Taking Healthy Eating Too Far: Orthorexia

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Misconceptions About Healthy Eating

Telling someone they can enjoy something just because it tastes good may sound like heresy coming from a registered dietitian. But that’s usually because people have a misconception about the definition of healthy eating.

Sure, healthy eating means getting enough of the right nutrients and not too much of the things that have been linked to disease. But that’s over time – it doesn’t mean that every morsel of food we put in our mouths has to meet some nutritional ideal.

The idea of pleasure often gets lost when we’re thinking about healthy eating.

If you look at it closely, you might agree that it’s impossible to be healthy if you’re unhappy. We can’t separate mind and body, and if we’re unhappy, our physical self knows it.

Likewise when we’re eating something we don’t like just because “it’s good for us.” We’re not satisfied and often end up eating more than we really need in search of satisfaction. Or we eat the ‘good stuff,’ then move on to the stuff we really like, overeating in the process.

Orthorexia Nervosa: Obsession With Quality Of Food

health food junkies steven bratman bookDr. Steven Bratman coined the term ‘orthorexia nervosa’ several years ago to describe someone who is overly concerned with healthy eating. Although it’s not a recognized eating disorder, it could certainly fit within the definition of disordered eating (a description that fits most chronic dieters, too).

Simply put, an orthorexic has clearly defined ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods and feels virtuous when eating the ‘good’ and like a failure when eating the ‘bad.’ Sounds like a typical dieter, doesn’t it?
The difference is that the orthorexic is not necessarily concerned with the quantity of food eaten – so it’s not about weight per se – it’s the quality of the food that’s the obsession. Lest this seem like a rather harmless and potentially even beneficial obsession, it can be taken too far. Dr. Bratman shares details in his book Health Food Junkies. The same obsession can be taken too far when healthy weights are the issue, too.

Balance Is Key For Healthy Eating And Healthy Weight

Whether we’re interested in eating healthfully just for the health of it, or we think it will help us achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it’s worthwhile to remember that balance is key for either goal. Balance just not in the types of food we eat, but in the reasons we choose the things we eat, and the things we do.

Here’s to happy, healthy eating!

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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