Orthorexia?

I’m not much of a news person – I find most of it to be depressing and too serious for relaxation time.  This may be why I’m such a fluffy magazine lover.  But I occasionally stumble on “news” when I’m surfing the internet.  Case in point: this article on ParentDish.

This article was posted in my AOL news feed [does anyone else still use AOL?  Anyone?] as I was checking my mail and it immediately caught my attention.  A healthy eating disorder?  Is that even possible?  Is this a joke?

To sum it up, this article talks about a relatively new phenomena called “orthorexia,” a term that literally means “righteous eating” in Greek.  Orthorexics are people who are obsessed with food quality – so much so that it interrupts their daily lives.  From what this article is saying, it gets so bad that they just eat [no pun intended], sleep, and breathe being healthy.  It even sites specific examples, such as a young woman‘s struggle with orthorexia in her college years.

To be honest, I thought this was some sort of bizarre, not-funny joke.  Being conscious of what you put into your body is not being weird – it’s being healthy!  And having a disorder is never a laughing matter.  However, after reading through the entire article and catching some other opinions on the subject from different sites, I’ve come to the conclusion that this isn’t as far-fetched as it first seems.  I don’t think it’s necessarily the eating healthy part that makes this a problem – it’s bringing the eating healthy to a platform where it consumes the rest of your life.

Thinking on to all the people I know who have struggled with weight or body issues, it seems that orthorexia fits them so well – when they tried to lose weight, they did it in the “healthy” way but it became a huge part of their lives!  For them, it wasn’t about being healthy, it was about working out for hours everyday, eating nothing but the bare minimum of foods – all of which had to pass a strenuous “nutrition” test, and making sure that everything they did was the healthiest, most body worshiping activity that they could do.

Typing that, the description doesn’t sound too bad but thinking about the people I know who went through that makes me sad.  It wasn’t about loving life or your body – in some twisted way, it was as if they hated this body they worked so hard on, wanting nothing more than to hit an idealized “perfect” body or way of living, something that constantly changed with every new thing they learned about.

So when is it too much?  When is obsessing and counting calories and working out for hours everyday pass the “not healthy” zone?  And then there’s the other end of the spectrum.  When does having fun, enjoying food, loving life and not worrying about things like exercise and eating healthy lead to heart disease and obesity?  Where do you draw the line in the sand?  And not just for one but for the other?

What are your thoughts?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Orthorexia?

  1. I don’t think there is a one size fits all line for this. I think this is something that is personal. You know when you are going overboard, and being aware of that is half the battle. It’s really about knowing what works for you! Great post, becausae this is an issue that most people can relate to. But honestly, the line is so frail and fine.

    • Thanks for commenting, Astrid! I completely agree – I do believe it’s both a personal and frail line for everyone. I think your advice is what a lot of people need!

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