There’s no denying it; health eating is trending right now. But, can you take healthy eating to an unhealthy level?
Health food junkies are popping up everywhere. Whether the style of healthy eating is Paleo, low sugar, clean eating or raw food, the focus is on eating foods close to their original state in order to optimise health benefits. What might start out as a genuine interest in becoming healthier though, can for some develop into an obsession. An unhealthy obsession!
Healthy eating is meant to be about balance. About not only enjoying a range of foods in their most natural state with the occasional indulgence, but also about having a good relationship with food. To enjoy food without any guilt associated to. Today though, healthy eating is becoming somewhat like a cult with stringent eating regimes that make you feel evangelistic when you follow them, and a failure when you don’t. So can healthy eating go to far? Absolutely!
While not yet recognised as a clinical eating disorder, an unhealthy obsession with food is called orthorexia nervosa. It is a condition characterised by an overwhelming focus on a limited diet with elaborate rules that can evolve from an obsessive approach to diet, health and wellbeing. Each day is about eating right, being “good”, standing above others in dietary prowess and self-punishing through stricter eating, fasts and exercise if temptation wins. Eventually food choices can become so restrictive – in terms of both variety and kilojoules – that their health begins to suffer.
This is an ironic scenario, seeing suffers of orthorexia are so dedicated to their health. But in their obsession with eating the healthiest diet and achieving the healthiest lifestyle, they lose the concept of balance – a key ingredient to health. Their obsessive diet and exercise habits can negatively impact other areas of their lives, impair relationships and become physically dangerous.
So how do you know if you have taken your healthy eating too far? The line between healthy eating and being obsessive with healthy eating can be hard to distinguish, but if your food choices are interfering with your life, then it’s likely you’ve taken them too far. A health conscious person might prefer fresh whole foods, but will still snack on a handful of chips at a friend’s barbecue without making a big deal about it. On the other hand, an orthorexic eater will change their social outings to avoid places where they can’t eat the food or even take their own foods to catch-ups with friends. If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s best to seek to medical advice.
About the author
Caitlin Reid is a unique health professional with qualifications as an accredited nutritionist, accredited exercise physiologist and yoga teacher. Caitlin is passionate about all things health and wellness, and keeps up-to-date with the latest health research, which she uses when contributing expert advice to health, fitness, lifestyle and food companies. She is also the nutrition expert for the Women’s Fitness magazine, the dietitian for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and ambassador for Papaya Australia. Follow Caitlin on Instagram @caitlinareid or visit her website.