The dark and dirty side of clean eating, orthorexia is an eating disorder that hides behind a veil of purity, health and wholesomeness. Yet it can be every bit as dangerous as anorexia and bulimia.
Orthorexia is a physically harmful and psychologically disturbing condition that is characterized by an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. And with the clean eating revolution now in full swing, it is a condition that is becoming increasingly more prevalent.
Although I am not a psychologist and certainly not an expert on orthorexia, I do think that because of my personal story I have insight into how such a disorder could develop. I share my story along with the tips that have helped me eat clean while still stay sane in the video below:
As I discuss in the video, my clean eating story began out of necessity after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 1998 at the age of twenty-two. You could say I was pretty much scared into cleaning up my diet. Although my initial intentions were solely health-related, looking back I can see now how I could have easily gone down a very different and very unhealthy path had it not been for the counterbalance of my incredibly grounded husband.
There definitely seems to be an obsessive-compulsive and perfectionist type personality component associated with orthorexia, which I believe potentially puts some people at higher risk thank others. I would classify my own personality type as “high risk” and I think if it weren’t for my husband (who in many ways is the exact opposite of me!), my clean eating story could have turned sour very early on.
5 Orthorexia Warning Signs
Here are five red flags that could indicate you may have developed an unhealthy relationship with food:
- You find yourself preoccupied with food or nutrition.
- You find yourself feeling anxious at mealtime.
- You worry frequently about what you will eat at your next meal.
- You have stopped attending social events where food is served.
- Your friends, family or co-workers have expressed concern over your eating habits.
Finding Balance After Recovering From Orthorexia
After reading about The Balanced Blonde’s Jordan Younger —formerly known as the Blonde Vegan–and her personal battle with orthorexia, I could definitely relate to her story. We both launched our clean eating lifestyles with the belief that pure food would be the answer to all of our problems. However, Jordan’s diet was more extreme than mine from the beginning, and I believe that alone put her at a higher risk for developing orthorexia than me.
Jordan has since overcome orthorexia and abandoned veganism for a more healthful, balanced clean eating approach and currently runs the very popular Balanced Blonde website. She also just released her first book, Breaking Vegan (Fair Winds, 2015), which is all about finding balance.
Finding Balance is the Key
There is no doubt that the vast majority of people would greatly benefit from cleaning up their diets. But it is important to point out that the more extreme or restrictive the diet to begin with, the more likely it could lead to orthorexia and the more likely it could negatively impact your overall health and quality of life. Keep in mind, the ultimate goal of clean eating is life enhancement through eating great tasting food that fuels a healthy, vibrant life. But eating clean and living a balanced and normal life is a definite balancing act. And I am the first to admit that it doesn’t come easy at first….