Are you being healthy or obsessive when it comes to food?

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Amelia Phillips

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How unhealthy is being healthy? How unhealthy is obsessing over your food and diet? An oxymoron that is a mystery to solve, because you really don’t know when to stop when you’re on a health kick.

When you looked at the Instagram page of this 23-year-old blogger, you wouldn’t think for a second that the girl behind ‘The Blonde Vegan’ had any eating disorder issues. She ate clean, green and looked stereotypically fit – almost fitting the definition of #fitspo. However, just this week, Jordan Younger revealed to People magazine that her veganism turned her into getting an eating disorder.

Jordan, whose blog and Instagram account detailed her meals and recipes to tens of thousands of followers, is actually a recovering orthorexia nervosa – a condition characterised by an overwhelming focus on a limited diet with elaborate rules that can evolve from an obsessive approach to diet, health and wellbeing.

She said to People, “I was spending the entire day obsessing about eating only vegetables, green juices, fruits and occasionally nuts and grains… I was following thousands of rules in my head that were making me sick.”

The term orthorexia nervosa was coined in 1997 by Californian doctor Steve Bratman in a book titled Health Food Junkies, who defined the condition as a fixation on healthy eating or pure food such as vegetables. The rigid approach to healthy eating usually includes extensive and even punitive exercise regimes.

While the condition isn’t officially recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Australia’s peak body for body image illnesses said it conforms to the behaviours that define eating disorders, which affect more than 900,000 Australians, as reported by SMH.com.au.

How do you know you’re obsessing

  1. You get obsessive compulsive about calorie counting. You can’t just stop at noting down your daily food intake on MyFitnessPal or a similar app, but you stop yourself from eating an apple because you’ve reached your daily calorie intake.
  2. You Instagram every piece of food and drink that you order, just so your social media presence feels that you’re eating healthy and are the queen or king of healthy eating. #Foodgasm
  3. You passive aggressively comment on other people’s eating habits, mainly out of jealously because you can’t eat any of the food they are consuming.
  4. Your bodily functions change dramatically – your digestion routine changes, you stop getting your period for months and your skin and hair start to lose their lustre.

If you’re confused about what’s best for your health, follow the Australian dietary guidelines at this link. These are based on over 50,000 reputable studies.

Tips on how not to get obsessive when it comes to food

  1. Do not ever eliminate whole food groups: You might read a lot about people eliminating gluten, wheat or sugar from their diet, and might blindly follow their steps. But such elimination can cause you to be obsessive about your food choices. Don’t cut out food types such as diary, sugar, wheat (unless you are clinically diagnosed as allergic/intolerant or if you have a specific illness).
  2. Eat a varied diet of lots of whole food: When it comes to feeding yourself, opt for whole foods and limit processed/refined foods from your diet. Aim for a plant-based diet and get food on the table that fresh and not out of tins or cartons.
  3. Don’t replace meals with liquid meals: No matter how short you are of time, don’t get lazy and have a liquid protein shake because that’s the best option at that point in time. Because once you get addicted to liquid meals, they become the easy option too tempting to resist. The only way you should be allowed this option is when you have exceeded a healthy KJ level of food the entire day, which is around 8700KJ.
  4. Follow 80/20 rule: Try to be healthy most of the time but for goodness sake, enjoy some treat foods and relax a bit as well. It’s OK to have a cupcake every now and then! If you find this very hard, feeling guilty, ill, angry or disappointed in yourself, you may want to check in if your behaviour is bordering on obsessive.
  5. Don’t follow fad diets to shed a few kilos or dress sizes: As tempting as it is to see Beyonce follow veganism for 22-days and lose a few dress sizes, that’s not the most ideal way to lose weight. Especially if you can’t sustain a lifestyle like such. Don’t get influenced by Hollywood lifestyles and follow diets that you can’t follow through because you’ll just trick your body into losing weight and then eventually gain it all back. Don’t follow diets, follow a lifestyle that is sustainable.

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