Unhealthy Obsession with Healthy Eating?

Unhealthy obsession with healthy eating?

One of the things I enjoy daily is reading others’ blogs as well as online newspapers. I help out my blogger friends and ‘co-workers,’ and learn about what’s going on in the world, a necessity when you are a writer/blogger or when you happen to live in an RV away from the general population for the most part. A headline that caught my eye today was this: Orthorexia Becoming a Popular Eating Disorder.

Being a food and natural, healthy-living blogger, I get the importance of eating healthy. Being a mom, even moreso, but I also enjoy food. There, I said it out loud. I like to eat. Food is fuel, but I want to enjoy it. I’d rather sacrifice a couple of years of my life and drink some caffeinated coffee (risking the latest DSM diagnosis/label of caffeine intoxication) while licking the buttercream frosting off my fingers. I want to eat a pile of fresh fruit salad and dip my whole-wheat bread in an amazing olive oil and spice mixture, then have a glass of white wine or maybe, just maybe, a martini. (I don’t do a lot of hard alcohol at all, but now and then, I go for it. A fave of mine uses mango juice. Yum.) I’m going to plan a three-course dinner of homemade pasta with browned butter, a side of baked panko-covered tilapia and fresh corn off the cob relish on the side, and I’m going to smile through it all. Well, maybe that’s a misnomer right now; cooking in the RV doesn’t always inspire smiles, especially when the first batch of corn relish ends up all over your RV floor because it took too much of your 4” of cooking space. Normally though, I love to bake and cook. It makes me smile.

We aim for 85% “good” food here. I wish I could say 95%, but let’s be real. I have children coming in and out of the house and going to others’ homes and special events. I can’t control their diet – nor do I think I want to — but I figure a good compromise is to let them have some sweets at home, within reason, and teach them the side effects of too much unhealthy food. Ever seen that commercial about “my mom never told me that eating bad could lead to diabetes?” This day in age, really? Where can you hide that you don’t know that fried foods, fatty foods, and high-caloric sugar sweets daily isn’t good for you? The obesity rates in this country show that some people still are unaware, but I also think that there’s a high proportion of people that are unaware, but either don’t care or find making change hard.

For those who find making change hard, I am especially sympathetic, as it brings me round to this new label of Orthorexia. In an effort to encourage people to eat healthily and avoid unnecessary health issues and weight gain, we’re developing an all-or-nothing mentality, and I find that almost more dangerous than being totally unaware.

Staying healthy is NOT an all-or-nothing venture.

Small steps DO matter. Small changes DO count.

I know that at first glance, my combination of blogging about cupcakes and healthy, natural-living can seem to be an irony. However, I’m not advocating eating cupcakes 24/7. I am advocating that when you do eat a cupcake, make it a good one! Life’s about a lot of things, one of them pleasure and enjoyment of food and travel and exploration of both. If I’m obsessing over calories and sugar and glycemic indexes, or fat grams or cholesterol, or anything that five minutes of the news will have you worrying about, I’m not enjoying what I eat.

Here’s a secret: I rarely eat my cupcakes. I rarely eat anything I bake. I taste the batter, lick the frosting, check the consistency and flavor combo, and I’m done. For me, that much satisfies. But, last weekend at the party? I ate an entire cupcake. It was fantastic! And you know what? I didn’t gain weight! I don’t have diabetes from it nor did I ‘blow’ a healthy week of eating. I simply employed moderation and enjoyed a splurge. Avoiding anything you find to be delicious can lead you exactly where you don’t want to go: a binge. For some, willpower is avoiding 100% of something that makes them ill, like peanut allergies. For others, willpower is avoiding 85% of what isn’t good for me. I love French fries, but between salt content and calories and oil, I rarely eat them. Yet, I DO eat them. Wendy’s calls my names sometimes, I love their fries. I don’t eat a ginormous portion. I enjoy what I do eat though, and then I’m done for another couple of weeks.

Orthorexic, I am not.

I don’t think we need a new label. I’m no professional dietitian or doctor, but I would discourage my friends and family from obsessing over anything, and what’s next, a label for every type of obsession? Obsessions cause you to miss out on things, and I don’t want to die at 97 years of age thinking “Yep, I lived a long life! Pretty boring, but at least I outlived everyone I know!”  I also have lived long enough already to know that variety is the spice of life. (And some people eat out of boredom.) If I listen to the latest ‘studies,’ pretty soon, I won’t be able to eat anything except lettuce grown in my filtered-water hydroponic system inside my filtered-air bubble. No, thanks. I am going to continue to follow healthy guidelines, primarily judging by how I feel and how healthy I am. For each of us, that is different, so if you’re heading into the orthorexic realm, be careful of the ‘superiority’ mentioned towards the end of the definition. I am a healthy weight, I feel good, I can run a pretty quick mile and I feed my family a diet consisting of at least 85% ‘good’ things. We avoid preservatives, dyes, additives, pesticides and we make most of our food from scratch so we can control the amount of anything. We also read labels, avoid GMO and if we can’t pronounce, it usually doesn’t make its way into my kitchen…keyword: usually.

Above all, do what you can and don’t feel bad over what someone else may say is a ‘mistake.’ Get professional help as needed for medical/health/weight concerns, but don’t let an “all or nothing” mentality scare you off. Any positive change is a step in the right direction.

For example – I am working towards dropping 3-5 pounds, after being lazy for the last couple of months. I didn’t get much exercise and a bajillion gatherings have resulted in me enjoying things I don’t normally have around, like chips and dips, cookies (particularly white chocolate chunk cookies, o m g) and the scales shows it. My focus is getting those three pounds off, and taking two more to boot. However, last night my daughter made us lemon meringue s’mores. When your kid makes you dessert, you eat it, even if it’s just a small portion. I’m coming clean, I had a tiny s’more! It was fantastic, and because I don’t deprive myself, I didn’t feel the need to eat more. One truly sufficed, which I find to be the result of moderation over complete abstinence.

Life is a rollercoaster, full of a whole lot of downs and ups…sometimes more downs than ups…and I’m not going to spend so much time worrying over a lemon curd roasted marshmallow that I miss out on the smile on my daughter’s face when I enjoyed her creation. I’m not going to obsess over what that extra sugar did to my body. Instead, I’m going to smile, be glad I tried it, and do a few more Pilates moves today.  (Notice that the Orthorexia definition didn’t include exercise, something that really stuck in my head. If one wants to be uber-healthy, why is there no mention of cardio and weights?)

I’m off to make the kids some healthy banana muffins. And I may even have one!

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  1. Great just what we need another eating disorder. Even healthy habits can get out of hand. It is amazing to me how easy we can take one aspect of our lives and before we know it that one thing is in control.
    I have to bow to your ability to taste cupcakes and not eat them (usually LOL).
    With Meg’s Anorexia struggles even having them in the house causes such stress I haven’t baked in what seems like forever.
    thank you for the info

    1. I know! Obsession is a scary thing.

      Thank you! I realized after I made the cupcakes just this past Saturday, I didn’t take a picture of the inside. It matched the outside — pink zebra print. Duh? lol I don’t blame you, if I had someone with an eating disorder in the house, I’d avoid it as well. My son’s health issues have changed our diet in a big way. Take care!

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