If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in your health and eating nutritious foods. I’m happy you’re here! But I want to talk to those who are obsessed with healthy eating, not the fun “OMG I’m *obsessed* with this juice bar!” but the type of obsessed where it’s all you can think about and you strive for the perfect diet at all costs.
This post is for you:
- If you’re overly concerned about specific food choices and how they affect your health.
- If you’re strict about no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, chemicals, GMOs, fat, sugar, etc. and skip meals if you don’t have access to food you find acceptable and pure.
- If you eliminate whole food groups without a medical diagnosis or recommendations from your doctor.
- If you are obsessed with analyzing nutrition labels.
- If your variety of food is becoming smaller and smaller.
- If you’re spending all your money on superfoods, probiotics, herbs, and other supplements in the pursuit of perfect health.
- If you’re isolating yourself from friends and social situations because of your beliefs and anxiety around food.
- If you FEAR FOOD and what it will do to your health, feel guilty for eating foods you deem “bad”, are constantly thinking about where you’ll find acceptable food, judge others for eating “unacceptable” food.
- If food has become your enemy rather than a source of pleasure.
These are all warning signs of orthorexia, an obsession with proper and healthy eating.
Being conscious and mindful about food isn’t itself an issue, but it’s when the above behaviors start to creep in that the pursuit of wellness becomes damaging to your wellbeing.
This isn’t formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual so there isn’t a clinical treatment specific to orthorexia, but it is very much a problem in today’s culture and that’s why I wanted to bring light to it for #NEDAwareness Week (National Eating Disorder Awareness Week).
Stress has a worse effect on your body than any specific food will, and eating should be about pleasure, not fear and anxiety. If this does sound like you, I hope you find relief in knowing that you are not alone, there are many people out there dealing with the same fears often made worse by social media.
This often starts with good intentions to help your body feel better if you’re dealing with physical or mental health issues. Maybe you heard about a diet that worked for a friend, or follow an influencer whose food rules helped her heal a condition. Try not to blame yourself—when we’re feeling hopeless and have tried just about everything to feel better, it’s hard not to be tempted by another possible solution.
Sometimes it’s just enthusiasm for healthy eating that can spur new obsessions. It becomes a problem when it negatively affects your daily life in the ways I outlined above—isolating yourself from friends, going long periods without food because you can’t find anything “acceptable” to eat, etc.
If you nodded your head at any of the above, think about how it impacts your day-to day, your relationships with friends and family, your relationship with eating before and after these behaviors began, etc. Understanding the problem is the first step to moving forward.
Treatment for orthorexia
If you’re ready to feel some relief and have a more relaxed relationship with food, it may be time to reach out to a therapist or other professional who specializes in eating disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Often times people in these situations benefit from a multidisciplinary care team including your doctor, therapist, dietitian/nutritionist, and/or health coach and I’m happy to be on your team when you’re ready and if it’s a match. We work together to form a plan for your recovery and help you heal your relationship with food.
You deserve to experience pleasure around food
Food is one of life’s many joys that you deserve to experience on every level. Yes, it can be a tool for health, but it’s also perfectly okay to experience pleasure for pleasure’s sake when it comes to your meals, snacks, desserts, etc. That may feel like worlds away right now, but you can have that experience again and take your life back from diet culture.
What can you do right now?
- Go to the NEDA website and learn more.
- Go to your insurance’s website to see what providers are covered and decide who to reach out to.
- If you need support, let a trusted friend or family member know. I am always here to cheer you on, too.
- Unfollow any accounts that make you feel worse about your relationship with food and your body, and any accounts that make you feel anxious about food, or contribute to your food anxiety. If they happen to be friends and you worry about upsetting them by unfollowing, you can share what you’re going through and let them know it’s not about them (only if you feel comfortable sharing), or you can mute their posts so you don’t have to see them and they won’t know you muted them.
- Take care of yourself! Practice self-compassion and kindness for yourself as you are going through a tough time. What does self-care look like for you? Here are 20 free and low-cost self-care ideas.
Healing is a process and it won’t happen overnight. But if you got to the bottom of this post, you’re already on your way. Please reach out if you need more guidance. I wish you the best on your journey!