“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Unknown
I recently read this article on Tiny Buddha called “Being Fit Without Letting Food and Exercise Control You”. I’ve been working a lot recently on my work-life-health-exercise balance. Sometimes I’ll find myself thinking a little too much about my meals, exercising a little too much or not giving myself enough rest days, so this article really hit home!
Fitness overall has a pretty positive image. It can cure obesity, resolve stress, and build strong bones and hearts. We know that a diet full of fresh, whole foods is the secret to a disease-free life. But that passion for healthy living can sometimes get out of hand!
I like what the article says:
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for eating right and exercising, but the moment your life begins to revolve around your fitness, then you’ve already lost.”
How do you tell the difference between a passion and something that could be harmful? An unhealthy obsession with eating healthy is called Orthorexia nervosa, which literally means “fixation on righteous eating”. It starts out an innocent attempt to eat healthy, but one starts to fixate on food choices and purity. Each moment is a chance to eat right, be “good” and to fast or exercise more after “slips” or “cheats”.
Eventually the diet becomes so restrictive in calories and variety, that the obsession can impair relationships, cause a high level of stress, and actually become physically dangerous.
Orthorexia is not an officially recognized disorder, but it does share many similarities with other eating disorders.
One of my favorite food bloggers, Jordan from The Balanced Blonde (formerly known as The Blonde Vegan) just came out as struggling with orthorexia.
She said in a recent People magazine interview:
“Food was not enjoyable anymore,” says the blogger, 23. “I was spending the entire day obsessing about eating only vegetables, green juices, fruits and occasionally nuts and grains…I restricted myself from certain foods – even some that fell under the vegan umbrella – because they were not 100 percent clean or 100 percent raw. I was following thousands of rules in my head that were making me sick.”
Jordan would adhere to a strict plant-based vegan diet, and sometimes would do juice cleanses for weeks at a time. She lost weight, had low energy, bad skin, and even stopped getting her period. Once she realized that she may have an eating disorder, she sought the help of a nutritionist who told her that she was deficient in protein and many vitamins.
She had great intentions of wanting to eat healthy and clean, but her passion started to change to something dangerous. How can we tell if our passion is harming us?
Are You Sacrificing Your Life to be Healthy?
Warning signs to watch out for are structuring your entire life around workouts, planning meals at strict intervals, and feeling like a major failure if you mess up your schedule.
When you weight yourself several times per day…
When you exercise more after eating extra food…
When you feel extreme failure after missing a workout…
When you refuse to have special treats…
…then you’ve taken health and fitness too far.
Forge the Right Mindset
Find the middle ground. Enjoy a piece of wedding cake without worrying. Be okay with missing a workout and not feeling like a failure. Go a day without weighing yourself. This is no easy task, especially if we’ve weaved these habits into our daily lives.
If you overeat, determine what triggered you to overeat. Are you stressed out? Sad? Anxious? What can you do to fix it?
Ultimately, our goal with diet and exercise is to be healthy so we can enjoy life longer. So, if we’re already eating healthy and exercising, then we should be able to relax and know that we are taking care of ourselves. If all we think about is diet and exercise, then are we truly creating the life we want to live? You’re not living live, you’re living a life controlled by eating.
A life worth living is where you can try new foods and eat that piece of wedding cake without fear. A life where you don’t think all day about when you’re going to the gym. There’s so much more to life than diet and exercise. This in particular is hard for me. As a Dietitian, this is my daily focus all day long at work! Turning it off when I get home is hard for me.
But once we recognize the reason why we want to eat healthy and exercise in the first place (to enjoy life longer) then we will want to actually enjoy life in this present moment.
How do you approach health and fitness? Do you sometimes find it controlling you?
Source: People Magazine
Hi! I’m Emily, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and self-taught intuitive chef. I firmly believe that cooking is the simplest and most important step we can take to improve our minds and bodies and build healthier communities. Join me and let’s bring food back to the kitchen!
Kelly // The Pretty Bee: Cooking & Creating says
This is really interesting to think about. I think that in today’s world, we hear about so many different diets and lifestyles, it can be hard to see when that line is crossed between healthy and unhealthy.
genevieve @ gratitude & greens says
I remember when The Balanced Blonde came out about her eating disorder. I was really impressed and proud that she was honest with her followers and, most importantly, with herself. I used to have an obsession with going to the gym every single day, but that time has come and gone. Great post.
Zen & Spice says
I was impressed with her talking about her eating disorder too! There’s so much “fitspo” and “thinspiration” out there that it is damaging us. We all really need to take a step back and see if we are really helping our hurting our lives.
I think this is another aspect of perfectionism. Lots of things to mull over in this article.
Yes, you nailed it! Hyper focused on perfecting health
Such a wonderful post & it’s so important to do that mindset coaching with clients. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job as a dietitian.
Great article! Very interesting :)