In pursuit of perfect health, majority people often times find themselves oscillating between extremes. Healthy eating may feel like an elusive and impossible goal to attain. Nowadays, it is commonplace to find people with obsessive compulsive disorder and irregular eating habits. These individuals have extra- picky eating behaviors with phrases such as:
“I can’t have that”
“I am trying to eat clean”
“I should not eat that”
“I need to have a guilty treat today”
Probably you have come across these phrases before or even uttered them yourself. Majority of people do this in a bid to get to the highest attainable state of their health.
Currently, it is very easy to access variety of clean eating diets, juice cleanses, recipes and workout plans. This presents an unparalleled avenue more than ever before of achieving a healthy lifestyle.
Drawing the line
As the old adage goes, too much of anything is poisonous, thus everything should have a limit. This poses an interesting problem. How far is too far when healthy living is concerned? Dr. Steven Bratman draws the line between people who are enthusiastic about healthy eating and people who are completely immersed in an obsession of only taking clean food.
The scientific term of this form of obsession is orthorexia nervosa.* Orthorexia by definition is an unhealthy fixation on consumption of healthy or pure food. This obsession is closely related to anorexia nervosa which is an obsession of fearing of gaining weight, while orthorexia is fear of taking anything considered “unclean” in the body. Regrettably no one is talking about or addressing it.
To clear the air, orthorexia is not driven by desire to eat healthy. It is not trying to eat clean with a leeway of a few cheats without feeling guilty. It is simply an obsession with devastating effects physically, emotionally and socially and it drives people to the point that all they think about is simply pure, healthy food.
Case in point, my friend was misdiagnosed with anorexia. On her blog post she wrote an argument that ensued between her and the doctor insisting that she was not anorexic because she eats. ”I am not trying to starve myself, I eat so healthy,” she said.
She went ahead and said that she legitimately became afraid of what she considered “unhealthy” foods. She even bawled whenever she had to eat pizza and she would scream at her parents, saying that she hated being told to eat ice cream.
One might wonder what the big deal is. Eating healthy is generally accepted to be good for everyone. The society’s mindset stems from the belief that as long as someone is eating healthy they will be healthy. This is not the case and nothing can be further from the truth for people with orthorexia.
Devastatingly, this disorder is accompanied with numerous psychological problems like obsessive compulsive disorder and isolation from family and close friends. In extreme cases, malnutrition sets in and if not treated it can result to death of the individual.
Orthorexia is caused by a variety of reasons. For instance, someone may want to get healthy and become obsessed with it. Another one may feel the need to control food intake making the individual control everything that they consume. Whatever the motivating factor is, it is paramount for the individual to address it and seek help immediately.
Questions to ask
In case you suspect you have orthorexia, there is a list of questions compiled by National Eating Disorder Association you ought to ask yourself to determine whether you need to seek professional guidance. Most likely you have orthorexia if you answer “yes” to most of the questions.
- Do you wish that sometimes you could just take food without worrying about its quality?
- Do you wish you spent less time thinking about food and dedicate more time living and expressing love?
- Does it seem improbable to consume meals prepared by someone else, even a single meal, without trying to control what is to be served?
- Are you always thinking about ways in which foods are unhealthy for you?
- Do you sacrifice love,play,joy in search for the perfect diet?
- Do you feel guilty when you stray from your “right” diet?
- Do you feel perfectly in control by sticking to what you consider your “correct” diet?
- Have you ever been judgmental about the nutritional tendencies of other individual wondering why they don’teatthe same food you eat?
Despite the fact that this disorder has not been officially recognized as a diagnosis in the (DMMD) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, it requires to be addressed as soon as possible.
Remember, striving to living a healthy lifestyle does not mean that you are orthorexic. It is a right for every individual to have a happy and guilt-free life. It is incumbent upon you to reach out to people when you a helping hand and never shy away from asking for assistance. Share widely since this might help individuals suffering for similar condition. Let them understand that they are not alone.
*nothing in this article should be taken as professional medical advice. If you suspect that you have unhealthy eating habits, discuss those concerns with your doctor.