Orthorexia is a fairly new term, coined in 1997 by a man named Steven Bratman. Modeled by the word “anorexia” which simply means “without appetite” orthorexia is a term literally meaning “correct appetite” and is used to depict some individuals who have an unhealthy fixation on what is deemed healthy.
They only want to eat what is “correct” or only what they consider optimal choices.
Is being too healthy now the new unhealthy or is it possible to just make better choices without going… orthorexic?
There is a growing population of awareness around food and wanting to eat “clean” or avoid certain unhealthy foods, such as additives and preservatives or consume only foods that are chemical free, gluten free, nut-free, soy-free, and/or animal free.
Many have worked towards sticking to paleo, vegan, local, raw, or “eat right for your blood type.”
And while certain allergies or beliefs may hold serious merit around the food choices you make it’s important to make the distinction between healthy lifestyle and obsessive-compulsive behavior that could ultimately lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.
It tends to be a difficult battle for many who want to actually avoid certain foods for health reasons but are consistently confronted with them on a daily basis at home, at the office or out with friends. It can truly become a struggle.
Then being “that person” that doesn’t want to consume certain foods brings about isolation from social circumstances or even your own personal enjoyment of certain foods that maybe you actually want to partake in!
The real question lies in what does healthy look like to you? And looking at health full circle to incorporate not just food, but life satisfaction, enjoyment, which all lowers stress levels.
Of course eating less refined processed foods and stimulants will likely give you more energy and if that is something you truly aspire towards by all means go for it. It is in fact possible to eat in a very “clean” way and still maintain, if not enhance the true joys of life.
Some people thrive on eating this way in a social environment of likeminded friends and family members that allow for them to thrive.
Others have a disconnect between what they want in their diets and what their social circles and temptations allow for and this is where the trouble can arise.
This is where more of the addictive/compulsive behavior can come out — in a frustration to be “healthy”.
In order to avoid the compulsive behavior of orthorexia but still make healthier choices you have to start by being accepting of where you are. Don’t place any judgment on yourself for your food choices and have a sincere sit down with yourself to address where you actually want to be health-wise. Don’t strive for perfection.
Enjoy the journey towards better health. Have fun in the kitchen and let go of any guilt when you “fall off the wagon”.
No way of eating is actually perfect so try not to put yourself into too much of a box when it comes to your diet. There may be times for regiment but remind yourself to stay flexible too. Your body isn’t always the one that needs nourishing. Ensuring that your choices come from a positive place is the best way to avoid orthorexic behaviour.
Kristin Fraser, BSc, is a holistic nutritionist and local freelance writer. Her column appears every second Thursday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.