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. Danielle said…
    I feel singled out on a daily basis. Thank you for this post.
  2. Karen said…
    Excellent post!!!!!
  3. vanessa said…
    I believe that the condition of "orthorexia" is more subjective than it has been made out to be (as a diagnosis, it is especially OBjective in the first place). Everyone has their own line between healthy and obsessive - food-related or otherwise - and it is up to individual to make that distinction. I had a classmate, for example, who was an athlete and brought her own food, water, cutting board, etc., to class and everywhere else. She LOVED living like this, and her friends all knew to never ask her out to dinner because she wouldn't eat out. This lifestyle worked for her and brought her joy. I, on the other hand, feel healthiest when I allow for some rule-bending here and there. I believe that the key is doing what makes you feel good - TRULY feel good, not just masking a worse feeling with a less-worse one, a.k.a. addiction - and avoiding what doesn't. This is the heart of self-respect.
    • Clare said…
      What a thorough, considerate and wise response. Thank you. I agree that orthorexia can't be "diagnosed" outside the consciousness of the individual. We all make life choices every day; the habit of them being judged by others is unnecessary, especially when it comes to how we feed ourselves.
  4. Pam said…
    I love this post. I remember hearing about orthorexia a while ago, and how several of my friends said I have it. (They do too lol.) I have orthorexia induced by being a parent. I, along with my husband, have tweaked our family's diet to help our son who is autistic. We pack our food wherever we go and don't eat ready-to-eat processed foods. Our fears, however, don't stem from the reasons listed above, but rather from seeing our son regress when he eats certain foods. It sucks big time when that happens. I suppose my orthorexia may be the reason our son no longer requires special education services and why most people have no clue he was ever on the autism spectrum. Hopefully my diagnosis won't put too much of a strain on the health care industry or the school's special education budget. I suppose they could always prescribe Twinkies. Those are cheap, right? What a sad state we're in when we're calling efforts to take charge of our own health and life an "illness." Thanks for the great post!
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      Child induced orthorexia can be a whole new sub category. I LOVE that having babies makes parents more conscious. Best reason ever!
  5. K said…
    Yes, being vegetarian and trying to be mostly vegan + healthy is difficult. While travelling it is extremely difficult!
  6. Stephanie said…
    Hmmm, I personally don't believe that the term orthorexia is referring to anyone who lives as healthily and consciously they can, and enjoying it. I think it is in reference to a mental illness where one is, indeed, eating incredibly healthy food all the time, but are not happy. Who are obsessing and stressing all the time, which we know is not healthy. I found this post to be a little disrespectful of those who may be suffering from orthorexia. Which may or may not be an official diagnosis. But, I certainly don't appreciate anyone who strives to be the happiest and healthiest they can be, and often not fitting societal norms, being labeled as orthorexic.
    • Dani said…
      Agreed. There is major difference between someone who strives to live healthy, be prepared with snacks and meal plan and someone who has disordered eating, which is part of the mental illness realm and tends to stem from something far greater than “just wanting to be healthy.” There are issues of obsession, control, amongest others factors. Those with Orthorexia Nervosa can experience a reduced quality of life, stress, social isolation and extreme guilt; it’s completely unfair to group those with an eating disorder [while not formally recognized] and deal with emotional stress with those who want to improve their health.
  7. peace said…
    That's a nice looking fridge! So fresh and so clean :) This is my anthem for Natural Nutriton by Dead Prez, Be Healthy. If you want to talk about Orthorexia Nervosa*^_^*
  8. Andrea said…
    I agree with Vanessa. I'm trying to choose my words carefully here... Taken at face value I agree with the quote, but it's one-dimensional. I think that it gets unhealthy when it becomes an obsessive-compulsive, about control rather than health, or when individuals think that the extremist way is the only way. Having flexibility, starting where you're at, those are good things. Recognizing what's good for your own body is good. Self awareness and healthy state of mind are good. Making changes out of love for one's self rather than loathing is huge. Making changes in the most healthy way possible and incrementally, good. I think that people are more at a risk of going to unhealthy extremes when they are starting out but your role as coach/teacher/mentor can prevent what Medical News Today called "Orthorexia Nervosa". I think it starts with a healthy mind, then a combination of education and intuition (to filter through everything read). Intuition is possibly even more important than education (relates to self-awareness).
  9. Kristina said…
    I agree with Vanessa in that orthorexia may be considered a disorder if it is causing significant distress or unhappiness. For example, if someone decides not to socialize with their friends or family because they don't want to eat at a restaurant that the group will be going to, that might be cause for concern. On the other hand, maybe they need to find ways to meet more like minded friends. Making these kinds of judgements for myself is certainly something I have struggled with. I'm mainly happy and satisfied with my eating habits Monday to Friday when I'm on a schedule and eating on my own. However, I have a hard time socializing on the weekends because I don't enjoy drinking or eating out at most restaurants. I feel compelled to make compromises because my friends are important to me. So, I try to have a Perrier with lime and a big salad if I do go out. Also, I used to criticize myself when I did eat unhealthy food either with others or because of travelling. Now, I've quelled my anxiety in those situations and accept the fact that I won't always be able to make clean food choices and that I'll just do the best I can. Also, when I move in August I'm looking into joining a food co-op and finding other ways to meet people who are interested in nutrition and healthy living. (sorry for the long post, this topic really provokes me) Thanks for the article Meghan!
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      It's a bit of a tricky thing- if you think about, yes eating well can make some people miserable, but how does it compare to eating crap AND feeling like crap.
  10. what a great post! definitely made me think ...

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