A Big Lesson From Orthorexia: When Good Eating Goes Bad

or·tho·rex·i·a || an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy

For a period of time at the very beginning of my fitness journey (circa 2011), I had an eating disorder. I had orthorexia.

It started when I began being more conscious of what I ate in order to improve my health, but, as a compulsive perfectionist, I ended up overdoing it. I would attach moral judgments to the contents of my diet. The means became the ends. If my meals did not fit neatly within my definition of "clean eating", then I would feel crippling anxiety, not to mention how mentally draining and socially intrusive it was to maintain such a diet that was neither practical, sustainable, nor effective. At that point, I was worse off with my new eating habits than I was before.

Then one day, I realized, "wait, why am I doing this? I started eating like this to improve my quality of life... but this is now actually detrimental to my ability to enjoy that life. This is illogical." And with that moment of reframing, my orthorexia was gone. Since then, I've eaten solely for the purpose of my overarching goals (which include optimizing my enjoyment of food), and have expended no further efforts on unnecessary dietary details. Before, my diet practice used to drain me more than it energized me. Now it energizes me more than it drains me. That's what an eating habit is supposed to do in the first place.

This is why I tend to be outspoken about philosophy, introspection, and efficiency. Without regularly checking in with yourself about why you're doing something, you run the risk of defeating the purpose of why you do it at all. You gotta dig deep. Every action has both a benefit AND a cost that is relative to your goal. I believe that losing sight of any of these things is a surefire way to find yourself in a position where you're unsatisfied with where you're at and where you're going.

Have you had similar "ah-ha!" experiences about diets or anything else in your life?


About the Author

Vincent's first passion is powerlifting. Over the years, his desire to master his body and mind have led him into deep explorations in stretching, mobility, and mindfulness.