When ‘eating clean’ becomes an obsession
Instagram is filled with pictures of perfectly arranged kale smoothies, quinoa salads and dairy free cakes. Eating clean has become a way of life for many people, who tend to get obsessed with eating only certain kinds of food. A healthy lifestyle should be encouraged, but only if this is done in a balanced and relaxed way. When you find yourself refusing to touch sugar, wheat, gluten, dairy foods and caffeine, you might better relax a bit about your food. Especially when the nutritional quality of the food is more important than the pleasure of your food.
The ironic thing about this obsession is that the intiial gola is to achieve a better health result. The problem is that this intense dedication actually causes suffering from the constant battle to eat healthy. Malnutrition can even become physically dangerous. Also, physical issues and social problems may come up, like the loss of relationships. Since the obsession with healthy food may lead to physical impairment and a lower quality of life, it could be called a disorder.
The reason for the lack of affirmation in the scientific community is a vicious cycle: because the syndrome is not an acknowledged disorder, no research has been done yet. But since little research has taken place, it does not get recognized as an official diagnosis as well. Science has been neglecting it largely so far, but the behavioral patterns have been noticed by eating disorder specialists.
The National Eating Disorders Association named it Orthorexia Nervosa, saying it is a “righteous fixation on healthy eating.” Unlike other disorders, the focus isn’t on losing pounds, but on only consuming food considered healthy, such as nuts, raw fruits and veggies.
Ten years ago, the first book about orthorexia was published by Dr. Steven Bratman. Bratman says this disorder is distinct from anorexia or bulimia since it’s not the diet that’s the problem – it’s the obsession that comes with it.
Admitting the problem is hard: you can easily hide behind the thought that you are just eating well. The fact that others are eating unhealthy may even confirm your way of life. Often, emotional issues are one of the underlying reasons. When problems get worse, these issues can be treated with the help of a mental health professional. The goal is to make one more flexible about food. Since it’s all about a balanced life!