Orthorexia: too much of a good thing
This guest post provided by Heidi_PsyD
Their favorite Sunday excursion is Trader Joe’s and their pantries are stocked with Kashi products unknown to the general public. Tofu, quinoa, and organic vegetables make up the centerpiece of their diets. They are “healthy eaters.” But could they also be disordered eaters?
Orthorexia is the word for an obsession with “healthy or righteous eating.” The phrase was coined by California physician Steven Bratman, to refer to people who create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating. And although healthy eating can be positive, especially given the statistics about obesity in the United States, it can become dangerous if healthy eating becomes overly restrictive or limiting.
Orthorexia can also be a gateway to an eating disorder such as anorexia.
For 22-year-old Savannah it began as a genuine desire to live a healthier lifestyle. “I was away at school and took a nutrition class. The professor was very down on red meat, so I cut that out,” she says, “As I learned more about the dangers of any meat consumption I began to eat a vegetarian diet. Lately I’ve been hearing more and more about the benefits of raw foods, and am thinking that is the next step for me.”
As a result of her diet, Savannah, who was never overweight, has already dropped 10 lbs. placing her in a barely acceptable range of weight for her height. And although she is not actively seeking weight loss, she is pleased with the result, seeing it as a vindication that despite the negative response of family and friends her body is responding to the “purity” of what she is eating. In addition, Savannah has noticed that she is constantly thinking about what she is eating, is planning for the next healthy meal, and will not go out to eat because she is concerned that the quality of the food she consumes will not meet her standards.
Although Orthorexia is not dangerous in the same way that anorexia and bulimia are, there may be health concerns if eating becomes overly restrictive. And although Orthorexia is not currently considered an eating disorder, it does share many of the same characteristics as anorexia as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The key to any approach to healthy eating is balance and moderation. Foods are not “good” or “bad” but are what nourishes and sustains us…
So how about you — Are you too restrictive in the foods you choose? Do you find yourself in social situations where there is nothing that you allow yourself to eat?