Are You Orthorexic?

(Sorry for the radio silence after last week’s post. Class is taking up a lot of my time, so it looks like some weeks may be one post, some weeks may be two.)

Have you heard of this term? It’s a real one, I promise you, though not an officially recognized diagnosis. It means to have an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?

Orthorexia origins

But on closer inspection, you can see how being consumed with being too healthy is unhealthy since being consumed by anything isn’t good. Being able to eat only something you would consider a superfood, for example, and unable to enjoy anything that’s not, or worse, having anxiety over the fact you had something that wasn’t on you “only will eat these things” list, is never healthy.

Rainbow of foods

The term was first coined by Dr. Steven Bratman. When I visited his website, I discovered he also admitted that the definition sounded like an oxymoron (great minds think alike?). He gives an example of a woman who died from orthorexia (though the lines seem a bit blurred to me as to whether she really had anorexia). Labels aside, anything that causes us to restrict food in an unhealthy way, whether we think it’s unhealthy or not, can be detrimental to our health, both mental and physical.

Salad with egg, legumes, nuts

I’m bringing this up because I have been through stages when I started to head to orthorexia-land. It’s not surprising given my history and you know how open I’ve been with my unintended weight loss last year and subsequent (healthy) gain. I’ve gone through periods, even in those healthier times, of restricting my carbs and/or dairy more than necessary.  While I do know my body benefits from being gluten-free, that doesn’t mean I have to be low-carb. And while I’ve experimented with reducing my dairy due to a potential issue with FODMAP foods, that doesn’t mean I need to eliminate it completely.

Mixed greens salad

Why all the salad pictures? I think I had been having a few too many every week. I came to realize this after recently mixing it up. Having one for lunch and having a lot more raw veggies for dinner was messing with my digestion almost as much as gluten! I shunned or drastically reduced other carbs, such as the gluten-free pasta we would make to go with American Chop Suey and instead put the mixture on top of greens. Don’t get me wrong–veggies are great for you, but anything in excess is not so great for you.

Salad prep for lunch

This makes me wonder if there is also an equivalent exercise term would could apply. That is, an unhealthy obsession with only being able to work out a certain way. Don’t get me wrong–if you find an exercise you love, you should do it. But if that exercise is causing you to become injured, perhaps you need to mix it up.

Jillian Michaels DVDs

You know I love my Jillian-inspired HIIT workouts and though I mixed up my workouts throughout the week (some yoga, some running, some strength), I didn’t mix up the intensity much. I thought the best way to go was to max out every time. I liked feeling like I had worked really hard and given my all. But perhaps I was pushing my body too much. In an effort to rein it in recently, I decided to focus on also varying the intensity and my body has been thankful.

What’s the point of all of this? To admit sometimes we don’t know everything, or what we thought worked may not. To be truthful with ourselves about our aim to be healthy and whether trying so hard is actually unhealthy. Being healthy, like all things that are worth your time, is not effortless, but it also shouldn’t consume you.

Questions: What do you think of the term orthorexia? Do you think it’s a real thing? Could you see yourself going down that path? How do you make sure you keep your healthy choices healthy?


20 thoughts on “Are You Orthorexic?

  1. Great post I try and live with the every thing in moderation motto

  2. Yes, it’s very real. I am pretty much there! Even my binges are healthy. It is rather all consuming and tiring.

    • Hi! Thanks for commenting! Is it something you want to change about yourself or you see as unhealthy? It can be so tiring and to me that’s when I realize that it’s not right.

      • I’m not sure if I want to change it. Some days yes! Most days no! I have always been a quirky eater and I rarely eat out. I have never liked fast foods, and basically I am just no fun LoL I think it got even more rigid when I stopped taking any meds. It just makes me not want to put anything unhealthy in my body. But it sure us limiting. My meals don’t look as pretty as yours. I have my staple items like yogurt, Keifer, fruits, chicken, quinoa, baked potatoes and low carb wraps. Pretty much that’s it with occasional binges of granola, popcorn, bad for me frozen yogurt (but it is what keeps my weight up). So yeah, as I wrote that I realized I should probably widen my horizons.

      • Take baby steps, maybe? Try one new thing every few days. Then it’s amazing how a few small changes can add up to bigger changes and how you’ll be more open to other things. I’ve been very rigid in the past and it’s no fun. I believe with my whole heart that food is meant to nourish our bodies and souls and is something to be enjoyed, not to stress over. That doesn’t mean we can’t make healthy choices, but it does mean we can give ourselves a break once in awhile. That one piece of chocolate won’t make you gain five pounds overnight, just as one workout one make you lose five pound overnight. Everything in moderation. 🙂

  3. I think orthorexia sounds very real to me. I can think of times when my two kids are crying all night, we’re having all sorts of issues, I’m getting like, 4 hours of sleep, and then I make myself work out and eat super healthy. I should still eat super healthy because sugar won’t help the exhaustion but I’m wrong my make myself workout so hard after my body is stressed in other ways. I need to stop holding myself up to such a high standard and just be happy with myself the way I am!!!

    • Yikes! I can imagine that’s a hard choice. Good thinking with the sugar, for sure, and eating healthy will only help your energy and mood.
      To quote my favorite girl, Jillian Michaels, she always says get the sleep instead of working out (and eat healthy as you do). I know it sounds a bit counterintuitive and on days when I haven’t gotten much sleep I often still push myself, but the times I don’t and get the sleep, I can attack the workout the next day with that much more energy.
      Thanks for stopping by and try to get some sleep!

  4. I definitely think it’s a real thing! I’ve known people who won’t let themselves have a “treat” or even go out for happy hour because they either don’t want to due to the food or “need to workout” and therefore skip hanging out with friends.

    • I kind of get that, but I do try to plan ahead. If I know I’m going out with friends and maybe plan to eat a bit more than usual, I’ll make sure my breakfast and lunch are really healthy. That way, I look forward to indulging with my friends (but not binging). It’s sad when someone would skip hanging out, though. They can’t even drink water or something?

  5. I try to live by the 80/20 rule because I tend to have an obsessional personality ! I prefer everything in moderation.

  6. Anything we do or think of excessively is mentally unhealthy. It can be something good for us or bad for us, but when it becomes an obsession then it becomes unhealthy.
    I can definitely see orthorexia being a real thing, or actually a real mental disease.

  7. Hi, Stephanie,
    Great post. Never new about orthorexia,, and Sure I think it’s for real.
    But All obsessions are bad ? I guess in the pure sence of the word, to obsess.
    Where is the line in the sand when it comes to being a champion? What does it take? Loyalty? Attachment? or Drive? Is there a Healthy Obsession? or Healthy term that decribes the same thing?
    Just Sayin…… …..

    Tune-up Stay Strong,
    U Steve,

    • You bring up an excellent point. I think there is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy obsession. However, I think that when anything consumes you to the point of giving you some anxiety about certain situations, makes you anti-social, and.or unable to enjoy life, then it’s an unhealthy obsession.

  8. The first time that I heard the word orthorexia, I knew that the article was talking about me. I don’t eat out with my friends during lunch, I almost always have to check the nutritional info before going to a restaurant, and I now avoid frozen yogurt like the plague because of the ingredients. There was one point when I avoided saturated fats as much as possible (e.g. nuts, some hummus, dark chocolate, avocados, ice cream, and nut butters). So yes, orthorexia is very real. I believe I may have it still, but I’m much more lax now about adding healthy fats to my diet. Because of how restrictive I used to be, I even overindulge often.

    • That’s good that you recognized some of your unhealthy behaviors and worked to change them. We’re all works in progress and constantly learning new lessons. Keep up the good work and thanks for stopping by!

  9. I think is FOR SURE a real thing!!! I see so many bloggers that I wonder how on earth they eat what they do all the time. Like, it can’t be possible to eat SO healthy 100% of the time. I don’t think I’d ever go down this path…but I guess it’s because I rely on exercise too much to balance out my sweet tooth 🙂

    • Haha…I also rely on exercise to balance out my sweet tooth. On days that I’m not feeling it, it’s partially my inspiration for working out. I love chocolate too much to ever cut it out of my life.
      I think the thing we need to keep in mind about bloggers (and all social media for that matter) is that it’s similar to reality TV: you only see part of the story and that story may be a bit skewed. After all, we only ever want to post a flattering picture of ourself on Facebook, for example (though I try to keep it real!), so it’s natural that many people only want to blog the good stuff, including the days and days of ahhhmaaazing juices they’ve had, the incredible 10 mile run they went on, and the blissful 90 minute yoga they did (catch my sarcasm?). 😉

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