Imagine waking up, sitting down to breakfast and rejecting your mother’s Mickey Mouse-shaped chocolate chip pancakes, complete with whipped cream. “I can’t possibly eat that,” you say to yourself, “there’s too many calories and the ingredients aren’t organic.” You opt for raw oat flakes and a cup of decaf coffee instead.
Yes, you just took the fun out of your breakfast, but you also drastically cut your calories…too drastically. That fact is irrelevant to you though, because you are eating organically – put good in, get good out, right? You decide to reward your choice with a three-mile run.
This eating pattern continues throughout the day, only eating specific foods with specific calorie counts. Then comes dessert. Your mother has outdone herself once again, and prepared a decadent chocolate cake with mocha mousse. Once upon a time, this was your favorite, NOTHING could stand between you and this cake.
Although you don’t eat sweets anymore, you’re feeling tempted, and allow yourself ⅓ of a slice. Panic ensues. “You’re going to get fat,” you say to yourself, “that wasn’t organic either! I’ve got to counteract the calories ASAP.” Guess who’s going for another 3 mile run, while running on next to nothing? You.
By day’s end, you are fatigued, light-headed and conflicted. You ate healthily all day. But then you screwed up.
Does the story above unsettle you? It should, because it describes a day in the life of someone suffering from orthorexia nervosa: someone who fixates on food, day in and day out.
Health is a great goal to aspire to and uphold, but is there such a thing as being too healthy? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Researchers and medical professionals have recently identified a new eating disorder: orthorexia nervosa. The term was coined by Dr.Steve Bratman in 1997 and roughly translates to “fixation on righteous eating.”
Although orthorexia nervosa isn’t recognized as a clinical diagnosis or found in psychology’s dictionary, the DSM-5, it is a disorder that is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) says that the cause of orthorexia develops from an “innocent attempt to eat more healthfully,” and that the symptoms experienced by an individual suffering from the disorder are similar to those associated with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Individuals suffering from orthorexia are consumed with diet, focusing to the extreme on what and how much they can eat.
It’s hard to describe the typical diet for an orthorexic, but they may have a specific list of things they’re willing to eat – or just plan to eat the healthiest thing they can get their hands on. Additionally, orthorexics tend to form a God-complex in relation to food, at times feeling superior to those who don’t eat as “well” as they do.
Treatment for orthorexia nervosa usually requires professional help, as those suffering from the mindset tend to be socially isolated and nutritionally-deficient. NEDA suggests seeing a food specialist to help better understand what healthy eating really means.
If it isn’t an “official” disorder, and it only affects those with a fervent interest in eating healthily, why does it matter? It matters because in this day and age, nearly anyone can fall prey to this mentality and behavior.
Healthy and organic eating is a rising trend, and even a motion as simple as adding the phrase “chia seeds” to your Instagram caption seems to garner more likes on a photo (use the word “kale” and you’ll likely experience stardom on a David Beckham level).
College students in particular are susceptible to eating habits that sit on either ends of the spectrum – either we binge eat and could care less, or we’re total health nuts and maybe care a little too much. The only absolute about diet, whether you eat whatever you want or not, is the importance of finding balance and allowing yourself to indulge occasionally, guilt free.
Balance may seem like a daunting concept to a college student. With hectic schedules, unpredictable workloads and crazy metabolisms – it’s hard not to stuff face whenever we get the chance. The beauty of balance though, is that it really isn’t all that hard to achieve. Here are 6 tips for maintaining a balanced diet:
Tip 1: INDULGE All too often, we beat ourselves up about how many sweets we’ve consumed in a day. STOP. It’s ok if you have a brownie or five, just let that be your big hurrah for the day. The secret to any healthy diet is moderation in all things.
Tip 2: Eat Breakfast (YASS!), and Smaller Meals Throughout the Day Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so make it your biggest. Load up on fruits and protein (easily found in eggs, avocado, etc.). Find three easy recipes that you can create with limited time here.
Tip 3: Healthy Carbs, Whole Grains, Colorful Fruits and Veggies Be an artist with your food and aim for color, and I don’t mean the processed kind, in your fruits and veggies. Enjoy your carbs and grains in a healthy way by selecting foods such as whole wheat (i.e. pasta), quinoa, barley, brown rice, etc.
Tip 4: Fats Focus on incorporating monounsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds as well as polyunsaturated fats such as fish and corn into your diet.
Tip 5: Move Exercise is great. Don’t overdo it – walking your dog can easily serve as a day’s cardio. Make it a goal to get out and move at least three times a week, whether that’s in a gym or outdoors.
Tip 6: Enjoy The key to eating, the key to life, really (I think? Maybe?), is to enjoy the process. Don’t use balanced eating as a way to punish yourself, learn to love the feeling of being truly good to Y O U.
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