Can eating too healthy make you sick?
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
If the “Healthy Lifestyle” suddenly becomes an addiction, it can make you sick. Mentally ill. The fixation on eating only healthy food even has a name. Orthorexia. The question is: Can the urge for a healthy lifestyle limit us to such an extent that the psyche suffers from it? So is orthorexia a mental illness then and how can it be recognised? And why does hardly anyone know it yet? Let’s change this today and talk about it. I also tell you how I make sure to find a good balance for myself and how you can live without ristrictions. Because the line between healthy and too healthy is a narrow one.
I swear on my green smoothie bowls, some are strictly raw and some are advocates of the Paleo diet. One thing is clear: hardly any other topic is as present in the media and moves us as much as food. But everyone has their own idea of what is actually healthy. For example, I’ve decided not to use refined sugar. Furthermore, I don’t eat any finished products, no gluten and make sure that I eat enough green stuff every day. A vegan wholefood diet, that’s my motto.
I rarely or never have the feeling that this lifestyle and/or diet restricts me. On the contrary. I’m sure I’ve never eaten as versatile as today. And I like to taste it too. Very much so! Nevertheless, I am often asked if this “Healthy Vegan Lifestyle” does not restrict me. That I can answer with no is probably due to the fact that I cook fresh every day and therefore always combine new ingredients. And I admit it: I’m a pretty talented cook. It is therefore not difficult for me to reinvent the dishes over and over again. But I had to learn that not all people deal so intensively with their nutrition as I do.
Who knows what’s really healthy?
When I go out for dinner with friends, I am often reminded. These people aren’t in this “healthy-food-bubble” (and I’m happy about it, really). What is a matter of course for me, they often can’t understand or shake their heads only when I order the pizza without cheese and with extra vegetables instead. Or sometimes I don’t order me a pizza at all and rather take something else on the menu (there are often more tasty things on the menu than pizza without cheese).
And even though I am in contact with you through Instagram, I notice again and again that much of what has become “normal” for me is not obvious to others. How to replace or leave out sugar in dishes, where you can buy gluten-free pasta and how a healthy dressing can be stirred within a few minutes: For me everything is as clear as day. Again and again I have to realize that I am still the exception. That the 500 food blogs I follow are not the norm. That not every person has the time to intensively study the food intake. And that’s okay.
At the same time, however, I also notice that it is precisely those who have so far not dealt with their diet that want to live healthier. This word – H E A L T H Y – is anchored in our minds. No wonder. Every day, the media fill us with information about what is supposed to be healthy. It’s hardly surprising that at the end of the day we don’t even know what to eat. What is normal, what is too much. If I’m already feeling this way, it must be much worse for others. Because I move in these circles, I am interested in nutrition and health. I Write about it, share my experiences and recipes with you. So if I just imagine how confusing all this must be for all those who have nothing to do with it, then I am also overwhelmed.
The image that I want to demonize a healthy diet could now emerge. That is not my intention, of course. That would be a big contradiction in some way too. It is not for nothing that this blog bears the slogan “Healthy Food And Vegan Lifestyle”. It is what I preach every day and what I live. For me, there is nothing better than to share with you and know that people out there are inspired to lead a healthier life. And that’s exactly why I’m writing this blog post today. Because: What sounds really great at first and is also very healthy for the body can actually make you sick. Namely when this “Healthy Lifestyle” suddenly becomes an addiction. When it becomes an urge to lead a healthy diet and exercise.
Orthorexia – a mental illness
Experts then speak of orthorexia. Never heard of it? Not surprisingly, orthorexia isn’t yet a recognised clinical picture. And finding a definition for this is also difficult. Orthorexia could be summed up as the “fixation on eating only healthy food”. And at the same time, it’s too easy. After all, where are the limits? What is actually still healthy and where does compulsion begin? Can the urge for a healthy lifestyle limit us to such an extent that the psyche suffers from it? So is orthorexia then a mental illness or how can it be recognised?
I’m not a doctor, nor do I want to call myself a healthcare professional. I am a young woman who deals with veganism and wholesome nutrition. Every day I learn something new and I read a lot about health related topics. Of course, all this does not enable me to tell someone what is really healthy. Or to tell someone he/she is suffering from orthorexia. No, I only share with you what I think is good. For my body. Of course, we don’t have to argue about whether vegetables are healthy. But everything that goes into more detail is already totally controversial. There is a counter study for each study. So if I say, for example, that fruits are super good, I can bet that someone wants to prove the opposite to me. Even if I can say for myself that vegan wholefood is in my opinion the healthiest way of eating, then this does not have to be the same for another person. What we eat is a very personal decision. And that’s probably what makes it so difficult.
We’ve gotten lost!
Sometimes I think we’re lost. In a jungle of countless superfoods, healthy food guides and fat killer recipes. We don’t see the wood for the trees anymore. And yet we cling to every thin branch we can ask for. Picking up what’s supposed to do us good and relying on it. Only to the root, no one dares approach. For as long as the leaves shine full of green, no one seems to care about what lies behind them. What I mean by this is that a “listen to the body” is hardly possible today.
It’s difficult. It is difficult to write this text and even more difficult to take a position on it. How can I dare to approach a subject that is still such a big taboo? I’m still writing this blog post. If I try to look at the issue from my point of view, then this cannot be wrong. What I do know is that I’ve already caught myself eating healthy food as an urge too. I’m not saying I don’t treat myself. Fortunately not. But I’ve also found myself thinking about whether it’s still healthy with every piece of chocolate. This is probably still quite normal, I know. And clearly, those who live vegan must also pay close attention to getting enough nutrients (also meat eater, but vegans still a bit more). But sometimes a little more serenity would certainly be appropriate. I’m always very keen to do something good for my body. And maybe I forget that exactly something unhealthy would do me good. Maybe not my cells, no. But at least to the mind. And it is precisely because I make this observation myself that I am concerned. I’m worried about the many young women out there who let themselves be influenced by the madness of the “Healthy Lifestyle” so much more than I do.
I can report from my personal environment that many girls have fallen from anorexia directly into the next illness. Namely, that of “Clean Eating”. They say they’re healthy now, they’re finally eating more. But nobody seems to notice that what is on their plate is often nothing more than a soft boiled potato and seven thousand lettuce leaves. That’s not supposed to be an attack. And I don’t want to hurt anyone. Nevertheless, I would like to say that we have to look at this. Anorexia and/or other eating disorders are not diseases that are cured overnight. Especially not by another extrem or excess of health.
Food should not only make full – but also fun!
So I’m also learning to find the right balance for myself. Because I am aware of this topic and I know how narrow the line between healthy and too healthy is. I also have a certain role model function and I am aware of it. Yes, B A L A N N C E – this word is almost as exhausted as the word H E A L T H Y. And yet it is important. I’m sure you’ll want to know how I’m handling this. Well, for me, balance means that I don’t have a guilty conscience when I treat myself to a vegan cupcake or squeeze a bar of chocolate (or the whole bar). And that I will take a calm approach and allow my body to take a break from sports.
The dose makes the poison, and it’s no different when you eat. Throwing seven bananas into the smoothie is probably just as one-sided as having seven chocolate bars. Both are totally okay, in between. But in the long run, neither option is really healthy. It is the balance at the end of the day. And each of them determines this for himself. One thing is clear: we do not have to participate in every nutritional trend. Basically, we know pretty much what’s good for us. And we shouldn’t feel bad either, if we don’t follow the rules – which are imposed on ourselves anyway. After all, eating should not only make you feel full and healthy, it should also be fun.