Last updated: 17-Aug-15
Written by Sports Dietician Rin Cobb
With all the healthy eating messages being thrust down our throats, it’s no wonder it’s a common topic of discussion. We all have our own thoughts about what healthy eating means to us individually, leading to the food choices we make. There’s no denying a healthy balanced lifestyle is the way forward, but is there a point when it can go too far and we can become ‘too’ healthy?
Have you ever come across that person, maybe even yourself, who insists on only eating healthy food; strictly organic, no sugar or saturated fat and don’t even think about offering that post race celebratory drink. On the one hand you may admire their willpower to fulfill their quest for a ‘pure’ diet but on the other you can be left feeling exasperated when the only place you can eat out is that ‘superfood’ delicatessen across town, as they can’t bear to try somewhere new with an unknown menu.
For many of us, striving for a healthier balanced lifestyle is a good thing but for those whose preoccupation with healthy eating starts to control their life, it can become an unhealthy obsession. Whilst not a diagnosable eating disorder in its own right, Orthorexia Nervosa is a form of disordered eating through cutting out various food groups or specific nutrients believing this to be healthy. The main difference between Orthorexia Nervosa and a diagnosable eating disorder is the lack of motivation by fear of weight gain or body image distortion. Ironically, eliminating these ‘bad’ foods can actually lead to nutritional deficiencies, compromised immune function, poor health and ultimately poor running performance.
So at what point does healthy eating become unhealthy? The main distinction is the impact your food choices start to have on your social life, relationships, emotions and eventually physical health. Those with Orthorexia, start to isolate themselves, avoiding social opportunities that involve food and can become quite distressed if they are unable to control their food choices. Their thoughts will become preoccupied about food; planning meals, finding acceptable foods, scrutinizing food labels and spending considerable time food googling. Guilt and shame related to their food choices that don’t fit their food rules is also common and can affect self-esteem.
So what are the signs to look out for?
1. Do you cut out certain foods because you believe they’re not ‘pure’ or are bad for you?
2. Do you feel guilty if you eat certain foods you deem to be unhealthy?
3. Are you fixated on healthy eating and preoccupied with thoughts around food?
4. Do you have a fear of losing control over your diet?
5. Are your food choices affecting your social life?
No doubt there will be times, anyone of you could answer yes to any of these questions. However, if you find yourself answering yes to most of these and on a regular basis then it’s worth talking to someone about this and seeking some professional guidance so you can lead a healthy and happy life. Then you can have your cake and eat it (and not feel guilty about it).