Home » Diet and Nutrition News & Advice » 8 Signs of Health Food Addiction

8 Signs of Health Food Addiction


While it is common knowledge that a diet high in vegetables and whole foods can have a positive effect on our mental and physical health, too much of a good thing may not be such a good thing.  In fact, the obsession over “clean eating” can take a life of its’ own resulting in social isolation, mental illness, and even death.

Dr. Steven Bratman, the author of Health Food Junkies, first identified this type of eating obsession as “orthorexia nervosa”.  From abstaining from wheat to joining in on the diet detox revolution, we are slowly becoming obsessed with ways of eating that may be more harmful to our health than helpful.  Below are a few signs that may suggest dietary extremism rather than balance. If there are many signs that resonate, it may be time for a move towards balanced eating (or find a helping professional that may provide the necessary support)…

 

1. Progressive Restriction

It may start with a reduction in gluten just to see if the stomach pains go away.  From there it can take over one’s life through progressive removal of various foods like dairy, eggs, sugar, meat products, and the like.  While it is understandable that one may look to diet to help reduce painful symptoms if conventional medicine doesn’t work, chronic restriction can rob us of important nutrients and vitamins.

The addiction of dietary restriction may also become problematic as we search out healthier ways of eating.  Cutting out refined carbs may not be enough for us as we move towards cutting out all sugars, or eating only raw food.  In time, we may find we are only eating whole grains and boiled chicken.

fad diet 1

2. Feelings of Control and Superiority

Many people with eating disorders report they use caloric restriction or purging as a way to take back control otherwise not felt in other areas of life.  Orthorexia, or health food addiction, is no different.  Those that engage in extreme dieting feel a sense of control through their abstinence.

In our culture, clean eating, seems to be held in high regard and those that are able to engage in it are morally superior than those that succumb to our fast food culture.  The ability to choose the “path of nutritional enlightenment” tends to give us permission to judge and ridicule other “unclean” ways of eating.

diet 6

3. Feelings of Shame, Guilt, and Self-Loathing

So if the health food addict feels superior when adhering to extreme eating, what happens when she deviates from the plan? Like other types of disordered eating, when someone with orthorexia falls off the wagon, feelings of guilt, shame, and even self-loathing can result.

Perhaps the only thing a health food junkie can do now is detox?  Perhaps it is necessary to cleanse the body of the impurities ingested?  To regain a sense of control over one’s self, it may be necessary to restrict even further.

plateau weight

4. Social Isolation

If we cater to a way of eating that has eliminated many different foods, it may be difficult to accept dinner invitations without having to bring our own meals with us. Someone with orthorexia may not accept that invitation if there is a doubt that the food will be prepared in the way he or she needs it to be.

This isolation may spread to family meals as it becomes more challenging to eat what is offered.  In addition, the flak from family members may be too much for those with orthorexia and the choice to eat alone becomes more attractive and safe.

Withdrawing from Social Activities

5. Spending More Time Thinking About Food

From thinking about food and preparing menus days in advance to discussing food and surfing the net for healthy meal ideas, the health food addict will spend more and more time focused on food.

With more of our attention placed on food less attention is placed on the other joys in life.  After a while, our obsession slowly closes in on us until there is nothing left but our whole grains and boiled chicken breast.

diet 8

6. Liking the Idea of Healthy Eating More Than Healthy Eating

Many health food addicts will appreciate the idea or virtue of eating vegan, gluten and sugar free chocolate cake rather than enjoying the food itself.  After a while, the joy of eating and the happiness that comes from sharing a pizza is replaced by what the food represents (and not how it tastes).

When we remove the enjoyment of eating in the name of better health, we are forgetting the other components that have the same positive health benefits (i.e. emotion and social health).  Sharing a tasty dinner with friends will have the same health benefits (no matter what the meal) than eating a handful of celery sticks.

bbq

7. All or None.

Just like any other diet, the tendency to periodically binge on those forbidden foods becomes overwhelming as times goes on.  This opens the flood gates and all nutritional hell breaks loose leading to feelings of shame, guilt, and more self-loathing.

The cycle of binging and purging (through fasting and/or a return to dietary restriction) is a clear indication of the “all or none” ways of thinking.  This unhealthy relationship with food is common for those with disordered eating and is another consideration when assessing health food addiction.

Clean Diet 8

8. Avoiding Our Favorite Social Activities

When our attention to eating healthy becomes problematic, it can slowly remove us from those activities we used to enjoy.  Going to the movies may have been our favorite thing to do, but now the smell of hot buttered popcorn is too much to overcome so we avoid it.

Moreover, we may find we chose to avoid certain people because their diet isn’t the same as ours.  From festivals to food courts, the world may start to close in on the health food extremist.

diet 4

ADVERTISEMENT

More on ActiveBeat
  • 12 Common Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia
    Bulimia nervosa—more commonly referred to as simply bulimia—is an eating disorder and mental health condition in which a person binges foods, and then proceeds to purge it in...
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • 12 Common Physical Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
    Anorexia nervosa—which is often referred to simply as anorexia—is an eating disorder in which people “have an intense fear of gaining weight,” says WebMD.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • 7 Heavy Signs You're Weight Obsessed
    In today's world, we're constantly faced with images of the "ideal" body on magazines, often without considering the health implications of achieving a lower weight.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Video: Ending Stigma Around Mental Illness for Mental Health Awareness Week
    Today (January 25, 2017) is Mental Health Awareness Day, and this entire week is Mental Health Awareness Week.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • 6 Brain Training Tips for Better Body Image
    What do you see when you look in the mirror? Depending on a number of factors (i.e., mood, hormones, stress levels, etc.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • 6 Signs and Symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder
    Previously known as multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder is a mental illness that often occurs due to exposure to extreme trauma during...
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Mesothelioma: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
    Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects tens of thousands of people every year. Like most cancers, there is no known cure, but plenty of treatment options available to keep...
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Symptoms and Causes of Mesothelioma
    You might not have ever heard of mesothelioma, but you've most definitely heard of cancer.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • What Every Woman Should Know About Hormone Replacement Therapy
    There are many different hormones in the human body, but hormone replacement therapy typically focuses on replacing the hormones made by sex glands (ovaries and testes), which are...
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Best Foods for Pancreatitis
    The food we eat has a huge impact on our health in so many ways, some obvious like our weight, and others not so obvious like setting the stage for heart disease, diabetes, etc.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Pros and Cons of Immunotherapy
    Cancer is one of those words we don't like to use or hear because it carries a lot of weight. It's scary.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Lifestyle Tips for Lumbar Stenosis
    Lumbar stenosis is a type of spinal stenosis, a condition that affects the spine by narrowing the spinal columns and pressing on the spinal cord.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Top Risk Factors for Kidney Cancer
    People tend to get risk factors and cause mixed up, so before we dive into this article, we’re going to define what a risk factor is.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Staggering Facts About Hepatitis C
    Hepatitic C (HCV) affects over 30 million people around the world, and nearly 4 million people in the United States, according to WebMD.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice
  • Causes and Risk Factors For Hepatitis C
    Over 3 million Americans are living with a long-term infection of hepatitis C (HCV), says WebMD.
    Diet and Nutrition News & Advice