This past weekend is the first I have had to myself in Atlanta in over two months (so crazy). I’ve kept it very relaxed since I have been on the go so much this summer. I started my morning Sunday by booking a yoga class- only to cancel it and go for a walk and listen to a podcast instead. I then tried to swim- only to get 1300 into a 4000 yd workout and get told the pool was closing at 2pm instead of the usual 8pm. Sometimes yoga or physical activity is exactly what my body needs, but other times the world has different plans for me. When my mind is racing and the weight of the to-do list feels heavy, it can be an anxiety producer rather than a reliever- and that is totally fine. It has taken me a long time to accept that, as it used to be that the idea of breaking my routine, cancelling the run, pushing my workout to later in the day etc would produce a lot of stress for me. In the recent months, I have been intentional in giving myself more grace, listening to what my body needs by altering the controllables as I see fit. One of the hardest but most important things to do is learn what your body is trying to tell you. Our minds are so powerful, and can easily drown out our body and convolute the messages.
We are taught to ignore the signs and tune out our body. To take a day off is not professional, to express emotion harnesses weakness, working out through the sore is #gains, and eating what we think we “should” rather than using our hunger cues and cravings as a means for direction is expected in order to be “healthy” amongst so many other convoluted things. In the midst of what we assume to be “healthy” or “normal” leaves a space for orthorexia to grow. Orthorexia is a topic I not only have personal history with, but it plagues diet and health culture.
Orthorexia is a difficult subject to address due to the controversy and backlash surrounding any degree of criticism. That being said, I think it is one of the most important things to bring to light in the health and wellness arena. So many people are living with orthorexic tendencies or have navigated through orthorexia without even realizing it. Though its not recognized in the DSM as an actual eating disorder, it does fall underneath eating disorders not otherwise specified, and its literally plaguing us. The main driver? Social media.
We are in the age where posting a picture of a keto- whole 30- approved – organic – plant based – added powder- meal is applauded with thousands of likes, comments, recipe requests and users incentivizing others to keep up their clean eating. At first glance, the positives shine through. I will be the first person to tell you its critical to nourish your body, maximize your nutrients and feel energized. These posts also give others tools to learn about nutrition and motivates them to take action to better their own health, which is fabulous. I am so passionate about health education I could sing it from the rooftops (it is in fact one of my college degrees lol), but I am quick to pump the breaks before I post all encompassing picture perfect meals and nutrition suggestions on my social media outlets. (for a couple of reasons, and I will explain in a second).
Taking a closer look, the “health” pages promote many misconceptions and unrealistic expectations surrounding food and body image. Everyone has completely different dietary needs, protein to fat ratio numbers, dietary histories and food sensitivities. Many of the individuals that run these accounts have no background or knowledge in nutrition or health education at all, promote unrealistic dietary habits, expensive powders they found in whole foods, or suggestions they get off another users pages. companies back products for revenue to some of these users, and people hop on diet trends and are now willing to argue that putting their bodies in a constant state of ketosis is the epitome of health, just to name an example. As americans have been following diet trends for decades, this is nothing new. However, the access to pictures of extravagant salads or green smoothies with a bunch of powders and additives to it is just a couple of clicks, accessible 24/7. This culture leads to a trap of orthorexic thinking. It goes beyond weight loss or looking a certain way, but taps into an obsession of control in what goes into our bodies. Eating perfectly, purely, fully plant based. To beat ourselves up if we “slip up” and have a piece of chocolate or god forbid we add cheese that isn’t coconut based to top our avocado toast. I will be the first person to tell you to eat whole plant based foods, nourish your body, and to cut out processed sugars and packaged foods, but I also say yes to dessert (almost daily), opt out of a healthy lunch for some pizza, and I have no “cut off” time for food. Only eating “pure” foods, and going into a panic at an event where the safe healthy foods aren’t available are some tell tale signs you may have aspects of orthorexia. I used to be this person, but it was before social media platforms played a role. It was hard for me to move past, but now moreso than ever the prevalence is astounding.
Accounts shoing snips of peoples lives and how purely we perceive them to eat seeps into our subconscious whether or not we realize it. I don’t say these things to criticize, but in attempt to shed light on the topic. take a step back, assess the relationship you have with food, and determine the effects. What are your intentions with food? Is there guilt after pizza night with gluten dough and lactose cheese? If you have a sweet tooth, do you silence it or do restrict yourself to “clean” eating 5x a week? (if you have a GI disorder, sensitivities, etc this may actually apply even more to you as we hold ourselves to even more of that perfect standard). Our motives of course come from a place of self love –wanting to better ourselves and our bodies. Differing greatly from anorexia where calories are restricted and minimal eating is the goal, orthorexia is the rigidity in eating clean. The panic that sets in when we slip up or indulge. The “ill get back on track with my clean eating tomorrow” mentality. The hardest part about parting with orthorexia, is that unlike anorexia or bulimia, its applauded, and we are doing a good thing for our bodies, right?.
“ugh you’re getting a salad- youre so good”
“im being bad today and ordering fries cause. #treatyoself”
when did eating gelato become treating yourself? Shouldn’t we always be treating ourselves and our bodies daily? In my opinion, treating yourself, listening to those hunger cues and cravings is treating yourself- treating your body right and meeting it with love wherever your at. The applaud is present because we are encouraging others to eat well and take care of their bodies right? This is great! But the concern lies in the unrealistic pictures that social media paints. I promise you not one of those people eats plant based vegan whole 30 keto perfect all of the time. I promise that you will be so much happier if you meet yourself with love and compassion when it comes to food. In no way am I promoting chronic unhealthy eating habits .. as we all know this leads to heart disease, diabetes, and all of the tertiary health ailments, but there’s a happy medium in the midst of extremes. We can live well and honestly may even be our best selves when we eat dessert every night (I know I am). We get caught up in the extremes so easily, and I I have been guilty of that in the past as well. I argue that binge eating after restricting oneself to such a regimented and strict diet in attempt to be healthy is more harmful to our digestive system, hearts and emotional control. Hence the saying
“everything in moderation” , or in my words “ its what you do 85% of the time”. Do I think that all the health and wellness social media accounts should be shut down? Of course not , there’s tons of awesome and valuable information on them. I follow a bunch of them, and have gotten some fabulous recommendations. I also know that they can lead our minds down the rabbit hole with thoughts and misconceptions of normal healthy eating leading us to feel insufficient and play a role in developing orthorexic tendancies.
Leaving you with this: listen to those muffled signs. Your body knows what feels good for you. If it wants deep dish pizza and you aren’t allergic (different from sensitive) , you say yes maam. Theres no such thing as one size fits all, especially when it comes to food and diet, as every human body responds so differently. I encourage you to ask questions, do readings, experiment. Most importantly, be gentle and give yourself some grace. Nobody is perfect, and as long as you are making nourishment and energy your priorities, the rest will come easy. Also feel free to reach out in regard to dietary questions or concerns and I am happy to guide you, or put you in touch with information and resources to help you find that balance. If you find yourself caught up in the orthorexic mindset, I am also more than happy to chat and give some helpful tools in how to break the cycle.
Heres to my first week on night shift! sos posting this at 1am