When did vegetables and fruit start to get a bad wrap?
When did saying no to carrots or sweet potatoes or bananas or grapes get decided by their ‘sugar’ content?
And when did the ‘healthy’ foods of the world become ‘unhealthy?’
Super confusing right?
For the last few years of my 15 year battle with an eating disorder I struggled with orthorexia, so I know first hand how trying to eat and be ‘healthy’ can be taken to the extreme.
Deciding to eat only 1/2 a banana because a whole one has too many carbs or only eating certain vegetables because they have less ‘sugar’ and in turn less ‘carbs’ are immediate red flags and can soon turn into something problematic. Becoming aware of how your life and health are being affected by the need and desire to be healthy is the first step in taking back the control.
Here are 5 Ways to Know if You are Taking Eating Healthy to the Extreme
1. Cutting out certain foods or food groups without a medical illness/disease/allergy.
It is one thing to not want to consume gluten because you have an allergy or not eating dairy products because you are truly lactose intolerant. But it is a restrictive measure to eliminate certain food/food groups because of their carbohydrate and/or fat content. And most often the types of food that fall prey to these extreme healthy eating are processed foods, sugar, meat, dairy products, carbohydrates and/or gluten.
2. Fixating over the quality of food.
This is one of the most common signs eating ‘healthy’ has been taken to the extreme. You often become extremely fixated or obsessed about the quality of the foods you eat. Your ‘safe’ foods would then fall under the categories of organic, whole, farm fresh, raw and/or vegan. You begin to label everything you eat as having to be good, clean, healthy, organic, or not processed. And anything that doesn’t qualify in those categories sends you to sign #3.
3. Anxiety and fear around certain foods.
What if you go to work and someone brings in donuts or what if you go to a family event and there’s a row of all the foods you deem ‘bad?’ You might start to become very anxious. The fear of weight gain, or loss of control around these foods, or the fact that you no longer would be ‘healthy’ if you ate even one bite might start to take over your thoughts. If you are then purposely avoiding these foods by not buying them, bypassing certain aisles of the grocery store, or purposely not placing yourself in arms length of them, it’s a problem.
4. Rigid eating patterns.
Labeling foods as either ‘bad’ or ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ vs ‘unhealthy’ is a way that you are no longer being flexible with your eating. This can show itself in many different ways like always having ‘healthy’ snacks with you, always having to make or prepare your food, pre-eating before social events to make sure you only eat ‘healthy’ foods, only eating ‘healthy carbs,’ especially in the beginning of the day, to make sure your body uses them instead of stores them, or becoming anxious when your strict ‘rules’ of what and when to eat are getting threatened.
5. Social withdrawal.
It is hard to always maintain a social life when you only allow yourself to eat certain foods. Canceling plans if ‘unhealthy’ food is involved or not going out to eat with friends/family are signs that the obsession over being ‘healthy’ is taking control of your life.
Wanting to be healthy is not a bad thing. But taking that idea of ‘health’ to the extreme and only focusing on the foods you eat is. Your health is not just about the foods you eat. You could eat all the ‘healthy’ foods you want, but if you obsess and stress over it, the mere physiological and psychological impact on your body and mind far outweighs the beneficial impacts from the foods you are eating.
If you suspect that your ‘healthy’ eating is starting to take a toll on your personal life and health, please reach out for support.
I am happy to answer any questions you might have about seeking help or if you feel like your relationship with food has become a problem. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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Certified Holistic Health Coach
Eating Disorder Recovery Coach