Orthorexia is when healthy eating becomes unhealthy. Orthorexia is an eating disorder that poses a new threat to our communities, it is born out of an unhealthy preoccupation to eat healthy.
What with the food industry taking short cuts with making our food. Pesticides to make our fruits and veggies grow faster and look better. Artificial ingredients to make food tastier.
These food production processes are behind some of common health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. What if I told you that healthy eating has a dark side too?
Imagine you are a woman. You grew up being teased for your weight, you have always been on the chubby side of the spectrum. And one day you decided to change your life for the better.
And you did! Your story touches many people when you share it online. Others want to know how you did it, and you keep pushing yourself to get better.
But the fear of being fat does not go away. It feels like you will wake up and find yourself with all that weight back on. So you keep pushing yourself, you calculate how much calories you are eating.
The food quality you are eating is always on your mind. You stop going out with friends because you cannot stand the guilt of cheating your diet. Or the anxiety that comes from watching others eat unhealthy without much care.
That is Megan’s body image story. She shares her story with ABC science on YouTube. She was choosing a steak in the meat islet at the supermarket one day and she grew so anxious that she found herself standing there for over 40 minutes.
This is when she realised something was wrong. When she consulted a doctor all she received was praise for transforming her life. You see Orthorexia has not yet been listed as an eating disorder.
So getting actual help for it is hard. How has eating healthy ever hurt anyone? Well, she lost her hair, her menstrual cycle stopped coming and she started losing feeling on her feet and hands.
All the while always exhausted and carrying a constant weight of anxiety over what she puts in her mouth. These are some of the symptoms of the eating disorder orthorexia.
The way that we look is always under unhealthy scrutiny. The world seems to only have to for one version of a healthy body. A thin kind of muscular body, where everything fits perfectly.
So we lose parts of ourselves trying to fit into this perfect image. So that swim suits can fit us the way that they fit models. And those muscle tops for the men.
What we forget is that the consumer industry is designed to sell us what we think we want. The healthy food industry is a growing market, this simply means a new opportunity to get consumers to buy more.
The fear and anxiety that comes with concern for your health will drive you to pay what price you will to buy what is perceived as healthier or purer.
Health is of course important and so is choosing the food we consume. What I want to reiterate is that we be a little less hard on ourselves and how we look. Depending on your experience the difficulty of this will vary.
For the sake of doing it, let us try to build a more positive approach to our bodies. Remind yourself that the television ads are sometimes there to sell us fantasies of ourselves. And sometimes the fantasy is only desirable because it is a fantasy.