The Health Quandary You’d Never Imagine

Jazmine Bahr · Mar 08 2016

There has been a noticeable surge of people who have begun to make health a top priority in their lives. The “natural health” community was once looked at as an “alternative” way of thinking, but it is now becoming increasingly popular in the mainstream world.

Unfortunately, with any new trend there are bound to be those who take the idea and turn it into an obsession. However, It is both sad and tragic because leading a healthy lifestyle is supposed to enrich your life. The decision to follow a healthy diet should never become an obsession which occupies all your thinking and leads you to feelings of shame and depression when you fail to live up to your ideals. When this happens it undermines your sense of well-being and robs you of the joy of living. In short, too much of a good thing can leave people in a worse mental state than they were previously.

“Orthorexia” is the term used to describe someone who is obsessed with maintaining healthy eating habits. People who experience these obsessive thoughts become very rigid in their thinking and compile a list of “good” foods. The converse is true: if certain foods are not “good” they are automatically “bad.”

The word “Orthorexia” is a Greek word that directly translates to “correct diet.” Those struggling with this kind of eating disorder will not allow themselves to eat anything they consider to be harmful or unwholesome.

Life, under these narrow stipulations, is a difficult challenge because the line between truly good or harmful foods is never black and white. In fact, the line is often quite blurred. Consequently, this challenge of trying to distinguish between foods can leave a person in a chronic state of anxiety and may cause some to eliminate a food group all together to avoid the risk of making harmful choices.

This obsession with choosing the “right” foods often causes the person suffering from this condition to cut themselves off from friends and family. They run the danger of become hyper critical of those who don’t follow their dietary extremes, thus making them undesirable meal companions. They also tend to be very rigid about the proper way to cook and prepare the foods they consider to be kosher. In summary, the process of choosing and preparing the “right” foods can become so overwhelming that many find it easier to keep their relationship with food a private and personal endeavor, free from outside speculation.

When this obsession with the right diet become acute it can lead to serious eating disorders such as anorexia and/or bulimia. In the worst case scenario, this has landed people in the hospital, requiring long-term behavioral therapy, or unfortunately ended in fatality.

This condition usually starts off as a harmless commitment to a “fad diet.” But over time, it becomes an obsession which dominates the thinking and attention of the sufferer 24/7. They begin to fixate on the smallest details of their food choices and preparation. Tragically, other interests and hobbies which once brought pleasure are now abandoned because these obsessive behaviors do not allow room for thoughts outside of the food spectrum.

It’s obvious, the consequences of this obsessive behavior can be very dangerous to one’s health and destructive to one’s relationships.

So what cause the orthorexic to become addicted to this unhealthy behavioral loop? It’s simple enough. When a person’s happiness becomes attached to maintaining healthy eating habits, a person is in danger of becoming obsessed. Their feelings of well-being rises and falls with their ability to adhere to making perfect food choices. Making positive food choices leaves them feeling euphoric, with a great sense of pride and accomplishment. However, their inability to stick to this rigid eating plan leads to feelings of shame. It is well known that long-term self-shaming, for any reason, can be damaging to one’s mental health.

Sadly, their sense of self, and self worth can be damaged due to these unrealistic expectations. Depression and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon for those who are unable to live up to their unattainable standard of perfection. If this is the case, it is advised that the sufferer immediately seek professional attention.

With our society’s current emphases on the importance of good health and well-being there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from this problem.

Let me be clear. I’m not trying to scare people away from making health a top priority for their lives. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that everything in moderation is an important philosophy to follow. It’s okay to eat certain foods, even if they’re not on the “good” list. Hell, sometimes it feels good to be bad, and indulge in that extra slice of cake or glass of wine. Nobody is judging you, except you, and you don’t deserve that.

Just be conscious of the dangers associated with becoming too obsessed with the idea of “right and wrong” when it comes to food. The last thing you want to do is to lose the enjoyment of eating for pleasure all together. If you find yourself overwhelmed with having to make the correct diet choices, it might be time for you to take a step back. Do some self-evaluation. Where will this preoccupation end up long-term? Is there a possibility that you are spending an unhealthy amount of your time and energy overthinking future food plans?

The whole point of living a healthy lifestyle is so you can enjoy yourself. Therefore, we should avoid bombarding ourselves with obsessive harmful thoughts day after day.

My wish for everyone is that they may be able to avoid the painful and difficult struggle of dealing with harmful eating patterns. Unfortunately, the frustrating loop and constant battle with one’s self worth is an ongoing challenge for those stuck in this mindset.

There is hope.

Life is beautiful, if you allow yourself the freedom of perfect imperfection.