Obsessing About Healthy Foods: When Should We Stop?
There is a nutrition-related behavior that is similar to anorexia called “orthorexia”. Orthorexia is the obsession of eating exclusively pure foods that we have deemed “healthy”.
Here are some personality traits that people suffering from this psychological disorder may possess:
- These people tend to be “all or nothing”. They prioritize “good” foods (vegetables, for example), and avoid “bad” foods, such as products that are fat, sweet, salted, non-organic, genetically modified, with preservatives or pesticides, etc.
- They analyse each nutritional label or ingredient list in a rigorous manner, as well as the origin of the products and their manufacturing methods. They also worry about the way they will prepare and cook these foods.
- Generally speaking, they give more importance to the nutritional quality of a meal than its taste.
- It can happen that these people do not have complete control over the foods they eat. In that case, they can feel guilty, have a low sense of self-worth, and a general feeling of failure.
When orthorexia harms your health
“What’s wrong with eating exclusively natural, healthy, and nutritive foods,” will you ask me?
First, nutrition should be viewed as a whole. For example, we know that salmon contains omega-3 fats, and that these are beneficial to heart health. On the other hand, eating only salmon and neglecting other protein sources, such as poultry, eggs, or legumes can lead to a lack in certain nutrients. Don’t forget: what’s important is to vary your nutrition!
Also, the urge to have a perfect nutrition can even lead to restraining oneself from eating out at the restaurant, or at a friend’s house. This could affect your mood, as well as your quality of life.
In short, if you believe you suffer from orthorexia, I advise you make an appointment with a nutritionist. Together, you will be able to target the specific problem as well as its cause, and map out a personalized action plan in order to slowly reintegrate pleasure and variety in your nutrition.
By Vanessa Martin
ANEB Quebec. Article about orthorexia. Online. < http://www.anebquebec.com/pdf/bulletin_elec/quatrieme_edition.pdf >. Page viewed on february 1st, 2013.
Geneviève Pilon, and Martin Gaudreau-Pollenter. 2012 (septembre). Orthorexie : quand l’alimentation passe de l’« oral » à la « morale ». Psychologie Québec, 29(5), 33-35.