We hear all too often about the myriad of ways to eat healthy and to be healthy. With so many diets on the market promising to result in “weight loss, improved sleep, age reversal, more energy, and limitless potential for obtaining the ultimate sense of well-being,” it comes as no surprise that the abundance of recommendations sets us up for a great number of health risks, not to mention, confusion, and oftentimes disappointment. For some, this excess of controversial health information results in a disordered eating pattern. Have you ever wondered, “Maybe I should go on a cleanse…or maybe I should avoid dairy products…or maybe low-fat….or maybe Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan (or insert any other type of diet here)?” Well you are definitely not alone in your curiosity!
For many, this obsession over what’s right and what’s wrong has led to an eminent pattern of disordered eating. Simply called orthorexia, this obsessive thinking and eating can have dangerous health effects, similarly to other disordered eating behaviors. Orthorexia is simply, ‘an obsession with eating healthy or purely.’1 You might be thinking to yourself at this point, “What’s so wrong with wanting to eat healthy all the time?”, or might even find yourself envious of others that seem to be so focused on avoiding unhealthy food choices. The problem with this way of thinking, however, is that while this attempt at healthy eating may initially start out as wanting to feel better, look better, or just achieve improved health, it is an unsustainable behavior in the long run.
With time many that obsess over what they presume to be healthy eating practices, limit food choices so much that they find themselves dedicated to only a few carefully selected food items, neglecting all the beautiful, delicious, and nutritious foods that are available! While foods such as kale, ginger, carrots, cabbage, and blueberries (and more!) truly do provide us with ample amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, limiting your meals to only these items is certainly void of many other essential nutrients.
For example, 1 cup of chopped raw kale provides more than 200% of the RDA for Vitamin A, over 100% of Vitamin C, and an astounding 680% of Vitamin K! It also, has a notable amount of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids at 121mg and 92mg, respectively. Kale provides a dense amount of quality carbohydrates (24g), fiber (1g), and protein (5g) as well. At first peek, you might say this is truly a nutritious food! But, when this is eaten alone and for lengthy periods of time, you would be missing out on some other essential nutrients, namely Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and B Vitamins. It is also a low-calorie food, which means that if eaten alone, you will likely not be getting enough calories in your day to sustain energy and to maintain optimal health.
Instead, let’s practice creating a list of healthy foods that you enjoy eating. Next, create a list of foods that may not necessarily be considered to fall in the same ‘healthy food’ category, but they are foods you truly love eating and that should be eaten only in moderation. Lastly, create a list of meals that will allow you to enjoy both healthy foods along with these favorite moderate foods. This will help you to find balance in your eating, while allowing you to occasionally enjoy some of these favorite treats in moderation. The outcome will prove to leave you room to focus on your improving health, while avoiding the feelings of depravity and help you to avoid the pitfalls that often accompany fad diets and eventual binge eating. After all, food and mealtimes should be a time for nourishment, joy, celebration, and praise for the health you are working to achieve over a lifetime!
Look at the example below for an example:
1 Brytek-Matera A, Rogoza R, Gramaglia C, Zeppegno P. Predictors of orthorexic behaviours in patients with eating disorders: a preliminary study.BMC Psychiatry. 2015;15:252. doi:10.1186/s12888-015-0628-1.