It hardly seems like a bad thing to focus on eating healthier when so much of the population is overweight or obese. And yet, for some, a focus on eating healthier develops into more of an obsession. Coined during the 90s, Orthorexia is described as an unhealthy obsession with healthy or pure foods – to the exclusion of all others, and it can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
I Just Want To Eat Clean
This disordered eating pattern starts simply enough, with a desire to be healthier but then it is taken to an extreme. Sufferers who claim to just want to eat clean may seem anxious around food and refuse to eat certain kinds of foods (non-organic or non-local as examples) preferring to go without food rather than eat something “impure.”
But the obsession can quickly accelerate and may result in isolation as the person declines eating in restaurants because they aren’t sure of the ingredients, preferring to only eating foods they can control and have prepared themselves.
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Isn’t Orthorexia really Anorexia?
While orthorexia and anorexia may manifest in the same ways: eating very little and in some cases nothing; the most significant difference between them is that orthorexics aren’t afraid of being overweight or fat, they want to be healthy and feel pure.
They often do cleanses and fasting in order to “detox” away various symptoms they may be experiencing. Over time, through the constant restricting and limiting of food choices, people suffering from orthorexia may find themselves extremely thin.
It’s not that eating clean or trying to stay away from pesticides and GMOs is bad – it’s not bad. And yes, you should read nutrition labels, and follow the nutritional values and guidelines that you align with. Rather, it is when healthy eating becomes a sort of “religion” whereby only the purest and most unrefined and untainted foods may be eaten.
It may be accompanied with the belief that eating certain foods may make them a better person. Sufferers may restrict or eliminate certain food groups in a quest for a “clean” or “perfect” diet.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you think you may be struggling with orthorexia:
- Are you constantly reading and researching in an attempt to find how foods are unhealthy for you?
- Do you turn to healthy food as a primary source of happiness, meaning, or even spirituality?
- Do you wish you didn’t have to constantly worry about the quality of the food you eat?
- Do you feel virtuous or righteous because of the way you eat?
- Do your eating habits interfere with your life, relationships, or work?
- Does trying to control your food help you feel more in control in other areas of your life?
- Do you have to go to further and further extremes (limiting and restricting) to eliminate unclean or impure foods?
- If you stray from your diet, do you feel a sense of guilt or self-loathing or a compulsive need to cleanse or detox?
- Has your interest in healthy food become an obsession, controlling your life and activities instead of helping you reach your health goals?
What can be done?
If you see that you may be beginning to struggle with “clean food” obsessive thoughts consider these tips:
- Realize that no food, no matter how pure, will make you a better person.
- Share your meals with others to create a connection, to socialize, and to bond.
- Allow yourself special treats and indulgences once in a while.
- Understand that food is only a small aspect of life, be sure you are enjoying the important things.
If you think you or someone you love may be suffering from orthorexia, please contact a health provider and get help. There are options available for people with orthorexia and treatment may require professional assistance. Success and recovery are possible.
This amazing guest post was written by Christy Hall, a Wellness Mindset Coach and Hypnotist. We encourage you to check out her website!
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