According to parade.com, the most popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, which means high hopes of hitting the gym and taking a second look at that grocery list.
But, before you swear off sweets and starches for the year, consider the root of your new eating goals.
Clean Eating vs. Disordered Eating
Though not officially recognized by the DSM (the most trusted mental disorder manual in the field), Orthorexia nervosa, or “an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy,” has gained recent media attention.
In early December, television personality and food writer Nigella Lawson spoke out against clean eating, claiming that in some cases, such habits are actually masking eating disorders.
“People are using certain diets as a way to hide an eating disorder or a great sense of unhappiness and unease with their own body,” Lawson said. “There is a way in which food is used either to self-congratulate – you’re a better person because you’re eating like that – or to self-persecute, because you’ll not allow yourself to eat the foods you want.”
She further recounted an anecdote about her mother, who suffered from an eating disorder before her death at the age of 48.
“When she was dying she allowed herself to eat. To wait until you’ve got a terminal disease to enjoy eating is an awful thing,” she said.
All Things in Moderation
If the line between healthy habits and disordered habits is so thin, then what should we do?
Setting goals to improve one’s health is never a bad idea. Our bodies are amazing mechanisms, and we need to treat them kindly with nourishing foods and regular activity in order for them to function as effectively as possible.
Consider, however, that each body is different. Sometimes, we like to attach certain numbers to our success or failure in our exercise and eating goals, but such standardizations are often unrealistic.
Instead of striving to lose x amount of pounds, strive to walk a mile every day or to drink more water. Instead of eliminating all daily snacking, switch out the unhealthy snacks you usually eat with cleaner alternatives.
Lawson offered that instead of fixating on eating healthy all the time, one should seek moderation in their diet, and allow themselves to have a “slice of cake” every once in a while.
Finally, be kind to yourself and to your body. If you or someone you know is preoccupied with their eating or exercising habits or their weight or shape, don’t be afraid to seek help.
GenPsych’s team of therapists, dietitians, doctors, and nurses are here to help you or your loved one suffering from an eating disorder. For more information on eating disorder treatment options, visit our Healthy Eating and Living (HEAL) program page here.