Macros; points; percentages; 80/20; 90/10; the list goes on. In recent times, we have assigned food a value other than sustenance. The "clean eating" movement has taken over the way we view food and eating. The diet industry has flooded the market with hundreds of ways to eliminate food groups and with tips on how to adopt a lifestyle of restrictive eating that has nothing to do with calories and losing weight.
No sugar, no gluten, no bread, no processed foods, no meat other than organic; there are entire books being written around the word "no" as it relates to food. We are proud of our dietary sacrifices and critical of those whose plates represent something other than pure health. Entire conversations are taking place about what we put into our body and value is being attached to people who choose to live a life other than "clean."
There's now a name for people dangerously addicted to all things healthy -- a sufferer of orthorexia nervosa; a term coined in 1997 by Dr Steven Bratman that describes a fixation with healthy eating, to the point where it becomes a crippling compulsion, described as "a disease disguised as a virtue".
Orthorexia differs from other eating disorders in that it is not necessarily about the individual controlling the food; rather, the food controls the individual. It is considered an "unhealthy obsession" with otherwise healthy eating. A person struggling with orthorexia obsesses about purity, not weight.
All you have to do it spend ten minutes on social media, and you are bombarded with #cleaneating and countless articles and posts on this latest movement. While a diet focused on natural foods can be a great thing, it is when this becomes so obsessive that it can be damaging to your health and wellbeing that it becomes a problem.
It is almost like a badge of honour to be part of the #cleaneating brigade; to live your life by the book of health and clean eating and sacrifice happiness for the sake of a pure diet. The line between being careful about what you eat and being obsessive is difficult to distinguish. One of the problems with orthorexia is that in some ways it is more socially acceptable than other disorders.
Orthorexia takes over a person's life; in many cases, they have lost the pleasure of eating and instead it has been replaced with rigidity and the idea that only "clean" and "healthy" foods should pass their lips. People with this mindset are preoccupied with the make-up of these pure foods and will avoid at all costs those foods that they have identified as unhealthy.
While a healthy lifestyle consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates is ideal, those struggling with orthorexia will cross over into the category of obsession and may find that their life begins revolving around the nutritional make-up and constant scrutiny of each of these food groups.
Sara Lindburg has a B.S. in Exercise Science and an M.Ed. in Counselling. A 41-year-old wife, mother, and full-time secondary school counsellor, she combines 20-plus years' experience in the fitness and counselling fields and she has found her passion in inspiring other women to be the best version of themselves on her Facebook page FitMom. Her inspiration for writing comes from her 6-year-old son, Cooper, and 8-year-old daughter, Hanna.