Monday, October 22, 2012

Orthorexia: There's a Name for Everything

My mom sent me this Dear Abby on Friday:
(My apologies for the photo; my scanner was acting screwy this morning)
Ironically, my friend and sorority sister, Colleen, blogged about this same issue a few days ago, from the perspective of those who are burned out on others pretending to have developed lactose or gluten intolerance, and those who have a burning desire to share with the Web every uber-healthy morsel they consume.
Turns out there's a name for everything.
At the risk of sounding like a Psyc-101 freshman here, I wonder aloud how this new condition, termed orthorexia, or the "psychological obsession with eating healthy," has touched my life. And not in a positive way. I truly appreciated Colleen's post because it caused me to take two giant steps back to see how my lifestyle and my choices affect those around me. (Am I making a positive or a negative impact?)
It's all too easy to fall victim to the slippery slope of look-Ma-I've-finally-decided-that-vegetables-are-good-for-me, segueing into look-everyone-I-ate-my-allotted-soy-protein-powder-gluten-free-morning-meal. The more Instagram pictures of dressing-free salads are posted, the more pressure there is to count calories, question every bite, and overanalyze the "nutritional" quality of each meal. This doesn't just apply to women, either. There are a number of Twitter accounts I recently discontinued following because they made me feel bad about myself and the foods I chose to put into my body. I follow several well-known registered dieticians (RDs) and fitness gurus whose glistening abs remind me on the daily that I'm not doing nearly enough to tone, tighten, and trim. (Or am I?)
If you've been reading Girl Emerging for awhile, you know that for the past year, I've made serious changes in my diet, eating habits, fitness regimen, and lifestyle. I've been blogging and Tweeting about my progress and new developments as a way of logging experiments, challenges, triumphs, concerns, and queries. In terms of weight loss and exercise, I've been feeling out what works best for me, and then sharing it with you.
I stopped in my tracks to ask myself:
Is the message I send others about my "diet" one of health and wholeness, or one of negativity and obligation?
Is the snapshot I display of my intense workout going to inspire or injure?
Am I being true to myself and my values along my weight-loss journey and my lifestyle makeover?
Do my family and friends enjoy conversing with me about the changes I've made, or do they wish I'd shove another carrot in my pie hole and stop babbling?
Colleen's blog post and the Dear Abby article have given me a lot to consider in terms of the impact I am making on those around me. I don't want to create an impression of intolerance or disgust with others' food and exercise choices. I don't want to lose friends or cause people to be turned off by my life decisions in the pursuit of a healthier, more holistic life. To be cliche, at the end of the day, I want to live a life fueled by health and happiness, and I want my friends and family by my side to share in that.
P.S. Have you heard of orthorexia? Is there someone who has impacted your health-related life decisions?

Edited to add: My mom did not send me this article because she believes I have orthorexia or any related condition; she sent me the article for the sake of awareness and out of curiosity about whether I had heard of the condition. Thank you for your concern and your positive responses to this post!

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