Orthorexia

Time Magazine recently published an article that really got my gears turning. Is there such a thing as being obsessed with eating healthy? I think so. The article discusses a girl who becomes enthralled by the amazing benefits of eating well while she was in high school. As she learned more about the benefits of fresh, natural foods, she began to restrict her intake more and more – not out of a desire to look thinner, but out of a desire to obtain optimal health.

Can you blame her? Think about the messages that are thrown around in our society every day; sure there are tons of messages about being thin, but if you are content with your body image, your ears might perk up more to messages about avoiding obesity and disease, being healthy, eliminating foods or ingredients (trans-fat and high fructose corn syrup). Health diets, as opposed to weight loss diets,  are often centered around these ideas, which is why individuals enthralled with being healthy area often easily susceptible to trying the diet out.

I, myself have tried some of these health diets – I have tried a detox diet, the raw foods diet, and a gluten- and dairy-free diet, only to find myself with anemia and having difficulty maintaining my weight; I lost almost 20 pounds in less than a year and found myself well under the cut-off for a healthy body weight (according to a BMI chart). Most people won’t understand why this would be a problem, but weighing less than your own body’s ideal body weight leaves you feeling lethargic and sick, not full of energy and radiant like many would think.  The surprising part of all of this despite losing all of that weight, having abnormal blood tests, and not feeling quite right, my doctor never questioned the fact that I ate so healthfully – in fact, he encouraged me to try other elimination diets!

The article cites reputable sources that discuss why orthorexia is not currently a medical diagnosis, and I completely agree that more research needs to be done before it could move into this category. However, I do hope it beings to receive more attention. Too many people are so worried about becoming obese or unhealthy that they embrace extreme health diets that in themselves lead to a less healthy lifestyle. I believe you achieve health when all areas in your life are in the right balance – diet, exercise, stress, and emotions. Extremes are never healthy because they will always disrupt a part of this balance – “No, I can’t eat that! It’s on white bread!” This will lead you to not eating and feeling stressed because someone had the audacity to serve you white bread.

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