Whilst a number of writers, journalists and bloggers are getting it right (more usually if they’ve been there first hand) there are still a huge number of people not really delivering on what it means to be Orthorexic. That’s not that helpful for anyone.
It’s really easy to take a couple of cases of let’s say Orthorexic veganism or raw foodism, and focus way too much on that particular lifestyle as the thing which makes someone obsessed, or unhealthy. It’s not they go as far as to say that vegan/raw/paleo = Orthorexic, but often the case studies used, and the frame we set the story in, over time accumulates into a blogosphere of skewed perceptions and misunderstood ideas.
It can be very oversimplified when they use the examples which overlap with other forms of Anorexia or OCD, and the ‘removal of entire food group’ card is played to exemplify how bad Orthorexia is. It may be ‘bad’ but that’s not inherently Orthorexia. As we know, the principles around a diet people choose to live by varies by case and is not what defines the eating disorder (these people often go on to talk about the ‘cure’ being ‘everything in moderation’ which makes me want to scream at the internet).
Sometimes Orthorexia gets tagged onto a wider look at how messed up society is getting, when it comes to either terrible rates of health overall or infinite amounts of marketing messages and new products about health.
The worst culprits just try to make a new news headline out of the term itself (hello people it’s been a thing for 20 years it’s no longer new!) which basically says – ‘OMG being too healthy is bad!’. Journalism at it’s best.
And as mentioned the less personal accounts are less accurate in my experience. Sometimes only reading through the most touching and personal stories of those who have suffered can really bring to life what being Orthorexia means, even if they too only show a small part of the bigger picture.
So I’m going to have a go at bringing some clarity to the picture.
- There is nothing at all ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ with being healthy, trying to be healthy, or eating healthy food (regardless of what you believe that to be).
- Orthorexia like other eating disorders is a disorder of the mind first and foremost. There are infinite ways disorders of minds end up existing in people’s lives as behaviors. But people with a disorder like Orthorexia can often be very physically healthy, and it’s not always apparent from the outside they have any other illness/abnormality, we can’t always take a set of behaviors and lifestyle choices and say it is Othorexia.
- What people need to understand before assuming they know Orthorexia, is that health is about way more than just food and nutrition. Our culture is so consumed with the food = health link we forget that there is so much more. This is the fundamental understanding that allows us to realise that Orthorexia is unhealhty without attaching the why to restricted diet or food, it’s a mental disorder. This is also how it’s possible for people with Orthorexia to dive deeper into their beliefs and actually try to heal themselves from the inside.
That feels good.