Healthy Eating Could Kill You

Enough with the overload of information about “unhealthy” foods and habits!  I want you to know that even supposedly “healthy” eating can be hazardous to your health.


Transcript for Healthy Eating Could Kill You

Hi and welcome to Nutritionally Speaking.  I’m your host, Michaela Ballmann.

I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of “death by vegetables” or been told to be careful about eating too healthfully.  It may seem absurd to think that good food can kill us or that it is even possible to be so free from “issues” surrounding food that you would fall to the other side of the spectrum.

I’m here today to tell you that, yes, you can be too healthy.

Articles in the news, magazines, or online are informing us about disordered eating patterns that include overeating, binging, and restricting.  Some of these patterns have names like Binge Eating Disorder, Night Eating Syndrome, and Bulimia or Anorexia Nervosa.  Not so much attention, however, has been given to Orthorexia.


Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa, most commonly known as Orthorexia, is a condition in which people are obsessed with eating healthy food.  They typically are extremely rigid in what foods they will purchase and consume, and many will only shop at health food stores.  Unlike other disorders, which focus more on the quantity of food, people with Orthorexia are seeking a kind of purity through the quality or type of food they put in their bodies.  This varies depending on the person but may involve avoiding or abstaining from animal products or specific ingredients (like additives, colorings, preservatives, etc.).  Or, the person may insist on buying only organic foods with absolutely no processing or packaging.  As this progresses, the person’s diet becomes more and more restricted as fewer foods become acceptable.

Steven Bratman, a physician in Colorado, introduced this term in 1997 in an article entitled, “The Health Food Eating Disorder”.  He says that the behaviors and thinking involved in Orthorexia can become so extreme that malnutrition or even death can result.  Even if it doesn’t, this is not a healthy place to be.


The Cost of “Healthy” Eating

Think of all the time and energy it would take to be this concerned about the food you eat.  This has bypassed the region of “healthy” and has taken not only eating, but also grocery shopping and cooking to a new level.  The cost is enormous.  I’m not just talking about spending so much money to try to get products free of any sort of “bad” component, but I’m also talking about the cost of:

  • giving up social engagements that surround a meal because the food is not healthy enough or because you don’t know every little thing that’s in it
  • spending so much time thinking about, researching, buying, and cooking food
  • worrying about what is healthy or how to become healthier
  • the list goes on

Orthorexia aside, if being healthy or eating healthfully is taking up so much of your thoughts and energy during the day, it probably is counterproductive.  The stress over reaching a lofty level of health, the obsession with eating right, compulsive exercising–all these things can disrupt the peace and joy of living.  Think of how a certain picture of health and trying to attain that is making you unhealthy.  Choose to enjoy the process of eating, moving, and living.

I hope that this episode has been helpful and has encouraged you to choose balance, even in seeking good health.  As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me or go to my website.  Thanks again for listening and I’ll see you next time!

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