How far is too far?

A few weeks ago I wrote about a disorder called orthorexia.  Simply put this disorder is an obsession with avoiding foods that one perceives as unhealthy.  It is not a diagnosed disorder, but it is becoming more prevalent.  I wanted to come back to this topic after having a few interesting discussions about it.

After I wrote the post, I talked with my dad and Adam about the disorder.  In the talk with my dad he asked a legitimate question: how is the way that you eat not considered orthorexia? For those of you just joining, I eat based on the eat-clean principles. I do not eat anything processed (no white flour, rice, sugar or brown sugar), I do not eat anything with preservatives or chemicals or artificial ingredients.  I also limit my dairy intake but that is more because of a developed intolerance.  Basically I eat whole foods like fruits and vegetables, lean meats like chicken and fish, and whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa.  At first when my dad asked that question I was offended. Of course I don’t have an eating disorder. I choose to eat healthy and not put harmful things in my body.  I talked about it later that day with Adam and he told me that sounds exactly like something someone with orthorexia might say. Now, he wasn’t accusing me of having orthorexia, but he did make me see my dad had a point in asking.

Yes, my eating choices are probably considered über healthy and possibly even extreme to some people.  The fact that I don’t eat potato chips or cereal or candy might blow some people’s minds because unfortunately those foods have become part of our everyday diets.  But how do I know that my food choices haven’t crossed over into the unhealthy obsession area of a possible disorder?  How do I defend my lifestyle without sounding like I’m defending a problem?  I’m sure that I am not the only one who has struggled with these issues, especially when it comes to eating healthy in an ever increasing unhealthy world.

The conclusion I have come to for now is this: I might be slightly orthorexic.  Now you’re thinking, great! The person who is giving me health and diet advice has just admitted to maybe having some eating disorder that SHE herself warned me about!  Calm yourself for a minute and listen up.  Yes, I avoid foods that I perceive are bad for me but I am not obsessed with it.  I don’t sit at home and avoid social situations just because I might come into contact with unhealthy food.  I do not constantly worry about eating food that I have not made myself because it could be unhealthy.  And I have not limited my food intake that I am to the point of malnutrition.  I have made a choice to eat the best things for my body, and I am fully aware that if not monitored, it could become a problem like I just described.  I can’t tell you when the way you eat has gone from a healthy choice to an unhealthy problem.  You will have to set that line for yourself, or enlist a trusted friend or family member to keep you in check.  I believe that is one of the keys to knowing how far is too far: knowledge of a potential problem and having the accountability to deal with the problem should it arise.  Health, like many things in life is a delicate balance between just right and too much.  Your job is to arm yourself with knowledge and keep your balance on that fine line.  It’s tough but oh so worth it!