When Healthy Eating is Harmful Eating
Written by Carrie Cusack
Executive Chef, Balance Treatment Center
Eating a clean and healthy diet is one of the most beneficial ways to assure physical and mental wellness. Each and every day we are inundated with information touting the benefits of real food. Television, social media and magazines are overflowing with products and plans to set us all on the proper path to health. We know that when we eat better, we feel better. It’s simple, right? Unfortunately, this new culture of “healthy obsessions” is proving to have negative outcome for certain individuals.
Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) is a recently recognized eating disorder. Many physicians believe it is a phenomenon that is growing in our society. An individual with ON becomes “manically obsessed” with healthy foods. Typically, it begins as a healthy eating regime that ultimately spirals into a fixation of only ingesting what they feel is “pure”. Sufferers restrict foods and become obsessed with how much and what they are putting in their bodies.
A normally healthy lifestyle becomes one of withdrawal and physical danger. Initially individuals feel an increased sense of self-esteem and control as they mandate what enters their body. The goal of consuming healthy food becomes all encompassing. They often feel superior to others who do not conform to their pure eating habits. Life becomes completely obsessed with planning meals and regulating intake. Ultimately a person suffering from ON might withdrawal from society. Their obsessions outweigh everything else in their lives. They are full of self-loathing when they stray from their daily meal plan. Their health decreases as their caloric intake and food choices are limited. Ironically, the outcomes are diminished for a person whose ultimate obsession is being as healthy as they can possibly be.
Adapting a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising regularly is proven to better one’s life. It is important to keep in mind, as in all things, balance and moderation are the keys to success. Simply put, too much of a good thing is not necessarily good. Being healthy should be part of an individual’s persona, not the single identifying factor.