There's a new type of eating disorder going around, and just like the sniffles your bestie gave you, this too could be passed on if you're hanging in the wrong crowd. The ironic thing is that this eating disorder, is one where you're obsessed with healthy foods...
Yep. You heard me. Healthy foods. The medical term for it is Orthorexia and it was coined my a medical doctor named Steven Bratman after his own experiences with food and eating changed. Orthorexia, which means "fixation on righteous eating", is when an individual has an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating. Often starting as an attempt to just eat better, healthier foods, one can eventually become fixated on food quality and purity, what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat, which can end up in a severe restriction in both calories and food variety. Ironically so, once striving for perfect health, poor health prevails with malnourishment and fewer social activities, to only name a couple.
And it's becoming increasingly common. Just have a scroll through Instagram and unless you've got a green salad for lunch, you might be feeling kinda shit about your meal prep. The amount of females I am seeing online who will only post low fat, sugar free, organic, vegan, plant based, easily digestible, carb free, gluten free, local bought foods is staggering, and I'm all for them (hell raw cake is better than a cooked cake anyday!), but not when they are the only foods we allow ourselves to eat.
Common signs and symptoms of Orthorexia include...
// You have "good" and "bad" labels for foods - instead of sometimes, occasional, indulgent, and often (or none at all!)
// The foods you allow yourself to eat are becoming fewer and fewer
// You have a fixation on eating foods that are "pure" and "healthy"
// "Cleansing" and "detoxing" are both practices you feel you need to do very often
// One food choice out of line, and you need to detox for a week... and the guilt is horrendous
// You have very strict food habits you wouldn't dare change
// You feel in control when you follow your eating plan
// Obsessive concern over the relationship between food choices and health concerns such as asthma, digestive problems, low mood, anxiety or allergies
// You have an increasing avoidance of foods because of food sensitivities you think you have - with no such diagnosis (I'm not saying you don't have them tho)
// You're either taking every supplement under the sun... or you avoid them at all costs
// The thought of getting a juice with fruit instead of your regular daily green juice sans fruit brings you to a panic and you get nothing
// Food obsessions are beginning to impact of your everyday life
And when put like all that, I doesn't sound like much fun now does it? Unfortunately social media is playing a large chunk of who is fueling it, along with the usual suspects - peers, media, magazines, celebrities, and so on.
Orthorexia vs. Anorexia
Some eating disorder specialists regard orthorexia as a discrete diagnosis like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Others, however, believe that patients with orthorexia symptoms are actually suffering from anorexia. Sufferers of orthorexia and anorexia may show similarities such as:
// Desire to achieve control over their lives through control of food intake
// Seeking self-esteem and spiritual fulfillment through controlling food intake
// Citing undiagnosed food allergies as rationale for avoiding food
// Co-occurring disorders such as OCD or obsessive compulsive personality disorder
// Elaborate rituals about food that may result in social isolation (1)
There are some, now, who use “orthorexia” alone to indicate the milder obsession and “orthorexia nervosa” to refer to the dangerous type.
Orthorexia also seems to have elements of OCD and have elements of standard anorexia. But it isn't quite like either the typical OCD or the typical anorexia. (2) Rambling now, I am not an eating disorder specialist.
// Get help - be it talking to a friend or family member at first, and then a Nutritionist to assess if you've done any damage to your health in terms of nutritional deficiencies, as they can help (pssst. in other words, come see me)
// Get flexible. Not not with your yoga, with your food. Let loose a little. Having a slice of your mums sticky date pudding that was always your favourite dessert (until of course it had too much butter, sugar, flour and cream for you) will not mean you will get fat/get sick/need to detox/need a colonic/need to juice fast. If you sit down, give thanks, reeeeeally enjoy it and relish every. little. morsel. you. taste. on. your. tongue. you're doing your body the world of good! That's pure love for yourself right there. And no amount of celery sticks will give you that.
// Become less dogmatic girl. I hate to say it but I've seen it and felt it first hand so I'm just gonna point out the elephant in the room here and potentially open a can of worms - both online vegan and raw vegan communities can be extremely harsh in that if you dare touch an animal product, you risk death threats. I'm not joking! Vegan diets work wonders for some people. But not so much for others. A humans health takes priority over an animals health in my opinion, but read this, it does not mean I condone factory farming and unnecessary cruelty to animals.
Side note: to all my vegan readers I know you are wonderful caring people as I never received a bad email from any of you when I returned to eating meat for my health's sake. And for that, I thank you.
What I do want to point out here is that if you are vegan or raw vegan or following another strict dietary philosophy that you once began to improve your health, AWESOME! Can I ask you this - How's it working for you now? And be honest with yourself. If it's no longer making you feel good, don't buy into the dogma and rigidity of it. Put your health first and loosen up a little.
If you wish to be healthy you can do all the organic systems. But if you have the point of view that if you are not doing those, you are not healthy, then you are creating ill health.
(1) Source: http://www.timberlineknolls.com/eating-disorder/orthorexia/signs-effects
(2) Source: http://www.orthorexia.com/