Monday, August 17, 2009

Orthorexia

This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/aug/16/orthorexia-mental-health-eating-disorder

It seems orthorexia, defined as an obsession with eating healthily and "righteously", is on the increase. More and more people are planning meals in advance, becoming concerned with the types of food they put in their bodies and how it is produced, and deriving satisfaction from the act of eating better food. Oh, and this is a bad thing. In all seriousness, the article is reasonably balanced and I can certainly see how overly obsessive behaviour around food to the point that it causes you severe psychological stress if you miss a serving of chicken breast could be seen as unusual. Also, if you follow a stupid diet in the mistaken belief that it is a better way, you can become malnourished. But where is the line between healthy habits and an eating disorder? Well you can self test here to find out! http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/08.02.01/eating3-0131.html

Well, if you read that and answered yes to 2 or 3 questions, meaning you have "a touch of orthorexia", don't feel too bad. I did too, along with pretty much anyone else who has ever been in better than average shape. Along with every athlete. Brace yourself; getting in great shape requires some level of focus and planning around what you eat.

When I first began to take in interest in nutrition for the purposes of gaining muscle and getting stronger I experienced some resistance from friends and family; the usual unfounded worries about about excess protein and a general feeling that creatine and steroids are one and the same. But more than this, there was just a certain amount of plain hostility about the fact that I wanted to eat better food. Some people were threatened or perhaps offended by it. It happens.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it "socially isolated me", but it definitely caused some friction and caused me some stress. Until I realised it wasn't really my problem. I think that's the point really, restricting your food intake to the point of malnourishment and ceasing all socialising to focus on your diet is a form of disorder, and that's your problem. But if people don't like me eating better than them, or feel threatened or guilty because they know their diet is crap, then that's their problem.

1 comment:

Lindsey Love Gallucci said...

I have never read an article about this and I see it all the time with the people I train with. There is a slight part of me that suffers from Orthorexia but more than anything I think I just try and fuel my body the best way I know how. Although, some of the people I train with at CrossFit have become obsessed with the exact portion of carbs, proteins and fats also known as the "zone diet". Any suggestions? I guess its better than overreating unhealthy food right? I love your blogs and thank you for your insight.

Lindsey