Is it possible to be addicted to healthy food? According to one Physician, the answer is “Yes.” I spoke about this subject on KTLA Channel 5 News Los Angeles, which can be viewed on my web site reel at http://www.sgabatherapy.com/Media.en.html. Dr. Steven Bratman, MD coined the word “orthorexia”. He defines orthorexia as being obsessed with eating healthy foods to improve your health and well- being.
Although I do not have an eating disorder, I do notice myself being careful of what I eat while filming Celebrity Rehab. I have been conscious of my weight because I know the camera makes you look 10 pounds heavier. I do not believe I am in any trouble, but it did remind me to be mindful of not becoming obsessed with my weight or diet. Instead, I try to pay attention to healthy food choices without being fixated with everything I put into my mouth; and besides, I love my Klondike bars too much to develop orthorexia.
The following are some questions you can ask yourself if you or somebody you know might be obsessing about a healthy food lifestyle. If you answer yes to two to three questions, you may have a hint of the disorder. Four or more means you need to be less stressed about food choices, and if you checked all of them, you have become obsessed with the healthy food you do or don’t eat.
· Are you spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food?
· Are you planning tomorrow’s menu today?
· Is the virtue you feel about what you eat more important than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
· Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet increased?
· Have you become stricter with yourself?
· Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy? Do you look down on others who don’t eat this way?
· Do you skip foods you once enjoyed in order to eat the “right” foods?
· Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, distancing you from friends and family?
· Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
· When you eat the way you’re supposed to, do you feel in total control?
As Step 1 in the Big Book says “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Replace alcohol with healthy eating and you have Step 1 of orthorexia.
An individual with orthorexia feels a sense of spirituality, he says. “You’re doing a good, virtuous thing. You also feel that because it’s difficult to do, it must be virtuous. The more extreme you are, the more virtuous you feel,” Bratman says. You spend a large amount of time obsessing about food and when you eat un-healthy food you feel guilt and shame. In fact, you may also be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder which is a medically diagnosable disorder unlike orthorexia. An orthorexia diet is limited in calories and the individual is fixated only on healthy food choices including no fat in their diet.
In my practice I have worked with individuals with all sorts of eating disorders including binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia. I have had some cases where parents are obsessed with exercise, eating healthy, being thin, and obsessed with how they look. Most likely they are struggling with their own eating disorder, but instead of focusing on that, they identify their teens as having the problem. Often these adolescents are only modeling after their own parent’s unrealistic eating habits. I don’t know if orthorexia is truly diagnosable or not, but what I do know is beware of your own eating patterns and how realistic it is. Also, be mindful if your children or teens are following in your foot steps to the extreme and developing their own eating disorder. If you believe you or your children might be struggling with an eating disorder, get assessed immediately by a doctor and psychotherapist that specialize in eating disorders.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach in Agoura Hills, CA. She does Life Coaching by phone. She is the author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery” and Psychotherapist on Celebrity Rehab on VH1.