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, 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.
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.