This morning, the condition, Orthorexia, otherwise defined as “an obsession with ‘healthy eating’ ” was highlighted on ABC, Good Morning America. Within seconds of it airing, it was brought to my attention. So, without further ado, I would like to address it briefly and as professionally as possible.
For those of you that missed the program, you can view it by clicking on the above link.
The program, entitled: ”Extreme Healthy Eating,” focused on a young woman, in her mid twenties, who almost lost her life do to her obsession with consuming only, what she donned, as the purest of foods, and omitting the majority of other foods from her diet. This young woman became so obsessed, that she lost half of her body weight, and became understandably so, malnourished.
First of all, I would like to point out that an obsession of any kind is unhealthy. The definition of obsession is “the domination of one’s thoughts, or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.” This young woman, became so obsessed by the idea of consuming only “pure” foods, that she isolated herself from her friends, and avoided things that she had once loved, like holiday parties, as she feared the thought of impure foods being served at the party.
When we concentrate all of our energies on any one idea, we lose sight of a life to be lived, and therefore, health, as a whole. It does not matter if your obsession is with “pure” food, work, your boyfriend/girlfriend, horses, or cupcakes.
Life is about balance. However, it is about healthy balance, and what feels right to you. When we compromise our relationships, and things we once genuinely loved, like social gatherings, with people you care for, and instead focus our attentions on an “obsession,” we are going to be losing out on that healthy balance.
But! And there is a big but here. If we once loved ice cream, cookies, pizza, and french fries drenched in ketchup, but we feel better without those things (which anyone would, if they took a step back)– it is by no means “unhealthy” to omit and eliminate them from the diet! Why? Those foods do not nourish the body, and only temporarily elevate our moods. It would be like telling the individual that loved to drink, that they are unhealthy for reducing and eliminating alcohol from their diet– because they used to love it. What did a chocolate glazed donut ever do for anyone, but leave them feeling a bit weighed down, or with a stomach ache, and feeling that they’ll need to do extra cardio at the gym?
Any extremity is not healthy if it compromises our overall health. Pure foods are not the culprit here. If someone is malnourished and/or isolating themselves, and avoiding relationships, because of their obsession with these “pure foods,” then yes, that is a problem. But… It is a problem that runs much, much, deeper than the consumption of Mother’s Nature’s gift to this earth.
The bigger problem at hand, are all of the fingers being pointed in all sorts of directions. We have those that eat a mainstream “healthy” diet of an egg and cheese omelet, with a few sides of buttered wheat toast, a Chocolate Milk, and an Iced Tea– but then, that same “healthy individual” spends hours contemplating why it is that they are experiencing this uncomfortable bloat, and weight gain. They then “remedy” this discomfort by taking a few antacids, maybe popping an anti-inflammatory, and vowing to hit the gym, for a few moments longer, the following day.
“Hmm…” they say, “Maybe I should cut out dairy?” But then… that box of ice cream looks awfully tempting, and they “deserve” it, so why not? A few weeks, months, years, later, their doctor informs them that they need a prescription for their high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Tragically, in the midst of all of this, the person is battling this unsettling feeling of depression, and looking for a magical solution to their problems.
Thus we introduce the anxiety meds, anti-depressants, the pain relievers, etc.
The path to the solution, is that, if we all begin to take steps towards a healthier life, these “issues” will be a way of the past. The problem here is not the pure foods that this young woman became obsessed with, it is the obsession that lead to her malnourishment.
If we enjoy the foods that mother nature has to offer, be it fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, avocados, sweet potatoes, organic-free range eggs, nuts and seeds, and start to eliminate the processed and refined foods… we will be well on our way to a healthier life. Better yet, in an ideal world, we should not have to think twice about the fact that these precious fruits and vegetables are drenched in pesticides and chemicals, and that our chickens are stuffed into tiny cages amidst hundreds of other chickens! Yet, at the end of this program, the young woman is applauded for returning to sugar ridden cereals, and junk food.
The “pure” foods remain the criminal, and the junk food the hero? Sounds a bit odd.
I am so thrilled this young woman is no longer on her death-bed, but I think we are sending viewers the wrong message. We are saying that an extreme healthy eating is bad, and the consumption of processed and refined foods is good! This is not a fair comparison. The greater message should be that we should not feel restricted and bent out of shape on any diet. The purpose of eating well, is feeling good! Real, wholesome fruits and vegetables, and the other food aforementioned in this article, are GOOD for us. If we are consuming enough dark leafy greens, vegetables, and the healthy oils from avocados, nut and seeds, and even high-quality fish, one should not have to be concerned about being “malnourished.” Luckily for us, there are still a good deal of companies that pride themselves on the quality of their products.
The point of this article, is to bring attention to the fact that it can be very easy to give ourselves validation to consume foods that ultimately make us feel ill. We can sometimes be easily convinced, that the alternative–Caring about the foods we put in our bodies–is considered disordered eating.
Yes. It is true, I will not buy inorganic red peppers at my supermarket, because they are one of the most pesticide ridden inorganic products you can find. That being said, I am not going to avoid a plate of crudite at a social gathering because they are most likely inorganic, or avoid a dish because it contains them. I am just not going to make a regular habit of purchasing them at my grocery. I am also not going to stop hanging out with my meat eating friends, or having wine nights with my girlfriends, but I may have lost an interest in going out every night. When we have genuine friendships, however, we find other ways to bond.
Do what makes you feel good. If that is omitting meat from your diet– More power to you! If it means being able to enjoy a glass of wine, or dark chocolate, or a cookie, here and there- fine!!!
On that note… here is another article you may like entitled, “How Far is Far Enough.”
What makes you happy? Is there any food, or foods that you eliminated that made you feel better? How do you feel about this topic?