Go Kaleo’s frequently used term “Dietary Dogma” has to be one of my favorite’s this year. Love, love, love it.
Personally, I don’t care which lifestyle diet you choose, so long as it actually benefits your health (lifestyle = set of principles that you choose to live by. Not being on A diet). If it includes lots of fresh veggies, enough protein, is mostly clean, allows for occasional treats and makes your BODY feel AWESOME, you get high fives from me. And if it doesn’t, hopefully you’ll make healthier changes over time that suit you.
But… feeling awesome is about how your BODY responds to your diet. Not how superior YOU FEEL because you follow it. That’s where dietary dogma can get tricky and MAY cross over into orthorexia: a growing problem in the fitness & health community.
Orthorexia is an unhealthy fixation on healthy foods. Unlike anorexia, the goal is not to be thin, but rather to be as healthy as possible. While that may not SEEM all that bad, there is a VERY big difference between someone making healthy lifestyle choices to ENHANCE their life, versus someone who’s healthy choices ARE their life.
Most simply, the difference can be seen in how two individuals handle a situation like hunger….
When faced with the option to either A. starve or B. eat McDonald’s, a person with a healthy relationship with food will choose McDonald’s. They know their body needs food, even if it’s not the kind of food they’d regularly have. They know that the only thing WORSE than eating McDonald’s is starving their bodies.
A person with orthorexic tendencies, on the other hand, would rather starve than eat unhealthy OR will experience SEVERE feelings of guilt, self-loathing and anxiety should they eat the undesirable food. Even when the alternative was starving.
See the difference?
**UPDATE: Just a little add on, since some people seem to be going NUTS over the idea of eating McDonald’s in the example above. I don’t want McHate to cloud the points being made.
I’m not talking about having to wait an hour before you can find yourself something healthy to eat. In the extreme example below (which, by the way would probably never happen in real life. Figured that most people would ‘get’ that, but hey), I’m talking about a hypothetical life or death situation that highlights the thought process of someone who might suffer from orthorexia.
Someone who would rather starve to death than eat McDonald’s HAS ISSUES (considering that most of these people avoid McDonald’s in order to be healthier, it seems funny that they would choose ‘death’ over it. If anything could be considered unhealthier than McDonald’s, it’s starving or dying. Hands down). That’s all I’m sayin’. I am not, nor have I ever, encouraged people to eat McDonald’s, lol. But if the thought of eating McDonald’s versus starving (not just for an hour or two) actually makes you anxious, stressed, or ________, you MAY want to look into that. That kind of thinking crosses over into MANY behaviors (and most don’t have anything to do with McDonald’s).
Like all eating disorders, it’s about your relationship with food AND there’s a scale. You may have some orthorexic tendencies, without it having a SERIOUS impact on your health (though it may cause you more stress than you’re aware of). The biggest concerns with orthorexics involve the anxiety & stress they experience surrounding food (and meal planning), a decrease in quality of life with increased focus on diet ‘perfection’, ignoring warning signs from the body and potential malnourishment/health problems pertaining to dietary restrictions (very severe at that point. Ortho-anorexia)
Some Signs You May Have Orthorexic Tendencies
Still think a calorie is just a calorie? Think again!
Not ALL calories are created equal, and while it’s an easy way for people to track their weight loss, the QUALITY of your calories has much more to do with success than how many you’re eating.
1200 calories of pizza, beer and candy? Not the same as 1200 calories of hummus, spinach and lean chicken. Nutritionally, the latter is better for you: more vitamins, minerals and good stuff for your body to use. But it’s also processed more efficiently by the body: more of the calories get used, burned and can fuel your metabolism giving you an edge all day. Plus, the more fiber, veggies and lean protein you have in your diet, the less chemicals your body needs to dispense to break it down: less hormones released, fewer sugar crashes, and less fat storage.
A new study has given more insight into which ‘diets’ may be best for weight loss (and by diet, I don’t mean restriction, but rather overall diet). They compared a low fat diet, a low carb diet and a low glycemic index diet. All participants followed their eating plans over a period of time, and then were measured for caloric output and weight loss.
Those on a low FAT diet burned the least.
Those on a low CARB diet had the fastest initial effect… but had the lowest retention rate. It also raised the risk of heart problems in participants.
Those on a low glycemic index diet burned steady amounts with almost no adverse effects. It was also easier for participants to maintain over time. While the ultra low carb, Atkins-like diet had the greatest initial effect, it also had the lowest, long-term retention rate. On top of that, it increased the risk of heart problems.
Very interesting stuff!
The takeaways: those of you focused on low fat options may do well to add more fat into your diet: you need fat to burn fat (avocados, olive oil, nuts). While low carb diets are FAST, they tend to do poorly overtime: consider going halfsies and exploring complex carbohydrates to add into your diet (grains, beans, legumes). And EVERYONE would do better by eliminating processed, sugary and chemical foods.
Read more via The New York Times.
You might hear a lot about willpower, and some of you might believe that your ability (or inability) to stay away from bad food choices depends solely on how strong (or weak) your willpower is.
That, my friends, is bullshit.
While it’s true that some of us have more discipline than others, we are not superheroes. We are not buddhist monks. We are not masochists. Well, maybe some of you. But most of us are just people. And people are fallible. Real. We shouldn’t be expected to be on guard 24 hours a day without cracking at least a few times. And we shouldn’t feel badly about ourselves for doing so.
I’ve learned how to resist bad foods in short spurts. I can opt for the salad, instead of the fries most days. I can buy an apple instead of a chocolate bar. I know that when I’m tired, my cravings can take over, so I fill myself up with healthy on-the-go foods so I won’t cave in. But at 11pm, when my body wants something sweet, you best be padlocking the freezer if there’s ice cream in there.
It’s not just ice cream though. Bagels, butter, bacon, chocolate, chips etc. If those items are in my house, I will eat them. In fact, if they are there, they’re all I want to eat. My shiny apples look like crap next to them sometimes. That refreshing salad doesn’t feel nearly as right of a choice as it did when I made it. So I eat them. And eat them. Most ‘bad’ items don’t make it past a few days in my pantry: items, that if eaten in moderation should last me weeks.
So how do I stay away from processed, sugary, high calorie, low nutrition foods?
I keep them the hell away from my kitchen!
My secret is not willpower. It’s knowing myself and preparing myself. I don’t do well in environments where I have to deny myself: where I have to constantly choose healthy over unhealthy in the spur of the moment. I have limited amounts of willpower and it saps my energy. I do better when the ONLY choice is a healthy choice.
Studies show that putting ourselves in a cycle where we ‘feel’ deprived (where we feel as though we can’t have what’s within reach) is likely to lead to failure. We only have a certain amount of energy we can spend feeling deprived and having to make decisions. After that, we tend to go crazy, eating everything in sight. And, if you’re like most people, you feel guilty after. When you feel guilty, you feel off track. When you’re off track, it feels like your efforts have been in vain. When those efforts don’t ‘count’, eating those foods doesn’t feel so bad. You feel as though you’ve already failed, so what’s the harm in a complete sabotage?
We put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We need to make life easier on ourselves instead.