Adopting a “clean eating” plan has become a popular way to lose weight and improve overall health. But while being more mindful of consuming minimally processed, whole foods can be a good thing, the drive to eat healthy can sometimes veer into a problematic preoccupation with what you’re putting on your plate.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell when your ‘healthy diet’ has crossed the line into something you should worry about. To help you assess whether your approach to eating has become a health risk, Lonnie Sarnell, PsyD, a clinical and sport psychologist in New Jersey, encourages you to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you spend hours each day thinking about your diet?
- Do you feel anxious or guilty when you eat foods you deem “unhealthy?”
- Do you avoid social events because you won’t have control over the food you eat?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might be suffering from a condition called orthorexia.
What Is Orthorexia?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), orthorexia is “an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating.”
“We’re seeing this disorder come up a lot more, in part because we’re experiencing a shift in our culture where the body ideal has moved from being as thin as possible to being as fit and healthy as possible,” says Alexis Conason, PsyD, a New York-based clinical psychologist and creator of The Anti-Diet Plan.
But with all the focus on achieving picture-perfect health, this “new moral standard of wellness” can inadvertently endorse and normalize the quest for dietary perfection, which may lead to disordered eating. Consequently, there’s often a blurred line between a truly healthy diet plan and orthorexia, Conason says.