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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. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa

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