(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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?