Inspiration from Meghan

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Too Healthy For Your Own Good?


Many of you have likely heard the term Orthorexic before- you may even have been called this by your unhealthy eating friends and family. An article from 2004 recently resurfaced and has been making its rounds. Originally published in  Medical News Today, the article entitled "Orthorexia nervosa - obsessed with eating to improve your health" defined orthorexia as "a new type of eating disorder... where people are becoming obsessed with eating to improve their health".

Uh... where does that leave you and I?

I'd like to know what it's called when people have this undying commitment to eating in ways that deteriorate their health? Mortorexia? Eating to promote an early death? That's what most people are doing, most of the time. Not too long ago, someone commented to me on Twitter saying they are "inspired by [my] commitment to wellness". I couldn't help but respond with my  shock at people's tireless commitment to making themselves feel like absolute poopola.

The article goes on to decry a focus on healthy eating:

In a quest to cure themselves of a specific disorder, or simply just taking healthy eating to extremes, orthorexics develop their own increasingly specific food rules. Working out how to stick to their self-imposed dietary regimen takes up more and more of their time and they are compelled to plan meals several days ahead. They tend to take a 'survival kit' of their own food with them when they go out, as they cannot eat readily available foods for fear of fat, chemicals or whatever their particular phobia might be.

I have often said that we could only be so lucky to be named "the healthy one" by those around us. I wish with all my heart that I could just pick up food wherever I went and didn't need to pack my emergency Wean Greens full of power food goodness.

The thing is- the way we, meaning the general industrialized public, now eat, is brand shiny new- just as the skyrocketing rates of cancer and diabetes and reliance on medications is also new. If we all ate the way we are supposed to eat- with real food that doesn't have processed fat or chemicals- no one would be singled out as the 'healthy one'. We would all simply be healthy.

Last week I talked about Coke. Imagine, for a moment, the world and state of health (and state of mind) we would live in if instead of chugging back a Coke or coffee, everyone sipped up a green juice? What if instead of grabbing a quick, cheap, easy and convenient bite, we all actually took the time to prep and plan for a week of healthy eating. What if instead of popping prescribed meds for every ache and pain we drank loads of water and ate real food to reverse the cause of the pain?

Does this way of living sound like torture? Does this seem obsessive, or too much work, or taking away from a good life?

A good life is about feeling great to be able to enjoy the great moments to their fullest. Why would anyone want to sell themselves short of living the life of their dreams?

I don't have an answer for that. But I can keep working on helping people find their solution.

Question of The Day: Do you ever feel singled out by your commitment or desire to eat well?

25 Responses to “Too Healthy For Your Own Good?”

  1. Christa said…
    This is an excellent post, and even better conversation in these comments! As much as I want to be healthy, and conscious of what I eat at home, travelling, etc, I have to do a self-check once in a while to make sure I am not constatntly beating myself up if I make a mistake, or am not able to make great choices for whatever reason. When the guilt and the shame set in because I don't think I'm doing enough, that's when it becomes a problem. I have made so many changes in my life in the last six months, that I know I'm not going to be perfect. No one is. But I have committed to do that absolute best that I can.
    • (I hit submit too early) Valuing yourself and honoring your body plays a huge part in all of this, and knowing what your personal hinderances and limits are.
  2. pdw said…
    The keys here are that: (a) this is a mental illness; and (b) it leads to compromised health, malnutrition, and possibly death. People may perceive others to be orthorexic when they are intensely focused on healthy foods and what they eat, but they are not truly orthorexic unless their obsession is caused by disordered thinking and results in damage to their health. Just like if you are skinny your acquaintances may think that you have anorexia nervosa, but just being skinny or eating small amounts does not equate with having anorexia nervosa. Like you, I obsess about my food. I plan at least a week ahead. I take my own food with me to events. I have several sets of food rules that I follow. Some are moral or religious. Some are to avoid reactions or exacerbating existing illnesses. And some are to promote general health. Yes, there are people who keep eliminating foods until there is nothing left to eat and they wither away and die. I'm not one of them. While I do have a diet that is very restricted in the average person's viewpoint, I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating, I am always looking for new foods to try, to make, and new food challenges. I enjoy cooking for other people. I enjoy eating with other people. I can find something I can eat at almost any restaurant or grocery store. I am well-nourished and a healthy weight. Do I object to putting processed crap in my body? You bet. If I am super hungry and the only "safe" food for me is potato chips, am I going to eat them? Yep. And I'll enjoy them too. For someone who is orthorexic, they would refuse to eat them, and it would upset them very much to be forced into it. pdw [vegetarian, dairy-free, grain-free, multiple allergies]
  3. Great article Meghan, I think its something we all encounter at some point or another. I think the term Orthorexia nervosa is absolutely ridiculous. I can be frustrating having to bring food with you everywhere and not being able to really gab a snack to go from a on the run but I really don't see the point of eating something that makes me physically feel like crap 10min after putting it in my mouth. PS. I am so envious of the fridge, so organized and full of deliciousness.
  4. Ryan said…
    Hmm..I'm not so sure about this. Orthorexia is an illness that causes suffering. It seems that you are arguing that to be obsessed with healthy eating is more beneficial than harmful, but I just don't think that is always the case. If someone has orthorexia, they would rather starve than eat something unhealthy, and they often do. Obviously there are foods that are not health promoting and are best avoided, but I don't believe that if the options are to eat refined flour products or go hungry, then one should choose to go hungry. Also, food is often seen as a moral issue by someone with orthorexia and if they happen to ingest food that is not pure and healthy by their standards, they will feel that they themselves are bad, wrong, or immoral for eating such food. It causes great emotional suffering and is not something to scoff at. Of course, there is a difference between choosing to eat healthy, being happy with that choice, and not allowing it to cause emotional distress...but maybe you are misunderstanding the disorder. It's not about just eating healthy and planning meals ahead of's more than that, and to ignore this fact might be a little insensitive to people who suffer from eating disorders.
  5. Divya said…
    I certainly do feel singled out because I've decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle. I've always been somewhat health conscious, but since my mother passed away three months ago (at the age of 51) due to diabetes-related complications, I've become even more aware of what I'm putting in my body. My friends think I'm crazy. But it is crazy to try to prevent a life threatening disease? I don't think so, but I've had a hard time explaining that to my friends. As long as what I eat doesn't affect them, they shouldn't have a problem with it. I happened to order from the gluten-free menu at a restaurant the other day and my friend had a fit! She thought I was being a food snob, when in reality I'm far from that. Gluten doesn't sit well with me and she just didn't get it. I think as long as you're still enjoying life, there's no harm in being what most people call "health freaks". As for Orthorexia nervosa, if you're not enjoying your life and undergoing mental anguish whenever you have a meal - then there's a problem!
  6. Great post! I think it's all about your attitude in life. If you're eating healthy but unhappy, there's usually something going on there which is far beyond the food. Eating clean can definitely help improve your overall wellbeing though! If only more people realized that...
  7. Stina said…
    Maybe it's a language barrier thing, but the term "unhealthy people" doesn't sit right with me. Someone who is unhealthy is someone who is sick, and I don't think blaming people for their sickness is a good way to relate to them. I'm sure the term is used more along the lines of "people who live unhealthy lives", but even then, I sense a lot of blame and "better than thou" attitude in some "healthy" circles (not from you, Meghan!). Judging people for their live choices is never a good idea because you can never know the whole story why they made those choices. Not everyone who eats processed food does so because they are lazy or ignorant.
  8. Bex said…
    As someone who struggles with an eating disorder, I think that obsession with healthy eating can ABSOLUTELY be a destructive force. My journey to anorexia and bulimia started out with an obsession with healthy eating/whole food consumption and exercise. From there, it became an obsession. Eating disorders take many forms, and it has to do with the mental relationship with food.
  9. Adaline said…
    Health is wealth. To get a fitness body we have to always look into our food. Thanks for this beautiful tips.

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