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Orthorexia: When does healthy eating become disordered eating?
Sometimes the effort to eat a healthy, well balanced diet and stay active and fit can take a turn too far. Many of us strive to eat a healthy diet. Even with our best attempts, this can be confusing. We are inundated with information about what to eat, what not to eat, and how to make the “right” food choices. For lots of people, healthy eating is part of a lifestyle that promotes happiness and longevity. But for others, it can be confusing, stressful, and sometimes even become an obsessive behavior.
Orthorexia is not a clinical diagnosis, but is commonly used to describe a disordered level of obsession about food intake, diet, and exercise. Our culture idolizes health, thinness, and clean eating, which makes it easy to slide from what started as a focus on health, into an eating routine that may be a little more compulsive. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re worried your healthy routine may be taking up a little too much of your life:
Do you find yourself experiencing abnormally high anxiety when plans around food change?
Do you spend a significant amount of brain space thinking about food, planning your food intake, or reading about food?
Do you feel undue guilt or remorse after eating something you don’t think you should have eaten?
Do you ever avoid social situations that will include food?
Do you workout even if you’re feeling sick, tired, have an injury, or miss an important life event in order to fit exercise into your day?
Do you have food groups that you never eat, that are not avoided due to food allergies or taste preferences?
If you answered “yes” to some of those questions, it may be helpful to step back from your daily routine and work to create a little more flexibility in your healthy behaviors. If you find that difficult, reach out for the support and consultation of an eating disorder specialist to further examine your eating behaviors and food related thoughts. Disordered food behaviors quickly appropriate into many aspects of your day and risk developing further into an eating disorder. A healthy relationship with food allows food to be our medicine and support our happiest and healthiest lives.
~Kim Tallon, L.I.S.W. - IA, L.C.S.W. - IL, Mental Health Therapist
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