It might not be recognised as a truly clinical problem right now, but orthorexia nervosa is the term for an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with healthy food. Have you ever felt this way?
2015, the year of wellness
As we round up 2015, there’s a lot of chatter about it being the year that ‘wellness’ got fashionable. What with Instagram-famous yogis, plant-based chefs, and clean eating books galore, I can’t argue with that – I’m a huge fan of the wellness movement and the community it has created!
But unfortunately, there is a dark side; one that might not have yet fully emerged, in fact. Orthorexia is a term I only stumbled across recently, but it has definitely struck a chord. There was a point in time where I felt almost guilty for not having a smoothie bowl when I woke up, avocado salad for lunch, and some form of spiralised vegetable for dinner. I was making healthy changes day-to-day, but I remembered how far the fitness bloggers I followed ran, and how Deliciously Ella said she didn’t regret going full-on plant-based without craving sweets, chocolate, crisps… everything I adored alongside my typical healthy diet and regular home-grown yoga sessions.
I’ve overcome all of that now – and I’m not going to lie, it took more than realising it was silly to pressure myself to eat well every day. Along with taking up mindful eating, where I make conscious healthy choices every day and learn to reward myself mentally for doing so, I also learned to let go of my perfectionist ways. Nobody is perfect, and while I used to wish I was, I know that I actually feel a lot happier now listening and understanding where I can get better, rather than being naturally perfect at everything. Wouldn’t life be boring if that were the case!
What is orthorexia?
Anyway, back to orthorexia. It usually starts out as an innocent attempt to eat healthy food, but develops into an obsession with food quality, purity, and its nutritional value. Along with this is a psychological tying of self-esteem with eating habits, rising above others when eating ‘better’ than them, punishing oneself for ‘slip ups’, and ends up in such a strict habit that this method of eating actually becomes ironically unhealthy. Less is it to do with what you put in your body or how you look after it; more, social anxiety, obsessiveness, and a fear of unhealthy foods. In extreme cases, it is linked to anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
It may be that you have also felt this way, and I do want to say here that self-diagnosis is always a tricky business, so if you do feel like you’re falling for this in a big way, please see a doctor, or speak to someone you trust about how you really feel. For me, it was a minor blip before really finding my feet in the healthy living world – I’m lucky to have found serious inspiration along the way, and I love sharing what I do on a regular basis, but we’re all human and while I eat predominantly well, always vegetarian, and exercise at least a few times per week, you won’t see me instagramming that cake I ate in the office or a can of coke I was bought at the pub.
Moderation… in moderation
I personally think it’s unhealthy to maintain such a strict outlook on life, almost in a self-preservation way that becomes it only for the sake of self-preservation, as you’re not happy with the life you’re living day-to-day. It doesn’t help that we’re surrounded by ‘pure’ images of health-obsessed celebrities, chefs, even bloggers, because there’s nothing there that indicates their lifestyles are unobtainable, yet Essena O’Neil’s recent outburst actually revealed that even the most inspiring people actually have dark days, and want more to life than a slender frame and a salad. So I hope in some ways, that if you stumbled across this from a quick search, or are a regular reader, that you’re more than aware that no-one is perfect, and you’re doing well by purely understanding what healthy food is and eating it as and when you can! For me, it’s a passion, but I will never deny the pleasure that chocolate gives me; I just look forward to finding other, healthier things that make me just as happy and blogging about them!