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Articles > Sports & Fitness June, 11, 2015

Orthorexia – when ‘healthy’ becomes an obsession

Katrine Stolarchuk
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We are constantly learning to “eat our fruits and vegetables” and that “fast food is bad for us”, but what a lot of us don’t know is that we do need some unhealthy foods in our life. In fact, it may be more unhealthy to become hung up on ensuring our diets are as clean and proper as possible.

In the past two years, I have found myself struggling with this exact issue; I would always want to cook and prepare all the food I ate, I hated the idea of cheat meals (it came down to a square of 90% dark chocolate twice a week as my “indulging”), and I was always skeptical with what ingredients were used at restaurants.

I became indulged in multiple food trends such as gluten and lactose-free (these are due to GI problems though, not due to cutting them out for a healthier diet), as well as following a vegetarian diet. I would constantly monitor my macros (even things as specific as sodium and fibre), and ensure I got the perfect amount of each macro-nutrient. This is the point when my boyfriend said that he was worried about my eating habits, as I even hated when I indulged in a few chips on a night out. Through tons of research, I had come to learn that I may have a condition called Orthorexia Nervosa.

There are multiple known eating disorders out there, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. What we don’t know is that there are many other kinds of disorders out there, namely, orthorexia. Orthorexia Nervosa is a disorder where you have an obsession to eat only healthy/clean foods, or have a “fixation on righteous eating”. This disorder can be characterized by multiple obsessions such as fixating on where food comes from, how it is prepared, exactly what ingredients (and how much) are added into the prepared food, constantly following trends with regards to “the latest superfoods”, thriving from a perfect diet, or feeling shame when one consumes unhealthy foods.

I am now turning my diet around; ceasing food-tracking, adding salt here-and-there, and even having that extra piece of pie at dinner, if I feel the need to. Although I am still very focused on what I put in my body, I am trying to get myself to stop obsessing and fixating on it. Since I started addressing the disorder, I have considered progressively adding poultry back in my diet as I feel this may help towards returning to regular eating habits.

I am very comfortable with my body (and have been for quite some time), but I always felt the need to improve it more and more. As the phrase goes “the day you started lifting, is the day you will never again be satisfied with yourself”. Though this still holds true, daily, I am convincing myself that an extra cheat meal a week, or enjoying dinner dates is okay, and it will not make that big of an impact on my already petite frame.

I encourage everyone to get educated on the subject. You may be able to help yourself, or a loved one through the same struggle.

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  1. Connor Reilly

    I have personally experienced this myself, my outlook now is to give my body the best nutrition possible whilst creating awesome tasting recipes of foods that are perceived as “unhealthy” and make them “healthy” Our body deserves the best, so that we can live a happier, healthier and longer life.

    • Katrine

      I changed my view to be very similar now! I try to eat healthy most of the time, but indulge when I want something, so I can have a healthy balance

  2. Emma Fisher

    I personally suffered with this problem. Constantly obsessing over what I ate and punishing myself for not eating food that was “healthy”. I feel we need to start opening up more to break stigmas around eating disorders. They are not just starving yourself, they are restrictive eating/exercise which has mental effects

  3. Your article is very interesting, I myself have struggled with my eating habits over the past couple of years, I went on a calorie restricting diet in order to lose weight, I managed to lose the weight I wanted to and keep it off, but recently I have begun to obsess over what food I eat, especially the amount of calories in the different foods and have begun to become much more compulsive when it comes to weighing my food, even my fruit and veg.

    I always say to myself that I won’t count the calories in my food each day, but then I write what I have eaten on paper and begin to question whether I have over-indulged in food which makes me paranoid and want to work out the calories I have eaten. I know I shouldn’t do this but I know how you feel to struggle breaking the pattern. Hopefully i’ll stop the calorie tracking soon, it really gets me down sometimes. Thank you for enabling me to gain more knowledge on a condition that I didn’t even know existed until today and I hope that you’ve managed to regain a more ‘healthier’ eating pattern.