We generally think of eating healthy as being, well, healthy! We applaud our comrades who are so brave and focused to take on the task of paying attention to their diets for the betterment of their personal well being. We congratulate friends on their self-control when we notice they have been losing weight, and we may even feel a twinge of guilt for not committing to treat our own bodies with more respect.
But sometimes a desire to be healthy can transform into an obsession with counting calories and politely refusing even the occasional offer of candy or chips. In recent years, medical specialists have noticed a rise in a new eating disorder known as Orthorexia Nervosa. Similar to the more well known struggle of Anorexia Nervosa, Orthexia stems from a desire to control one’s diet that is taken to the extreme, but is centered, ironically, around an obsession with eating healthy.
Like most eating disorders, the origins of Orthexia are foggy at best, but it seems likely that it is at least somehow connected to the rising condemnation of obesity in America, the unrealistic images of celebrities who claim to have the ‘new wonder diet’, or simply the trendiness of eating healthy in general.
If we think nailing down the causes is complicated, perhaps even more so is the task of offerring relief. Of course there is an element of counseling or therapy that is most likely required for severe cases, but health and food enthusiast Tori Gartner offers another interesting angle on how to combat Orthexia. She believes that fostering a deeper relationship with our food can in fact help us to better understand what it means to be healthy, while simultaneously helping us to appreciate eating in a healthy fashion.
So it seems that paying attention to our food can be more beneficial than simply offering spiritual insight. It can in fact help combat real medical and psychological issues. As Gartner observes,”When we are in tune with what pleases our palate, when we provide ourselves with the time to cook or chop or shop, when we respect food preparation as something that deserves some time (just like sleep) then perhaps it will be easier to establish and maintain a healthy relationship with food.”