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Demonizing Food? It’s a Sign of Orthorexia

Do you remember the last time youate a cheeseburger? I do. It was summer, and I wasat a local burger bar with my then-boyfriend, Q.He ate a double patty, and I did, too. Every bite wasbliss, and I stayed in that euphoric state until Iwiped my plate clean. Q went on to eat fries, but Idid something different: I went on to feeling guilty.Then a familiar voice started yammering in myhead, spinning its regular tune:


It didnt matter that I worked out for two hoursthat day, or that it was just one burger. That voicewas in my head, and it was going to make me feelall kinds of remorse for the rest of the night.

Heres the thing: I actually have a healthy relationshipwith food, about 80 percent of the time.Im Italian, so theres that, but Im also an athlete,so eating well and eating often is just as criticalto my training as anything else. Its that lingering20 percent that is starting to drive me crazy because, on those occasions when I eat outside ofmy lane, I sometimes feel guilty about it.(Sound familiar? Learnthe signsof disordered eating to determine if you’re at risk.)

Am I alone in feeling this way? Nope. And thereason I say this with such conviction is because Iwitness it all the time. When women come to mygym class on Mondays, they almost always tellme how bad they were on Saturday night andhow much they need this workout. Ive been at atable where a plate of fries is placed down and allthe girls stare at those little fried potatoes withsuch intensity but only allow themselves a scanthandful.

We live in an age where body positivity is at anall-time high. Women of all shapes and sizes aregracing everything from magazine covers to runwaysto gym poster ads. The message is clear:Love the body youre in. So, why do so many of usstill demonize what we put in it?

In some ways, its actually not our fault. Blame iton social media, magazines or men even, but wehave a lot to live up to when it comes to how welook, so its natural that we build a bit of a contentiousrelationship with food as a result. What weeat has the most impact on how we look (#truth)and, frankly, its a lot harder for us to maintain ourweight compared to guys, too. But its that obsessionwith aesthetics that is our biggest problem. Ifwe dont flip the script on food as fuel, not ourenemy, were in trouble and it can only go downhillfrom here. I dont know many woman whohavent suffered through some form of disorderedeating or preoccupation with food and their bodyat one point in their life,” says Kyla Fox, a masterslevel clinician, social worker and founder of theKyla Fox Centre, an eating-disorder recovery centreand womens wellness centre in Toronto. “Welive in a culture where rules and regulations are soencompassing when it comes to what we eat,” shesays. “Office talk is usually about ‘OMG, I was sobad this weekend’ or ‘It’s Monday and I better havea good week.’”

And while we think were helping our friends bycommiserating, its one of the many ways in whichwe collectively support these behaviours, and itcan be deeply harmful, since were always associatingfood with shame and guilt and its on a constantloop.

Add to this the chatter surrounding health inour country today and its pretty manic. Wevebecome obsessed with diets, food fads and restrictions. Plant-based! Gluten-free! Paleo! Keto! (Which actually has many dangers associated with it.) No alcohol! No sugar! No fun! Is it any wonder we siftthrough our plates and choices with a fine-toothedcomb?

The conversation surrounding disordered eatingis muddy because its hard to ascertain whatconstitutes it. Although disordered eating is consideredsubtler in approach than a diagnosed clinicaleating disorder, such as anorexia and bulimia,its no less dangerous. Worse yet, its affecting somany of us, and we dont even know it. Orthorexia,a condition in which one becomes obsessed witheating clean, is not a clinical eating disorder (yet),but those on the front lines are noticing an uptick.Its inadvertently supported by our culture givenhow many opinions exist on what it means to behealthy, says Fox. Which makes it really hard todetect. She goes on to say that most peopleaffected by disordered eating actually lookentirely normal and are almost always very highfunctioning: Theyre mothers and CEOs some ofthe most capable and seemingly confident people out there but they live in a world of restrictions,whether they dont eat all day, binge at night orpurge through exercise. The symptoms arent asclear cut as anorexia or bulimia because they maydo all of the above at different times, she says.

Naturopathic doctor Jodi Larry runs a privatepractice in Toronto and offers a 10-day clean-eatingclinic designed to help men and women buildhealthier relationships with food. This isnt aboutwhats trending; rather, its an educational programthat teaches clients how to nourish theirbodies in the best possible way for good health.First and foremost, people have to be clear onwhat their goals and values are, she says. Itsvery easy to say I want to get healthy, but why?Whats your motivation? That said, if shedding pounds on this program is your only goal, Larrywill lose your invite to the group. Its interestingbecause when I ask women how much they thinkabout their weight during the day, it can be 100percent of the time, she says. If a woman weighsherself in the morning and she has lost threepounds, shell have the best day ever. If she hasgained three pounds? The worst. Thats dangerousbecause when we focus so much attention onweight, it can lead to cycles of deprivation andexcess when it comes to what we eat. Weight lossshouldnt be your number one goal; being healthyshould be. (Psst: Here are some mantras you can try to feel better about your food choices.)

Its not about identifying good versus bad foodsbut rather about looking at what food does for youand your body. Is what youre eating beneficial or harmful to your health overall? Answer that andyoure on your way to understanding that foodshould be your friend, not your foe. Also critical isthis: Say you end up eating that caramel chocolatefudge brownie (or a double cheeseburger, as wasmy case). Guess what? Your world didnt fall apart,and youre going to be just fine. Why? Because perfectiondoesnt exist, and if you allow yourself tofeel all that shame, youre going to be stuck in it.Understand your humanness and focus more onkindness and self-compassion, she says. Thepath to health isnt always a straight line; its verytopsy-turvy. But if you come back to your valuesand commit to what you want for yourself in termsof your health, not just your weight, youll make it.

Its food for thought. Although balance isnt aword I like to use often, thats exactly what thisdiscussion is all about. If you can find harmony inyour health and understand that your body is powerful,beautiful and strong, youll feel good and Iguarantee youll believe it, too. Now, where arethose fries?

Now that you’ve learned about disordered eating and orthorexia, learn the non-daunting ways to be healthy AF.

The post Demonizing Food? It’s a Sign of Orthorexia appeared first on Best Health Magazine Canada.

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