Today, among my friends, I'm classified as the one who would rather eat a salad than a burger, eats reduced-fat peanut butter, and has cravings for carrots more than cravings for pizza. I'm the "healthy" one who has to workout to avoid getting stir crazy and I've been known as this person since the beginning of high school. 

salad, vegetable, pepper, lettuce
Becky Hughes

Most of the people I know praise me for my healthy lifestyle, and I've given myself a few pats on the back for adopting it. But deep inside, I know that my supposedly healthy eating habits deserved no praise once upon a time.

While everyone has their own opinions of what a healthy lifestyle is, our society has generally come to think of one as substituting zucchini for pasta, eating copious amounts of salad, and working out. Oh, and posting all of that on Instagram.

For me, my healthy lifestyle started out innocent. I started to eat more vegetables and acquired a workout routine - all things positive from anyone's perspective. However, healthy habits gradually became an obsession that I refused to acknowledge for a long time. Rather than eating more fresh and nutritious foods in addition to exercising a couple days a week, it became the question of whether I had the willpower to restrain myself from eating even a spoonful of ice cream. It became working out for two hours everyday on top of school and extracurriculars and looking at nutrition labels for everything I ate. It came to the point where my parents would teasingly call me a cow because all I ate was grass (salads). Even worse, it came to the point where I was faking stomachaches so I could skip dinner. 

It was a healthy lifestyle gone sour. Turned dark. 

This was about three or four years ago. Luckily, that's as far as my obsession got before I realized what I was doing to myself. Since then, I've worked hard to pull myself out of the mental pit that I had driven myself into. That being said, the dark mentality still resonates inside me and resurfaces from time to time.

Did my habits classify as an eating disorder? I was never advised to go see a doctor, so was it an actual problem or was I just being dramatic? It certainly wasn't normal or healthy and most people thought I was just an extremely healthy person who liked to stay fit.  

In 1997,  one doctor started to realize that an excessively healthy lifestyle could be masking a much darker truth: an eating disorder called orthorexia. Though this condition was acknowledged decades ago, it's not surprising to see recent press about the condition considering society's increased obsession with being healthy

With that being said, I'm not discouraging healthy lifestyles, nor am I against substituting zucchini for pasta. (In fact, I think it's delicious.) What I do want to say is that sometimes, everything is not at all that it seems. Those who seem the healthiest and happiest are, ironically, being so at the expense of their own wellbeing.

water, beer, tea
Stephanie Lee