When we meet someone for the first time and share what we do, it often seems to open the gateway to a game of 20 questions. “What do you think about the Paleo diet?” “It’s a good thing to give up gluten, right?” “Is a banana bad for me?” “So, do you always eat healthy?” When we’re asked these kinds of questions, we’re happy to answer them. We feel grateful that people feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a recent question we were asked...and here's the answer!
Question: Is it necessary to stick to my diet 24/7 in order to gain health benefits?
Answer: There’s a fine line between eating foods that are good for your health, and eating only foods good for your health. The importance of getting quality nutrition is receiving increasing attention in mainstream media today. While it’s a good thing to foster healthy eating habits, and therefore reduce the risk for obesity and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, an extreme approach to diet may not be such a good thing. In fact, health experts are concerned that it can lead to a new category of eating disorders classified as “orthorexia nervosa” or “healthorexia.” Orthorexia can start out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but can quickly lead to an unhealthy obsession over food quality or a fixation on “righteous eating,” according to the National Eating Disorder Association. People with orthorexia, for example, may become preoccupied with only eating low-glycemic, unprocessed, or organic foods. Like other disordered eating behaviors, orthorexia can lead to malnutrition as individuals become increasingly restrictive with their dietary choices. It’s important to remember that health status is the result of long term eating habits. One simply does not get diabetes from having a candy bar, or heart disease from having one meal of fried chicken. Ultimately, it’s best for your health to develop eating habits that are sustainable for the long term. This includes allowing yourself to enjoy the occasional treat from time to time.
This Q & A was written by McKenzie for the October 2013 issue of Environmental Nutrition.
A recently published article in the Los Angeles Times provides additional insight into orthorexia. You can read the full article by Mary MacVean, “For those with orthorexia, diet can never be 'pure' enough” here.