Today’s post will hopefully shed some light on a way of living that so many young people are sadly led to perceive as ‘healthy’. Some of the points I make may seem cut-throat, however having previously been on the other side of the fence, I feel that honesty here will evoke the greatest inspiration for change.
Current media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have created a booming craze for healthy food. For some this is an awesome source of inspiration, with endless recipes and advice.
For others, it can create a damaging state of mind, and a fear of all foods labelled ‘unclean’. Totally soul crushing! This behaviour has recently been coined as Orthorexia.
‘Orthorexia is a bit like OCD and is closely linked to Anorexia; though sufferers are concerned with quality rather than quantity of food. But, Orthorexia has yet to be officially recognised as an eating disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.’ so public awareness is pretty limited. (Sturgis, India, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wellbeing/health-advice/orthorexia-the-clean-eating-obsession-that-makes-you-dangerously/)
Stemming from the more well-known Anorexia, Orthorexia is defined as an individual developing an obsession with eating certain types of food, which they deem ‘healthy’, ‘clean’ and ‘safe’. And so, whilst technically they may be eating really well with loads of veggies, rice, and chicken, the anxiety and obsession they have around foods which are deemed ‘unsafe’ becomes a psychological issue.
Let’s rewind two years and take the old me as an example. Two years ago I was so trapped within a ‘health’ bubble that the thought of someone eating doughnuts next to me gave me heart palpitations. Let alone eating a doughnut myself. Thank god those days are over hey!
Ironically, Orthorexia can often come from a desire to improve one’s health. It is not perceived by the sufferer as a form of restriction. Therefore, most sufferers genuinely believe that they are doing the very best for their well-being. The desire to eat clean stems from a desire to feel fit, healthy and strong. It is not about losing weight or being skinny.
One of the key signs of the disorder is the unnecessary elimination of food groups. For example, I have complete respect for the fact that some people genuinely cannot handle gluten. However, if you’re not a Coeliac then you really don’t need to be cutting gluten from your diet. It is this kind of restrictive labelling that starts to create negative mental patterns. Eating an entire loaf’s worth of gluten will make anyone feel sluggish but a balanced amount in your daily diet will not kill you off.
Another common sign of Orthorexia is that you may start to decline every single invitation to go out for dinner. The thought of eating a meal cooked by someone else can become unbearable, even if you order a big salad.
With so many people today thriving on a healthy lifestyle it can be incredibly hard to find the line between health and Orthorexia. This is where balance comes into play.
Balance is key, and it’s the restoration of balance that has set me, and many other young people like myself, free! As Oscar Wilde once said “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Balance means doing your morning workout after a delicious spinach omelette, followed later by a few chocolate biscuits, dunked in a mug of tea after a long day. Balance means going on spontaneous meals out with friends to your favourite burger restaurants and not beating yourself up about it. Balance means cooking up a big batch of nourishing veggie soup, and serving it with chunky bread and cheese.
There is only one side effect to balance: YOU’LL FEEL LIKE A SUPERHUMAN!
If you feel like you’ve been sucked into the healthy craze, take a step back and give yourself a break. Reflect on your relationship with food and really think about whether you are cutting yourself enough slack. There are so many incredible people out there with words of wisdom, and I am more than happy to support any soul who reaches out.
Equally, if you are worried about a friend or family member get out there and do your research. Open your mind and you’ll help open theirs.
Lots of love,