Doing Life Together

handful-of-rice-2380797_1920Be fit. Eat clean! Sugar free, gluten free, non GMO, no pesticides, grass fed…This is the mantra of healthy living in today’s culture.

But Mary took this clean eating strategy too far and put herself in physical danger. She found herself sitting in the emergency department with severe nausea, underweight, hypokalemic and dehydrated.  She had recently been on a 3-day water only cleanse as a way to clear out impurities in her body from foods she felt were unhealthy. She told the physician that she had a very restrictive diet and ritualized eating patterns. She was fixated on the quality of the food she consumed.

So when does this emphasis on clean eating become a pathological obsession and cause a person to avoid certain foods because they are believed to be impure or unhealthy?  Like most problems, our state of well-being has to do with how we think. In this case, how you think about food. When you become obsessed with eating healthy, find yourself dieting in extreme ways and when the foods you eat are causing you distress or impairment, you may be struggling with what is being called orthorexia nervosa.

Orthorexia is not a formalized psychiatric diagnosis. It’s a condition that fits somewhere between anorexia nervosa and avoidant food intake disorder and can have an obsessive quality about it. The person is afraid to eat certain foods because of what the food may do to him or her. The condition is being studied and needs more research. Some experts believe it is another form or presentation of anorexia nervosa. Whatever the case, being worried about food harming you is not a normal state of mind.

So if you find yourself shifting from a healthy eating focus to an obsession or fixation on healthy eating, pay attention. You could be moving yourself into an eating disorder. This over dedication to clean and healthy eating can impair your relationships and put you in physical danger with nutritional deficits.

Get help from a mental health professional who can guide you to healthy eating without fixation. Clean eating and eating rituals should not be the basis for  self-esteem. You should be able to eat without worry of damaging your self.

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