Orthorexia: When Being Healthy Becomes Unhealthy
by Genevieve Nutting
Buzzwords like organic, paleo, gluten, fat-free, GMO, and vegan fill the media and are creating an increase in the curiosity to adding a healthy component to our lifestyles. Can wanting to incorporate healthy habits and being concerned about what we’re putting into our bodies become too healthy?
It’s healthy until it becomes excessive, otherwise known as orthorexia nervosa, an unhealthy obsession with consuming specific health goods. Often the love and excitement for life takes a backseat as the desire to make healthy choices takes full control over decisions and behaviors.
These individuals find themselves scheduling around where their next meal will come from, bringing their own food to social gatherings, or even avoiding social events and eating out at restaurants to prevent falling out of their healthy patterns, as well as allowing the time of day to restrict certain foods or the quantity in which they are consumed. The restriction in their diet can lead to health related issues such as nutrient deficiencies, food allergies, panic attacks, and effects their relationships, drive, self-identity, and overall quality of life.
What differentiates orthorexia from simply eating healthy?
- Using food as a way to create an identity i.e. “vegan” or “paleo”
- Compulsive control and scheduling events based on the consumption of meals
- An inability to consume food without worrying about quality, quantity, and location
- A decrease in self-esteem and feeling guilty after consuming a food not in the classified “diet”
- Unable to eat a meal that wasn’t prepared by the individual or without knowing exactly what went into the meal and where it came from, often resulting in social isolation from others when eating
- Refusal to eat intuitively based on physical hunger needs
- Criticizing others based on their food choices and feeling self-righteous through healthy habits
How to be healthy, without obsessing
- Find a way to identify yourself outside your eating habits and make a list of qualities that make you proud or happy
- Take up an activity that allows you to be healthy without consuming every ounce of your energy and thought process
- Realize what you put into your body doesn’t make you a better person and instead look to get involved in a charity or service in your community that allows you to feel like you’re making a difference