-term stress wreaks havoc on our hormones and cardiovascular system.
So how to quit it? It's tough. Unlike drugs and alcohol we need food. Getting better has to start with some flexibility on your part, and a willingness to let go of your control over food. As you know, I'm a big promoter of the term mindful eating. Let's review it really quick cause I think it's crucial to healing your food relationship. Mindful eating means honoring your body's needs, finding pleasure in food, not feeling guilt, and listening to your hunger cues. You gotta find that sweet spot where eating healthy doesn't cross over into dangerous territory. Understand that there is no need for perfection. Enjoy the food your body craves - enough to not feel deprived and enough to promote the feeling of satisfaction. Move your body in ways that actually feel good as opposed to going to the gym if you hate it. These are the things that will make you live a realistic healthy lifestyle that works for you. You will feel stronger, more alive, and have so much more energy!
Think you may be suffering from orthorexia or need help finding that sweet spot? Contact me and let's get you on the right track today!