THE DARK SIDE OF ‘PERFECT’ DIETS

Learn why the "perfect" diet can be detrimental to your mind and body.

There’s a popular belief that the ‘perfect’ diet is filled with limitations and restrictions. However, this notion is detrimental to both the mind and body. Let’s learn more about the pitfalls of trying to be “too healthy”.


BY: TARYN SCHUBERT, RD

There’s so much talk about healthy eating in our society that it may be hard to believe there’s such a thing as “too healthy.” However, a growing number of nutrition and health professionals are seeing a concerning trend emerging: people who are so concerned about eating “healthy” or the “right” things that it begins to negatively impact other aspects of their lives.

What’s eating “too healthy”?

In the 1990s, Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term “orthorexia. He was trying to describe an obsession with healthy eating that he was saw in some of his patients. While orthorexia is not a clinical term or a medical diagnosis for an eating disorder, it is considered a type of disordered eating.

We all want to eat well to improve our health, but those who struggle with orthorexia take it to the extreme. They often have a long list of “bad” foods or ingredients that they are not allowed to have.

Often avoiding social gatherings that make it difficult to eat “healthy” or “clean”, they end up isolating themselves from their social circles. Planning meals or reading about food take up large portions of their days, which often results in further dietary restrictions.

The level of perfection that orthorexia demands is not sustainable. Feelings of guilt and diminished self-worth burden people with orthorexia, when faced with their inability to maintain their diet. As a result, they have an overall poorer quality of life filled with isolation and constant stress surrounding food and meals.

Unfortunately, our society’s love of fad diets and weight loss “secrets” creates a dangerous environment where disordered and restrictive eating patterns flourish. Because orthorexia tends to be individualized, there is no single diet that those who suffer from it follow.  This makes it even more difficult to identify individuals who have orthorexia.

So what’s the harm in restrictive diets?

When limited to a handful of foods, diets can put a much higher risk for nutrient deficiency. As a result, receiving the nutrients your body needs becomes inherently difficult.

Symptoms of nutrient deficiencies appear, such as fatigue, low energy levels, hair loss, and decreased wound healing abilities.  Many are often reversible with a return to a well-balanced diet. However, others have lasting damage, such as decreased bone mineral density, memory loss, or birth defects in future children.

It’s a far cry from healthy.

So what is a healthier way to approach healthy eating?

Healthy eating is an art form that each individual will find works for them, with one commonality across all healthy diets: variety and balance.

As a society, it’s important for us to focus on healing our relationship with food. If you ever find yourself questioning what foods are “good” or “bad”, ignore the noise and remember that eating should be a joyful experience. Food should never be the cause of anxiety or guilt, nor should it consume precious hours on worrying about what to consume.

The only thing you need to remember:

Eating is about nourishing and fueling our bodies, so we can live the lives we want.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from disordered eating or an eating disorder, help is available. Reach out to the National Eating Disorder Association at 1-800-831-2237.

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: JOANNA KOSINSKA

Taryn Schubert, RD is a Los Angeles-based Registered Dietitian who helps people create healthy diets that fit their lifestyle. With her specialty in adult weight management and mindful eating, Taryn believes food should be a source of joy and nourishment, not “good” or “bad” in the way society perpetuates. Visit Taryn and begin creating your healthier relationship with food.

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