Chances are you’re probably not. But it’s a growing problem! In a letter to The Psychologist magazine, Rachel Lisle talks of the dangers of Orthorexia, the eating disorders ‘prettier’ sister. Orthorexia is a fixation with ‘clean’ eating and having a slim, fit, toned body. All good I hear you say? Who doesn’t harbour secret desires to live the perfect life, have the perfect body?
On the face of it, orthorexia doesn’t seem so bad. We’ve all seen the anorexia horror pictures, people lying on towels as their skin is so thin, and their bones so prominent, that the hard bath surface can tear at their flesh. We know of the vicious cycle of bulimia, the gorging and purging. The intense shame people experience as they ‘give in’ to temptation and then how inducing vomit helps them to regain ‘control’ over their appetite. These are well known but orthorexia is no better an experience for the sufferer. An inability to eat sensibly, to fuel the body adequately, a complete obsession with fitness to the point where the sufferer is exhausted, every ounce of energy used.
The problem, as Rachel highlights beautifully, is that the orthorexia sufferer’s behaviour seems relatively normal. Worse, people aspire to it. Social Media abounds with pictures of thin, fit people with enviable bodies chugging back a spinach smoothie. It’s hard not to get sucked into that image, that lifestyle, that desire to be ‘perfect.’
This is why I will never use the term ‘clean eating,’ I will never discuss weight loss as an aspirational state nor will I ever advocate complete abstinence from anything.
Health is a balance; mental, physical, emotional or spiritual – we have to be in balance to be happy and to be well. I always tell people to treat themselves at least once a day, never to starve themselves. Don’t ever have good or bad food days – there are no good or bad foods really – just bad balance.
Life should never be all or none, black or white. I follow an 80/20 rule. I love my healthy vegan lifestyle, I truly do. I feel great and I love that I am no longer reliant on alcohol as a weekend right. I enjoy not being on a sugar rollercoaster crashing down and flying up on sugar highs. I do think it’s a rewarding and calming way to live but in balance. I don’t deny myself anything, I just store up a treat each day, relish it and know that I deserve to indulge a little as I am treating my body so well. The road to dissatisfaction and regret is paved with people who try too hard. Who think they can be ‘good’ all the time. What nonsense. Emotionally and mentally, our health improves as we are kind to ourselves. I believe in being kind to your physical wellbeing as much as you can. Stay active, eat well but for goodness sake, give yourself a break too!
Spoiler: I ain’t perfect – I had a chip butty for my supper last night washed down with a Punk IPA and dang it felt good.