In one of my earlier posts I spoke about meal planning and using it to create success. Someone mentioned in passing that the lifestyle changes required might push someone into an eating disorder known as Orthorexia Nervosa, one of the 8+ eating disorders, 6 of which you have probably never heard of. Curious about this condition, I decided to read up on it and I found a great book called Health Food Junkies by Steven Bratman. I downloaded it onto my kindle and here’s what he had to say on the subject:
“In fact, it is transferring too much of life’s meaning onto food that makes orthorexia an eating disorder. If you simply eat healthy food but don’t give it more of a place in your life than it’s really due, you have a good diet – a laudable goal. But when you use food to drain away the energy from other parts of your life, you are impoverishing your soul. Instead of dealing with your real feelings – your real challenges, interests, desires, and needs – you pretend to find them in food. You transfer anxiety over how your life is going to anxiety over what you are going to eat.”
Insert a big sigh of relief here on my part. I enjoy eating healthy and I do plan a lot around healthy eating. It’s not hard to see from my site that I’m just a big planner by nature, but I certainly don’t let my healthy eating dictate my life. I indulge in the occasional chocolate éclair and find myself nearly powerless to the offering of a chocolate dipped strawberry. My newest thing is cake pops (the Halloween treat I made this weekend and ate a few too many). I certainly don’t avoid eating at restaurants or going to friends, in fact I think I would say I eat out a little too much.
After reading his book I realize it’s okay to be concerned about what you eat, where you food comes from; and how it affects your body. Orthorexics take it to a whole new level. They seem to derive virtuous self-satisfaction from deprivation. They are nearly helpless to deviate from an anointed diet and if they do, they are overcome with guilt and shame. The diet can become so rigid that it’s nearly impossible to share meals with family and friends. It can also lead to excessive weight loss and malnutrition.
So when it comes to planning and preparing healthy meals for myself and my family I can be sure that I only do it as long as I get enjoyment from it. We will continue to have huge birthday cakes at all the family birthday parties and delicious desserts when we entertain. I will not stop dipping chocolates for all my friends and family at Christmas. (Even if that means a few pounds of them find their way to my hips.) An 80-20 rule in our home strikes a good balance for us. Eat healthy 80 percent of the time and the rest will take care of itself. It seems to work for us when it comes to maintaining our IdealShape.
If you are curious to see if you might have this disorder take the following quiz.
Give yourself a point for each yes answer.
A score of four or more means that you are at risk for orthorexia nervosa. If all 10 of these statements apply to you, you don’t have a life – you have a menu.
- Are you spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food?
- Are you planning tomorrow’s menu today?
- Is the virtue you feel about what you eat more important than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
- Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet increased?
- Have you become stricter with yourself?
- Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy?
- Do you look down on others who don’t eat this way? Do you skip foods you once enjoyed in order to eat the ‘right’ foods?
- Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, distancing you from friends and family?
- Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
- When you eat the way you’re supposed to, do you feel in total control?