When *Clean Eating* Is Actually Something More Serious

It’s important to be mindful how we’re fueling our bodies, but mindfulness can quickly become an obsession with *healthiness*. Have you ever been out with friends or family + felt guilty for ordering something *unhealthy* or you’ve ordered something + someone made a negative comment about it? Or, maybe you’ve developed a fear of certain foods, feeling like some foods are *bad* // *off-limits* // or even harmful to your body?

These scenarios can often go unnoticed or feel *normal* but they actually can lead to serious body image + health issues. The first scenario describes healthy shaming  — feeling like you shouldn’t eat something, even though you want to, because you’re afraid of feeling guilty afterwards. It can also include justifying your food decisions to yourself + others. The second scenario describes Orthorexia, an unhealthy obsession with healthy food + when the desire to eat *healthy* takes over one’s decisions. While Orthorexia is not listed as an official eating disorder + healthy shaming may not seem like a big deal, there are some common signs to be aware and mindful of ++ some tips to overcome them.

HEALTHY WHAT?

Healthy shaming is all around us — assumptions that healthy people live, eat + breathe fruits, veggies + sweat seshes. People constantly making excuses for what they’re eating + comments made to you about eating salad again. When people notice that you regularly exercise + eat healthy, they sometimes only see you as this *healthy* person — so when you order a hamburger + fries they’re confused.  

Anytime someone asks, should you be eating that? — they are healthy shaming. Remind them healthy eating is all about balance + listening to your body! There is not a set type of foods you have to eat in order to be healthy ++ we are not defined by the foods we choose to eat. CHAARG girls know a healthy lifestyle is all about balance — this includes being mindful, but not restrictive, in what we’re eating. Don’t confine foods to being *good* or *bad* — instead, enjoy all the yummy eats, stress-free.

WHAT EXACTLY IS ORTHOREXIA?

Whereas other eating disorders are fixated on weight, orthorexia is focused on the desire to establish feelings of health, cleanliness, + pureness, particularly through eating habits and food choices. For example, only eating foods deemed to be *healthy* or an obsession with avoiding foods that are unhealthy or harmful + only eating foods deemed *clean.*

Often, these guidelines are personal. With mixed messages from the FDA + all media, it’s difficult to determine what foods to eat or not to eat. Those with orthorexia might self-diagnose food allergies or intolerances based on uninformed decisions. What might begin as a healthy dietary change could become a restrictive obsession.

SIGNS YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW MAY HAVE ORTHOREXIA

#1] Elimination of entire food groups, without a health reason [such as an allergy or intolerance] because it’s seen as *unclean* — Think of a *carbs are the enemy* mentality.

#2] Anxiety over what’s in your food or how it’s prepared. For example, not eating at restaurants because you do not know what ingredients are being used or a fear of someone else preparing food for you

#3] Feeling extreme guilt over eating certain *restricted* or *off-limits* foods

#4] Avoiding social events in fear of not being able to eat *healthy*

#5] Severe restriction of calories + a near-constant focus on diet + health

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you think you’re experiencing orthorexia, talk to someone about it — a friend, family member, or your doctor. When choosing foods to eat, don’t beat yourself up over eating something over another. Life is all about balance! Another way to overcome food *fears* is to eat with friends instead of eating alone. By filling meal time with happy moments + conversations, calories + restrictions may not cross your mind.

The most important thing when dealing with an eating disorder, is to open up the conversation about it. CHAARG is all about changing health attitudes + actions — this includes changing the belief that there is a one-size-fits-all *healthy* diet. It depends on your individual body + you!

If you find yourself dealing with healthy shaming or if you think you have an eating disorder, you can find resource here on how to help.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone if you think something may be wrong– the CHAARG community is always here for you. ++ Remember — you shouldn’t have to justify your food decisions to anyone. Eat what you want + treat yourself without guilt <3

++Ashleigh B. [ashleigh_inchaarg] // Pitt CHAARG

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