ASK THE DIETITIAN: Is your diet too good?

A person with orthorexia has an unhealthy obsession with healthy food. How can it be unhealthy to obsess about healthy food you might ask? The term orthorexia nervosa is applied to individuals who are obsessed with eating a perfect diet to the point that the quality of their life and their relationships often suffer.
Someone with orthorexia may exhibit many or all of the following qualities. They spend 3-4 hours a day thinking about healthy foods. They plan their food menu far in advance. They care more about the health qualities of the food they eat rather than how good the food tastes. Other areas of their life suffer as they pursue healthy eating.

They are very strict about the foods they will eat. They sacrifice foods they once enjoyed to eat healthier foods instead. They might look down on others and criticize those who do not eat healthy foods. They feel extreme guilt if they ever for a moment go off of their diet. They will avoid certain occasions or family functions if the wrong food is served.

They want total control over how they manage their eating.

People who adhere to extreme diet behaviors often do this as a means of some control over their life. It might be a way of putting some type of organization into a chaotic life.

Food choices and eating behaviors are areas that can be controlled more so than other aspects of life. Some people obsess about diet temporarily, but when it becomes a life mission, other areas of life can certainly suffer. If you find yourself stuck in an obsessive, rigid eating pattern, it is important to recognize it and attempt to loosen up more.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you must give up certain foods. It would be better to try to work toward a moderate way of eating, rather than putting foods into “good” and “bad” categories. If possible, it is best not to associate guilt with food. Try to continue to eat your favorite foods. If some of those foods happen to be high in fat and/or sugar and calories, just eat smaller portions or have them less often.

Put some balance into your eating. For example, if you eat a meal high in calories, then make the next meal lower in calories. Or, if you have beef for lunch, then have chicken or a meatless meal for supper.

Eating healthy is about balance. It does require some planning, but it should not rule your life.