It seems that real food and clean eating has gone mainstream. And for good reason: it makes you feel great! However, mindful eating can become obsessive and can ironically jeopardize your health, even relationships. Yikes! There’s now a name for being dangerously obsessed with eating healthy-Orthorexia Nervosa.
“It’s different than going overboard because you want to be skinny,” explains Thomas Dunn, associate professor of psychology at the University of Northern Colorado. “Rather, it’s linked to people who are trying to be as healthy as they can be.” Mental health experts are concerned with those who take healthy eating practices to an extreme, trying to stick to these unrealistic and restrictive diets at all costs, ultimately leading to health risks and threatened relationships.
The line between being cautious about what you eat and being obsessive is hard to distinguish. According to Sondra Kronberg, nutritional director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative, it depends on how much the fixation interferes with your quality of life, and your ability to be social and function.
Some diets that shun certain food groups may be detrimental to one’s health, as they’re unable to provide all the vital nutrients the body needs. Aside from potential malnourishment, orthorexics find themselves socially isolated and intolerant of anyone else’s views on health and food. Eating anywhere but home sends anxiety levels rising, where they can’t control how the food is prepared and where it came from.
A health-conscious eater prefers fresh, organic foods but won’t feel guilty if they eat a piece of cake at a party. The concerns surrounding GMOs and the importance of eating whole foods is paramount, but should never be paralyzing. After all, how can you resist a Chipotle burrito when you’re in a rush or head to the nearest In-n-Out when you crave a good old fashioned hamburger? Food should be fun and nourishing, not a burden or another source of unnecessary stress. After all, if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!