These days, it is nearly impossible to scroll through your Instagram feed without chancing upon a perfectly angled, VSCO-processed shot of someone’s detox meal. In fact, the hashtag #healthyeating has close to a million posts on Instagram. But what happens when we become too obsessed with eating healthy that we start eliminating complete food groups from our diet?
Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term "Orthorexia nervosa" to describe a fixation with healthy eating. It's the condition of only consuming foods that are considered organic or pure, and avoiding foods that don’t fit these categories to avoid "contamination." The goal is typically not to become thinner, but to eat healthier. Some sufferers begin by cutting out a food group, usually carbs or dairy, usually leading to a restrictive diet with only a limited number of "safe foods."
Another problem with orthorexia: It's more socially acceptable because it is often disguised as just "being healthy." In Dr. Bratman's words, it's "a disease disguised as a virtue." When you hear a woman say, "I let myself have fruit today," that is beyond just eating healthy—it is deprivation. And what’s worse is that Dr. Bratman believes social media is responsible for the prevalence of this undiagnosed disease: "A lot of it is wonderful food photography. I think this type of media is definitely causing orthorexia to reach a larger audience and a younger audience."
So how can you tell the difference between eating healthy and having an eating disorder? Simple: If your meals are causing you too much anxiety, it’s time to re-evaluate!
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