Are Your Healthy Habits Killing You? (take this quiz to find out)
Written by: Jennifer Barrows
I read an article not too long ago that talked about an eating disorder that’s rarely discussed. It’s called orthorexia nervosa.
While I read the article, I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with that?” and “Now healthy eating is a mental disorder?”
I was shocked that having healthy habits, caring about where the food you eat comes from and being concerned about the quality and purity of your food could possibly be a problem. I found myself questioning if this was a legitimate issue. Healthy eating is a good thing, right?
There are so many diet trends and fads these days. People who decide to follow one philosophy over another sometimes argue passionately for their causes and follow their plans to a T. Celebrities often follow the latest fad diets and become ardent spokespeople for their ways of eating – some even become militant.
Orthorexia is when your good eating habits cross the line into obsession. It is when you are so concerned with what you are eating and where it came from that it actually gets in the way of you living your life. People with orthorexia have a hard time being in social situations because they are so worried about the food around them. They do not have control over what is being served, which causes them to avoid situations like going out to eat with friends and going to parties and social gatherings.
If you have a severe case of orthorexia, you might restrict yourself so much that you find yourself focusing on eating only one kind of food. For instance, locally sourced, organic baby kale; you only allow yourself to eat that and then shun any other food because you feel that nothing is as pure as the kale you’re consuming.
When you find yourself shunning food groups because they don’t fit into what you think is the purest, healthiest way of eating, you can begin to suffer from malnutrition and other disorders. For example: Gwyneth Paltrow followed such a strict diet plan that in her 30’s she began to suffer from osteopenia, which can lead to osteoporosis. It was discovered after she suffered a tibial fracture, which required surgery. People have speculated that Paltrow’s strict diet may be to blame for her diagnosis at age 37 (osteopenia is usually seen in older women and is often caused by a vitamin D deficiency).
The term orthorexia was coined in 1997 by Dr. Steven Bratman. Although it is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some professionals classify it on the eating disorder spectrum. Dr. Bratman says that many (but not all) people who display orthorexic traits also display characteristics of OCD.
Are you just a healthy eater, or do you have an eating disorder? Take Dr. Bratman’s quiz to find out (each question equals one point):
1. Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about food (four or more hours gives you two points)?
2. Do you plan tomorrow’s food today?
3. Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
4. Have you found that as the quality of your diet has increased, the quality of your life has correspondingly diminished?
5. Do you keep getting stricter with yourself?
6. Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the food you believe is right?
7. Do you feel an increased sense of self-esteem when you are eating healthy food? Do you look down on others who don’t?
8. Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
9. Does your diet socially isolate
10. When eating the way you are supposed to, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control?
The more questions you answer “yes” to, the more likely it is that you have a problem with food.
I took the quiz myself and I answered just number 5 with a “yes.” I try each week to improve what I am eating, adding another serving of vegetables per day, or trying to cut more sugar from my diet. I only answered “yes” because I tell myself each Monday that this week I will eat better. I don’t think that means I have a case of orthorexia, but the question opened my eyes to the fact that trying to make improvements every week could very easily lead to obsession.
Remember, food should nourish you, be pleasurable, bring you together with other people and enhance your life – not run your life!
Take the quiz for yourself and comment below with your results and your thoughts on orthorexia nervosa. Is it a real problem, or much ado about nothing? You decide.
Jennifer Barrows is an Empowered Single Mom, Writer and Certified Health Coach, practicing north of Boston. She received her health coaching certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in December of 2013. Her coaching practice focuses on helping guide women through life transitions, using food and lifestyle upgrades to improve their moods and outlook.
She has written for local newspapers and just published a book, Still Together: A Single Mom’s Guide To Healing After Divorce.
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