Don’t Be Orthorexic
We as a society may be developing a certain level of Orthorexia.
Most dietary programs actually promote this. If you are avoiding certain foods at all costs, even if they don’t appear to cause you any direct harm or because of some belief that they will completely derail your efforts, then you have Orthorexia.
Are you Vegan, Paleo, Keto, Low Fat, or Food Purist? What foods are you avoiding? It may be important to ask yourself “Why”.
Does the mere presence of a grain or legume make you turn away from a meal and reject it outright, with a look of disgust? If something contains some added sugar is that an outright “NO” from you even though it may otherwise be healthy and flavorful, such as fruit or a delectable brownie? Will you avoid eating at a restaurant because they don’t use only grass-finished and pasture raised meats or because Canola oil is what they use in their fryer?
These may all be valid reasons and you should be applauded for your perseverance and commitment. If, however, it is negatively affecting how you feel and how you interact with the rest of society (friends, family, work colleagues) then you may need to question your hyper-vigilance in your pursuit of dietary perfection.
You should not eat anything that you are allergic or severely sensitive to, not even if it tastes great and conjures up wonderful memories of your childhood or holidays past – unless it is so absolutely worth it to you or you literally have a gun to your head and it will save your life to do so. There is no reason to inflict harm upon yourself and to reel with the consequences of your decision for days or weeks to follow.
I, personally, abstain from Gluten because it affects me to the degree that my day would be ruined (as well as those around me) and it conjures up manifestations of systemic inflammation that I know will contribute to disease.
I do not, however, completely avoid Dairy. It does not seem to affect me to any significant degree unless I over-do it. I have come to recognize my dairy threshold. Sometimes I cross the line and my body lets me know. I have it infrequently but I do enjoy having some raw milk cheeses and the occasional ice cream.
I am a huge fan of the soft corn tortillas at Mexican restaurants even though they are a grain. Corn does not cause me any immediate ill effects and I have lab testing to confirm it :). I don’t over-do it and it is an infrequent indulgence.
We eat out – frequently. Most restaurants use Canola Oil and do not have organic, pasture-centered meats. Sushi is one of my favorites and I know the salmon is farmed and the tuna probably glows in the dark.
My family has eaten Paleo-esque for over 5 years now and I can state assuredly that I have noted differences in my health from doing so. Everything from chronic aches and pains, abdominal bloating, recurring headaches, sleep disruption, brain fog to borderline elevated blood sugars, dyslipidemia and hypertension have all improved or normalized. I intermittently go through a personal experiment with Keto. I find many benefits from doing this as well, particularly increases in energy levels and mental clarity, in addition to some weight loss. I do remain strict about eating when I am focused on a particular goal or if certain symptoms or physical manifestations start to creep up on me. My diet is adaptable and I do not object to removing specific foods if I recognize that they are having an adverse effect on me. This is a personal choice because I can now determine if something does not sit well with my system – a benefit of clean eating.
The bottom line is that there are few foods out there that will result in imminent death (Caution: don’t eat wild mushrooms unless you are an expert) and symptoms from food indiscretions are usually brief and the negative effects self-limited. You should stick with whatever dietary program or belief system that you are on but don’t beat yourself up over an occasional treat or even a temporary binge. Some times the exposure may be by mistake – “I’ve been Glutened” – but it is okay to consciously choose to eat something simply because you want it or because it is important to you or someone else (e.g. birthday cake or grandma’s pecan pie at Thanksgiving).
Life is about many experiences and the journey is long. There will always be bumps along the road. Mistakes are inevitable and we should learn from them. What is important is what you do most of the time – that “80-20 Rule” you may have read about somewhere.
- One slice of cake will not make you diabetic,
- one high carb meal will not make you obese, and
- the non-cage-free beast raised on glyphosate cornmeal cooked in a canola-filled fryer with a side of GMO vegetables will not make you stroke out [maybe].
Choose to eat healthy as often as you can but remember to be present in the moment. If you are going to choose to eat something ‘questionable’ then you should make sure you enjoy it for every bit of flavor and texture it has to offer, savor it as if you will never have it again. Most importantly, make sure that you are enjoying the occasion. The “forbidden” meals or treats are usually around the holidays or special celebrations. The focus should be on the people that you are with, the environment that you are in, not on the food. Choose wisely but don’t let this impact on your ability to enjoy life and everything that it has to offer.