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Do You Eat TOO Healthy?
Are you a health food junkie? Do you refuse to eat anything that isn't totally healthy? Do you shun sugar and crave carrots? Or does this describe someone you know?
One doctor thinks eating too healthy can actually cross the line and he has named the disorder, orthorexia. Translated, it means "fixation on righteous eating." People with orthorexia are at risk of a more serious eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. But orthorexia itself is not an official disease or disorder and has no diagnostic criteria. Often orthorexics are not thin like anorexics, but they can be just a strict with their diet.
Where's the line?
Some people believe that following a vegan diet or being a raw foodist puts you into the orthorexia category. I disagree because I have known some pretty junk-food-swallowing vegans in my time. Where do you draw the line between wanting to eat healthy and becoming, well, obsessed with healthy eating?
I think it becomes a problem when healthy eating consumes you, and even defines you. If you spend numerous hours daily reading nutrition news (blogs included!), searching for recipes, shopping, cooking, and eating, you could have crossed the line. If you avoid social situations because you will be tempted or "forced" to eat food that is not pure and healthy, you may have a problem. If you try to control everything that you eat and "preach" the virtues of good diet to anyone who will listen, you are probably losing friends.
As a dietitian, I have to be very careful how much I "preach" to people around me. I learned that in my first job when I thought no one wanted to eat lunch with me for fear I would judge what they are eating. I pride myself with having balance in my diet. I love sweets and the occasional french fry, and I enjoy indulging occasionally....OK....maybe daily. But that is balance. I firmly stand by the 80/20 rule in not just nutrition, but life in general. All work and no play makes for a boring life. Eating perfectly all the time is also unbalanced and can be unhealthy. Remember my post on eating too much fiber? It is ironic, but eating too healthy can be unhealthy!
Orthorexia, like anorexia or bulimia, is a psychological problem. It is a sign of reaching for perfection. If you are someone you know is unbalanced in their thinking and eating, seek help from a mental health counselor to get to the root of the problem. Talk to a Registered Dietitian to learn about how to balance your diet to include all kinds of food.