It's called Orthorexia Nervosa
Many of us might imagine a future when we naturally shun wine and laziness, choosing instead to munch mung beans because we actually want to.
But as ideal as that sounds, trying to adhere to a perfect diet can be a slippery slope to the unhappy world of orthorexia, defined as an obsession with eating healthy foods.
"When someone has orthorexia, eating pure, healthy foods has become more than just an attempt to increase the nutritional aspects of their diet – it has taken dominance over the person to the exclusion of other areas of their life," Loren Byford, psychologist at Eating Disorders Victoria, told Coach.
"It is an extreme, obsessive and limiting condition that results in unbalanced behaviours, such as withdrawing from social functions and eliminating entire food groups.
“The focus and dedication to eating clean food is the dominant focal point of a person's life."
Naturopath Karina Francois says she is seeing a rise in the number of people suffering orthorexia coming to her clinic wanting advice on how to lead a "perfect" healthy lifestyle.
"Enthusiasm for healthy eating is not orthorexia – it occurs when it transforms into an obsession," Francois told Coach.
"It can start with someone wanting to follow a fad like going paleo and god forbid they eat a potato – it takes over their life and they think 'I am a bad person'."
Francois says that she also sees it in her daily life – if anybody hears she is a naturopath they closely watch what she eats, almost looking for evidence of her not eating perfectly “clean”.
"With orthorexia, there is a righteousness about it," she says.
"They have an obsession with being 'good' and it's self punishing. If they have a cup of coffee instead of a green smoothie they think they are impure."
While healthy eating is a great goal, Byford says that we need to have balance.
"By focusing so much on the purity of their food, they don't have as much time or energy to develop social connections or occupational endeavours," she explains.
"Having a broad and balanced approach to life is protective for good mental and physical health."
When it comes to people cutting out whole food groups, Byford says that you can also end up with nutritional deficiencies.
"In extreme cases, an effort to eat 'clean' can lead to nutritional deficiency and weight loss that in rare cares, can be life threatening," she says.
"There is also significant psychological distress, which is likely to impair the person's mental health and their ability to lead a fulfilling and satisfying life."
Social media, in particular Instagram, could be playing a part with images of #cleaneating and #fitspo increasing pressure on people to be perfectly healthy all of the time.
"[The way social media] allows images to be altered presents a unique challenge to embracing an accepting and balanced approach to body image and diet," Byford says.
If Francois suspects a client has orthorexia, she refers them to a psychologist experienced in eating disorders.
"[The client has] to understand that food is only a small element of our life – it is not going to make them a better person and it's irrational to base your self esteem on the quality of your diet," she says.
Byford says the sooner you get professional assistance, the better.
"Many who experience problematic levels of clean eating behaviours and beliefs do not seek help," she says.
"This may be due to denial that an issue exists or feelings of uncertainty or embarrassment talking about the issue."
If you want to avoid orthorexic tendencies, Byford suggests being aware of your attitude towards food and your body.
"Protective strategies include critically evaluating images and messages received on social media, socialising and having hobbies, enjoying a wide variety of foods without labelling them as 'good' or 'bad', and ensuring you have access to a variety of ways to invoke feelings of relaxation and coping with stressors," she says.
This has been taken from the original article featured on Nine Coach this can be viewed here: https://coach.nine.com.au/2016/11/09/11/52/orthorexia-nervosa