I love being healthy. I love eating good fruits and veggies, going to the gym and treating my body well. I also love to indulge, eating my favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on occasion. I love treating my body as a temple and feeling good about myself and how I feel. But is being too healthy bad for you?

Orthorexia is when an obsession with eating healthy becomes unhealthy, and it is becoming far too common. PHOTO VIA DEVIANT ART

Orthorexia is when an obsession with eating healthy becomes unhealthy, and it is becoming far too common. PHOTO VIA DEVIANT ART

Orthorexia, a term defined by physician Steven Bratman, is defined as an “unhealthy obsession with healthy food.” He specifies that it’s not the diet choice that is orthorexia, its what the diet leads to: restrictive, extreme diets that leave little room for anything but what your diet permits.

How ironic.

This is something I never considered to be a bad thing, but I guess it can be. An example of a diet that contributes to orthorexia, according to Bratman, is the Paleo Diet. Paleo is a popular, highly publicized diet that took over the “healthy” sphere a few years ago. The diet restricts you from eating all dairy, grains, processed foods, sugars, starches and legumes (beans and such). This only allows you to eat specific fruits, veggies, meats, seafood and “healthy fats”. But what are healthy fats? What determines that? I can see how it can be hard for someone to determine what they can eat, and then end up not eating anything. This diet, at least for me, would cause extreme anxiety, not knowing where and what I can eat in a certain situations. It’s stressful.

Another is the gluten-free fad. Yes, there are people that are physically allergic to gluten, or who have celiac disease. But there is also a fad to not eating gluten. This is forcing some people to starve themselves, leaving people hungry and without energy. Additionally, carbs are essential to our levels of energy — without carbs, we have nothing to burn off. Humans need energy, and with a zero carb diet, it’s kind of hard to be functional.

Finally, and one that I have noticed has the least amount to eat, is the vegan diet. People who are vegan do not eat animal products, making it really difficult for to create a balanced diet. Animal products are in almost everything. And I mean everything. People are malnourished because all they are eating are veggies and carbs. They are lacking necessary vitamins and minerals that are in certain animal-based foods.

By defining the faults in these diets, I am in no way trying to say that attempting to make yourself healthier is wrong, or bad or not allowed. Being healthy is great. But there is a fine line between eating healthy, where you are being constructive to your body and treating it well, or restricting it.

Orthorexia is the anxiety caused by a restricted food diet, a malnourished body, and an obsession with food. It’s scary to think that we could be so healthy that we become unhealthy. It’s important to stay balanced and treat yourself — because we all deserve to be our best selves.

  1. I have to say as politely as I can, this article was not very well researched.

    First of all, while the term “healthy fat” can be a bit disagreeable, there are sources of fats that are better than others. Eating foods with higher amounts of unsaturated fats, rather than saturated or trans fats, has been linked to a reduced risk of atherosclerosis. This is due to the nature of the chemical bonds in the fatty acids, specifically the double bonds between the carbons in the fatty acid chains. Unsaturated fats have kinked fatty acid chains, and do not stack well, which is the reason for the liquid composition of oils which contain unsaturated fats. Saturated fatty acids, however, are not kinked, and will stack, producing more solid structures like butter.

    Secondly, vegan diets are not all that restrictive. Not “everything” has animal products in it. Sure meat and dairy are obvious, and there may be trace amounts in other foods, but I’m fairly certain there are no animal products in a tomato, or other fruits, berries, legumes, roots, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, etc.

    One could easily survive without meat, as you can acquire all essential vitamins and minerals from non-meat sources. A proper vitamin supplement would achieve requirements as well, without all the ill effects of meat-eating. I would even go as far as to say that a meat-free diet is a healthier diet alternative to a meat-based diet. Keep in mind, a meat-based diet is totally sustainable, I am only pointing out that cutting meat out of your diet would significantly reduce the risk of many chronic diseases including heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and high cholesterol, as well as the risk of obesity because of the typical lower calorie density of non-meat foods.

    Finally, I would like to address your misleading title, as it seems apparent that “eating healthy” will never become “unhealthy”. If you are developing health problems because of your diet, then it is obviously not a “healthy” diet. The symptoms of orthorexia are not due to a healthy diet, but because of what the person believes to be a healthy diet, as incorrect as that may be.

  2. Sorry to say this but, as a vegan, I am extremely offended by this accusation and you should really educated yourself before writing articles. Next time do more research. My vegan friends and I are in perfect health and not because we deprive ourselves. Stop being prejudice against what people eat and be kind. Read up and have a nice day!

  3. Thank you for saying this. Although not all vegans/those on paleo/other diets struggle with orthorexia or even disordered eating, orthorexia is such an issue because it’s so socially accepted yet is often taken too far. This topic is NOT discussed enough and I really can’t thank you enough for saying it. For those who are vegan/paleo- Jenna isn’t saying that veganism/other diets are always a disordered or bad thing- just that they CAN turn into that.

  4. this is an extremely poorly written essay with no scientific evidence or even simple defenitiona to back up your pretty outlandish claims. If you’re going to make an assumptions, support it.

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