It’s interesting. When you’ve been dabbling in the natural food world for a few decades, it’s tempting to get really caught up in eating as clean as possible. Organic, free-range, gluten-free, raw, vegan – there are just so many awesome and convenient choices available today. But what happens when you become so obsessed with being and eating healthy, that you actually become unhealthy in the process? What? Is this really possible, you ask? Well yes, it is.
In the quest to be as healthy as you can, sometimes too much focus is put on what you won’t put in your body rather than truly listening for the signals of what your body really needs. There is a new term out there called orthorexia. Orthorexia is a sort of “mental diagnostic term” that refers to a state where, not unlike anorexia, there is an obsession around monitoring food; but unlike anorexia, individuals with orthorexia are obsessed with being healthy and eating only healthy and natural food.
How can this be a bad thing? Well, we’re not saying it is bad, per se. What we are saying is that, like with anorexia, being fixated on food, even healthy food, can lead down a path of mental and emotional unrest. In extreme cases of orthorexia, for example, you can risk vitamin, mineral and other nutritional deficiencies. If you only eat, for example, vegetables and fruits, you risk becoming anemic, protein deficient, depressed, and weak. But vegetables and fruits are awesome, right? Yes, they certainly are, in conjunction with a balanced diet of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. For some that may include animal protein, for others, plant based proteins. For some that may include whole grains, for others that may include more nuts and seeds.
An obsession with “healthy” eating can also lead to overeating and binge eating. Just because something is labeled organic doesn’t mean it is a great choice for you. There are plenty of organic ice creams, cookies, cereals, and frozen pizzas out there. When you allow yourself to indulge in these foods, fooling yourself that they are healthy choices, you are engaging in mental emotional trickery.
In other words, whether you are obsessing over every bite you put in your mouth or throwing caution to the wind in the name of organics, either way, you need to change your relationship with food. First acknowledging that there is some kind of fixation on food is key to healing the relationship. From there you can seek support in the form of group or individual therapy and you can track your emotions and physical response to what you are eating in a journal.
Remember, when you come from a place of eating from fear, rather from a place of eating to fully nourish your body, something isn’t right. Certainly we are not suggesting you replace your healthy eating with junk food. Not at all. Take steps outside your comfort zone towards healing, whether that be in the form of cooking classes, therapy, nutrition classes or simply talking with friends and family that support you. The quest to be healthy and live a life of optimum wellness is about balance and fulfillment. What you eat is one part of the journey. Keep it healthy and keep it balanced, light, and fun and you’re well on your way to a lifetime of awesome.
Subscribe to Dr. Debra's weekly digest to tips, recipes, motivation and more to live an inspired life.