As a health coach, I have had dozens of people provide me with their definitions of “healthy living” and “healthy eating”. Although they’ve made an appointment with me, these people are pretty sure they have most things health figured out and are proud to share the rules they have imposed on their kitchens. The problem is, the difference between good and bad eating habits isn’t aways black and white.
It’s easy to get caught up and confused by the overload of information about nutrition out there, especially because some of it is contradictory. Enchanted by the latest celebrity endorsement or buzzword of the day, well-intentioned dieters easily make misguided decisions, setting rules and restrictions based on good intentions but not actual science. Here are the health traps I see people fall into most often, habits that actually aren’t all that healthy in the long run.
1. The Fat Fearers
Yes, large amounts of saturated fats found in steaks and candy bars can increase your risk for cardiac events, but don’t forget the good fats! “Low-fat” products simply replace the fat with more chemicals and sugar and should be avoided in favor of full-fat options. It’s also smart to add in more healthy fats like those found in avocado, olive oil, and flax seeds to feel full and satisfied with each meal.
2. The Cheating Vegetarian/Vegan
No question that a plant-based diet is a safe bet for overall health. More and more people are experimenting with vegetarianism and veganism and that is wonderful! But did you know products like Oreos are vegan? A lot of new vegans do—and they’re filling up on them! The idea behind vegetarian and vegan diets is to have most all of your food sources come from natural fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, seeds, and good fats (with the occasional cookies of course!). Eating packaged junk like mac & cheese and veggie pizza means you avoid meat, but these diets don’t satisfy the plant-based foods requirement. To do this diet right, make one of our meat free recipes, like these delicious vegetarian stuffed peppers. (more…)
Leslie P. Schilling, MA, RD, CSSD owns Schilling Nutrition Therapy, LLC in Memphis, TN where she specializes in disordered eating and sports nutrition. She provides nutrition programs and presentations to teams and professionals across the nation.
In a nation full of people stricken with chronic diseases, many linked to lifestyle choices, why would we worry about those engrossed with healthy eating? You may have heard the term “orthorexia” in the media and even in conversation. Orthorexia nervosa was first termed by Steven Bratman, MD in 1996 and published in Yoga Journal in 1997. A dissection of the phrase translates to straight or correct (Ortho), desire or appetite (-orexia) and obsession (Nervosa). Bratman suggests that the term wasn’t one so much of clinical meaning as it was a way of teasing his patients with an unhealthy fixation on their way of “healthy eating.” But, has it become our newest eating disorder? (more…)
February 22-28, 2009 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Eating disorders are serious, often life threatening, conditions that effect sufferer’s mentally, physically, and emotionally. Eating disorders generally include an unhealthy relationship with food and one’s own body image. Eating disorders effect millions of Americans and include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and orthorexia nervosa. The causes of eating disorders are complicated and not fully known; psychological issues, low self-esteem, trauma, interpersonal difficulties, cultural norms, learning, and biological factors can all be part of the problem. Treatment can also be very complicated and should be done by professionals. Treatment should include psychological and nutritional counseling; it may include inpatient treatment and medication management. (more…)
In order to help people better understand eating disorders, here are explanations of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and orthorexia. If you or someone you know is suffering from any of these symptoms, please contact a therapist or doctor in your area right away.
Anorexia Nervosa is diagnosed when one refuses to maintain a healthy body weight, experiences an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image, and has not experienced a menstrual cycles for three months in a row (in females). A BMI less than 18.5 in adults generally suggests Anorexia Nervosa. Those with this disorder are often secretive, exercise excessively, drastically restrict their intake of food, and practice other forms of self-harm. Other effects of this disorder include decreased libido, thinning hair, growth of lanugo (delicate down-like hair), consistent feeling of coldness, zinc deficiency, reduced white blood cell count, reduced immunity, sunken eyes, swollen ankles, tooth decay, constipation, dry skin, dry lips, dry hair, poor circulation, headaches, easily bruised, brittle fingernails, fainting, and starvation. (more…)
On 20/20 this past Friday night, they featured a new kind of an obsessive compulsive disorder called “orthorexia.” Orthorexics are individuals who take eating healthy to an extreme. They avoid eating not just a few things like trans fats or meat, but thousands of different kinds of food all in the name of health. It is a psychological addiction to food, but it differs from anorexics, who have a pathological fear of being fat. Orthorexics’ weight often plummets to anorexic levels. But they differ from anorexics because they know they are thin and want to gain weight.
It is no question that we are a culture that is extremely health conscious. We spend billions of dollars each year on diet products, books and supplements. But what makes orthorexia different than just abstaining from dairy, like vegans do, or not consuming any refined sugars is that orthorexics are obsessed with keeping their food pure. They avoid all processed food in addition to many fresh fruits and vegetables if they are not organic or certified by certain organic standards. Most of their day is either spent preparing their own food or thinking about food. Their obsession affects all aspects of their lives, particularly their relationships, as activities like family meal times and dining out are soon eliminated as their pursuit to be pure takes over.
No one way of eating is shown to be a leading culprit in enabling someone to become orthorexic, but raw foodists were associated with a higher risk of developing orthorexic tendencies.
The result is that most orthorexics become dangerously thin, because as the list of foods they can eat becomes smaller and smaller, so does their body weight. One of the orthorexics featured on the ABC program died when her weight plummeted too low to support her body from functioning.
As someone who is deeply involved in the yoga community, I have encountered scores of people who have let their desire to be healthy spiral out of control into a full-fledged addiction and obsession. I once met a man who only ate beets and another who only ate one meal a day which was the same day after day. Looking at some of these extreme cases, vegetarianism is a soft way of eating.
I am sure that we have all met people who have quirky or bizarre eating habits or dietary preferences. But what makes orthorexia so alarming is that as our awareness of and preoccupation with health increases, the more likely it is that we will see more cases similar to those shown on last week’s television show. To learn more about this disorder and to educate yourself on some of the telltale signs of orthorexia, watch this video.
Learn more about Orthorexia and how to treat it, in this book Health Food Junkies.