How not to go crazy with a healthy lifestyle: what is orthorexia?

Those who lose weight try to eat right, choose healthy and wholesome foods, and lead a healthy lifestyle, especially since it is very fashionable today. And such a healthy enthusiasm is good until the desire to eat “cleanly” and “correctly” turns into an obsession, for which there is a whole separate concept – nervous orthorexia. What is it, and how to recognize it in yourself?

Orthorexia ( 1 ) is a term that appeared in 1996 and describes an unhealthy desire to eat healthy food obsession with proper nutrition. And although this nervous breakdown is not an officially recognized clinical disease, like anorexia or bulimia, it can poison a person’s life.

It usually starts with an innocent desire to eat right to lose weight. This is when the saying about the road to hell with good intentions fits. But the further, the more unrealistic the motives become. A person believes that if he is careful and attentive in choosing food if he takes it under complete control, he will protect himself from any problems with health and appearance. And very quickly, he gets hung up on the quality of products and clean nutrition.

Self-esteem becomes tied to proper nutrition and the ideal diet. Orthorexics often feel better and superior to others in the shower, especially regarding food. But if suddenly, one-day temptation wins, self-esteem instantly collapses, and a person experiences a huge sense of guilt and tries to punish himself with an even more strict diet.

How not to go crazy with a healthy lifestyle: what is orthorexia?

Eventually, food choices become so scarce in variety and nutritional value that health can begin to suffer—an unexpected turn for a person who puts healthy food at the heart of everything. In extreme cases, an obsession with proper nutrition can crowd out other pursuits and interests, ruin relationships, and lock a person in the same circle of desperate zealots who plan their lives around food.

Do you have it?

Do not think those suffering from orthorexia of varying severity are similar to mentally ill people or anorexics. So many people do not even suspect that things have not been very good with food for some time. Answer the following questions: the more yes answers, the more likely you are dealing with a problem.

  • Thinking about proper nutrition takes too much time?
  • Would you like to be able to eat normally from time to time and not worry about the quality of the food?
  • Would you like to spend less time on healthy eating and more on a normal life?
  • Do you refuse food if you don’t know exactly what it consists of, who cooked it, and how?
  • Are you constantly looking for reasons why different foods can be harmful?
  • Do you have guilt or self-loathing, lack of will, and weakness when you break your diet?
  • Do you feel in complete control of your life and health when you eat the “right” food?
  • Do you set yourself as an example and sincerely wonder how others can eat “IT” (something not dietary and unhealthy, “food garbage”)?
  • Do you feel mentally better and happier when you eat clean, healthy, eco-friendly, farm-labeled, organic, bio, preservatives, and GMO-free?
  • Have you noticed that you have become more isolated, and the diet interferes with your social life: attending holidays, meetings, and visiting restaurants?

Where is the line between healthy eating and an eating disorder?

We live in a time when the quality of products is deteriorating, when fertilizers, pesticides, and various chemical additives are widely used. Food has become more high-calorie, a person is less mobile, and the rate of obesity (including childhood) is growing. Will anyone interested in their health and associating it with what they eat suffer from an eating disorder? Of course not.

How not to go crazy with a healthy lifestyle: what is orthorexia?

Following a healthy diet and some time dedicated to food (and if you are losing weight, you still have to think about food and how to organize your diet a little more than the average person) is the norm. Knowing how much protein you are eating, whether you are getting enough fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats throughout the day, and whether you are drinking enough water.

But if something described in the questions above begins to happen, this is an occasion to think and “let go of the reins” a little.

What to do?

First, as with any addiction, is to admit that there is a problem.

Secondly, to understand what problems, emotions, and hopes are associated with an ideal clean diet. Often the basis is anxiety, the need for control, and the fear of disease. But it is worth recognizing that a person cannot control health by 100%, no matter how “cleanly” he eats. Food is one of the factors of health, but not the main and not only one. A slice of pizza eaten in a moment of mental weakness today will not give you cancer tomorrow, and no ideal diet will give you 100% immunity from disease. So some moderate fatalism will reduce the degree of tension.

How not to go crazy with a healthy lifestyle: what is orthorexia?

Thirdly, it is worth trying to expand the boundaries of proper nutrition. By and large, there are many more useful products than harmful ones. It is useful because it carries nutrients in sufficient quantities, and this is a very wide selection of products, even if they are not grown organically in alpine meadows.

Fourth, you cannot control the actual “purity” of the products. This is another point that is not in your control, and it is pointless to try to control it. Even if the eggs or meat are labeled “free pasture,” this does not mean that the animal lives in the field 24 hours a day. It is possible that free grazing is limited to a couple of hours a day and has no effect on the composition of meat or milk.

In general, it is useful for any sage to remember: while improving and extending your life, do not forget to live!

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