Most of us know someone who has suffered from an eating disorder of some kind. And while most of us are familiar with anorexia and bulimia, a lesser know eating disorder has started to surface in those who pursue a life of health and hotness: orthorexia.
Orthorexia is an eating disorder for the health-obsessed. Those suffering from orthorexia become fixated on “healthy” food. While this may not sound so bad, it’s yet another illustration that extremes of any kind never serve one’s quest for health and hotness (or happiness). Severe orthorexia can lead to malnutrition and a host of other problems. Although orthorexia isn’t currently recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, anyone familiar with the health and fitness industry can see orthorexic behavior among those who become militant about eating only the food that they deem to be pure, natural and healthy.
The problem here is… what’s pure, natural and healthy is not universally agreed upon. While we can all agree that we’re better off sticking to non-processed foods and avoiding Corporate America FrankenFoods that live on shelves and never go bad, I don’t know how much more we can really say we know for sure. Some orthorexics avoid all preservatives, some only eat raw food, and some avoid consuming any animal products. And while these are all fine and good as individual choices, you’re gonna have a hard time convincing me that the consumption of the occasional Big Mac is gonna have a negative effect on an active person who eats a diet mostly comprised of non-processed foods.
Again, I’m all for eating nutritious foods and doing whatever you think will best serve your health and hotness. However I do think there is a qualitative difference between eating healthy foods as staples of your diet because you like to eat healthy food, and avoiding “unnatural” foods of any kind because you’re afraid that if you have a piece on non-organic broccoli you’re gonna instantly get cancer. Same idea, but TOTALLY different psychological perspective. And without getting too metaphysical on you, I think the context in which you approach anything in life is going to color your experience.
Sure. Eat well.
Just don’t go all crazytown about it.
I guess ultimately I’m not a fan of zealots of any stripe. By all means, eat the way that makes you happy. And if you want a life of health and hotness, a diet of food from the perimeter of the grocery store is gonna be helpful. But if you find yourself getting really tightly wound and legitimately anxious because you accidentally ate some non-grass fed beef, you may want to assess the way you’re approaching your nutritional intake.
As always, focus on the big rocks and try not to obsess over minutiae. Eat a wide variety of foods consisting mostly of items that your grandparents could have recognized as children and eat the amount you need for your fitness goals. Period. You’ll still get great results, and you’ll probably be a happier person.