Orthorexia and Veganism: Is there a connection?

Concern with healthy eating can sometimes get out of control. In this blog post and accompanying video, I’ll discuss Orthorexia warning signs, and how to avoid becoming isolated, obsessive and even depressed about your diet.

I would like to clarify that Orthorexia affects followers of any eating pattern. Anyone who follows a diet, whether it be Paleo, atkins, the zone, weight watchers, etc., runs the risk of becoming overly preoccupied with “correct adherence” to that diet.

 What is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia is not currently an official eating disorder diagnosis, but most medical professionals recognize orthorexia as an obsession with healthy eating. It also often overlap with other eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. This is particularly true in the more advanced stages.

The media connects orthorexia to veganism, which is somewhat understandable. Many (although not all) vegans, care about eating healthily. This is particularly true of people who follow a “plant-based diet,” by which I mean they are mostly, if not entirely following a vegan diet for health reasons. People who don’t eat animals for ethical reasons will have an easier time with some of these issues, because while ethical considerations might stop someone from eating animal products, there’s no ethical reason to avoid fat and carbohydrates, etc.

Disclaimer:

I realize this post may leave some people feeling that their healthy diet is under attack. Many of you may subscribe to patterns of eating that will likely be flagged if you answer these questions honestly. But I believe these are important questions to ask.

Do you spend much of your day thinking about food?

As a vegan it’s normal to spend a little extra time thinking about where to find good food. But aside from ensuring that what your diet is low in processed foods and rich in nutrients, there’s no reason to spend too much time thinking about what you eat.

Constantly ruminating over food is a hallmark of eating disorders, whether anorexia, bulimia, or EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified).

Do you feel guilty, or punish yourself when you slip up?

An occasional treats is just that. There’s nothing wrong with a sweet now and then, and unless you have a serious health condition that prevents you from being to eat fat sugar and salt, they should have a role in your diet.

Is your diet interfering with social activities?

This question is the hardest for vegans to answer. Obviously, going out as a vegan is a little more challenging for vegans, because animal products are found in almost all foods.

Being nervous about eating with other people, is pretty normal especially when you’re new to veganism. You might be worried about finding something without animal products, or how to ask a waiter for what you want at a restaurant.

I think a good question to ask yourself is, if I went to a vegan restaurant, would I be comfortable ordering something off the menu? Would it cause me anxiety to eat vegan food if I didn’t have control over how they prepared it?

If the answer is no, I think you’re in trouble.

A special note on Raw Veganism

I don’t eat raw, but I know many of you may do so. I don’t endorse a raw diet, but I know it works for people. I think the above questions apply equally to raw food eaters – how much time do you spend thinking about food during the day? If you eat cooked food, do you feel guilty? Could you find something to eat at a restaurant? (Could you order a giant green salad with fruit and be ok with the fact that it’s not organic? Or would eating for non-organic for one meal send you over the edge?).

It’s important to maintain a healthy attitude towards food, especially when health is important to you. And if you feel like you’re losing perspective on your diet, please reach out to someone and talk about it with them or contact your medical professional. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and you need to take care of yourself.

What do you think? Join the conversation!

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