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Eating Disorders: What Obsession With Healthy Eating Can Cause

MANY OF US BY TIME are overwhelmed by EXCESSIVE ANXIETY about what we eat. Someone regularly picks out yolks from eggs cooked for breakfast, someone decides to completely abandon products containing sugar, and someone is sure that animal fats can cause all diseases at once. Of course, everyone has the right to decide what is best for his body, but sometimes such concern develops into paranoia, when the most harmless snack precedes a scrupulous study of how beneficial its health is to every component.

This eating disorder is called orthorexia – an obsessive desire for a healthy and proper diet, which leads to significant restrictions on the choice of products. This anxiety often concerns not only the composition of the food, but also the method of its preparation and even the materials used: for example, the cutting board should be made of wood only, and the pan should be exclusively with ceramic coating.

The term “orthorexia” was first used in 1997 by physician Stephen Bratman. He himself for a long time was a supporter of the idea of ​​a healthy diet, managed to be a member of the eco-community and a vegetarian, tried to eat only freshly picked vegetables and fruits, and even chewed every bite 50 times. Gradually, Bratman began to notice that all these restrictions made his life boring, and in the end he realized that his concern for healthy food had acquired a manic form.

According to statistics, excessive concern about the diet is often accompanied by debilitating sports loads on the verge of the body’s capabilities. As in the fitness boom, there are many advantages to the total enthusiasm for proper nutrition. Nevertheless, it is alarming that the mention of the eaten eclair often sounds like a confession to a crime. We asked the psychologist and nutritionist about where the line between a healthy desire for a balanced diet and eating disorder goes, and we learned how to protect ourselves from anxiety about food.

Irina Lopatukhina
Clinical psychologist, gestalt therapist, French Institute of gestalt therapy, ass. MHI trainer, author of books and articles on the treatment of eating disorders

People today are seriously concerned about food, and more and more often you can hear the term “food anxiety”, which defines the so-called anxiety of nutrition. Psychologists associate this new type of anxiety with the anxiety-filled field of life of a modern person: economic crises, military confrontations, material instability of life. In particular, there are many worries in Russia as well – starting with the crisis of power and the change in the economic order in the 90s. At such times, the stability of a person’s worldview breaks down, and the often painful search begins for answers to the questions: “Who am I?”, “How do I live?”, “Why do I live?”, “What do I believe in?”.

Anxiety occurs when the rise of vital energy does not find a form of self-expression adequate to the situation and feeling itself, for example, in a clear, understandable to a person feeling, thought, action. And then, in order to avoid the excruciating uncertainty of one’s emotional and physical state, anxiety “becomes attached” to something quite specific, known, for example, to what can be “weighed”, namely to food.

Now we are all more or less obsessed with the cult of the body: we want to be thin, disappointed, young. But here is the paradox: with such close attention to centimeters and kilograms of modern man, sensitivity to his body, attention to his physical and constitutional features, to the ups and downs of the body’s capabilities are rarely found. And then it is through contact with food that one can at least become aware of one’s bodily sensations, restore a sensual connection with one’s body. In addition, alarms about food “collect” and “formulate” all those alarms that are difficult or terrible to recognize. To seriously worry about how, in what quantities, and when I eat, is a very understandable and, moreover, quite culturally approved substitution for basic anxiety.

The problem of the occurrence and intensification of food anxiety also lies in the fact that the canons of modern beauty, especially women’s, are strongly opposed to food and directly broadcast to a person: the less you eat, the more beautiful you are. Tasty, with pleasure to eat and at the same time to be sure that this food is healthy, is a whole art. There are a number of clichés about what is considered useful and what is harmful. Useful is natural, low-calorie and only then – nutritious and tasty. And harmful – this is primarily tasty, often fatty or well-fried, smoked – in general, what stimulates the appetite and, as a rule, turns out to be high-calorie.

And the more we try to be “good” and “right” in the choice of our food, the more actively inside us the strength of Vredin gains, which requires a harmful, but bright in taste and in its effect on the body of food, forming a kind of protest.

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