5 Signs Eating Healthy is Ruining Your Health
Despite our efforts to maintain a balanced diet, food is only one of many contributing factors to our overall health. In fact, recent studies reveal that stress is the number one cause for physical disease. That means that our minds can create physical ailments. It’s critical to understand this, especially when it comes to the relationship we have with our food, and essentially, ourselves.
My college years inspired me to start working out and eating differently than my fast-food-filled adolescence. Along that journey, I fell into the ‘more is better’ and ‘less is more’ trap. More exercise is better and less food is better. I bounced from one fad diet to the next and developed a strong discipline over myself in relation to my food and fitness. I actually have yoga to thank for my intense self discipline, although it eventually led me down a dangerous road. Surviving Orthorexia propelled me to become a Health Coach. Orthorexia is typically defined as an extreme and imbalanced focus on eating only ‘clean’ foods. If you had asked me if I thought I would ever develop an eating disorder, that would be the furthest thing away from possible. I never considered myself to be one of ‘those kinds of people’. In fact, while I was struggling, I was actually in complete denial that I had a problem. I actually convinced myself that I was ‘succeeding’, despite my family and friends’ concern and eventual intervention.
Let’s just say, I ate only organic vegetarian food, took superfood supplements, had a six pack, practiced yoga and meditated daily, lived in nature, and my health was suffering. Looks good on paper. That’s all. The price for it showed up as insomnia, overactive kidneys, obsession with food, lack of menstruation, and excessive stress. Healthy? I think not…
Yes, there’s such a thing as being too focused on being healthy, and that can actually be the very thing preventing us from reaching our goals. The more diets and plans we subscribe to, the less we are tuning into our bodies’ natural signals. Health is neither a diet nor a struggle nor a hobby. It is our natural state. It does not come from counting calories or running like a hamster on a wheel until we are exhausted and depleted. Health emerges from deep relaxation.
If any of this resonates with you, take a deep breath and know that everything is going to be okay! I never thought I’d break free from this condition that seemed to be taking over my mind and my life. Call it the grace of God, a miracle, or totally random, but I cured myself of Orthorexia and attribute it to my personal in-depth studies of human psychology and yoga philosophy. During my insomniac nights, I would read and read… sometimes two books in one night. I would practice different breathing and meditation practices from the yoga books I bought while on pilgrimage in India. They were my only hope.
Here are some signs that you may be imbalanced in your health efforts. Instead of judging these, use them as teachers. All of life is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. In fact, I attribute the person I am today to my experience with Orthorexia. My first hand knowledge allows me to share and relate and empathize with other people and their struggles. The struggle is really real! And it’s perfect.
5. Chronic anxiety
This one is obvious. And it is the most important. If being healthy is in any way synonymous with stress, then.. come on! Really? Is that the goal? Is the goal to grasp to a system that takes us further out of our bodies and further out of joy? Since when does our health equal some sort of ‘program’ or ‘formula’? Only our minds crave structure of this sort, and we must re-establish our relationships to our bodies if we truly desire to be well. If eating food seems like a burden or there is tension around mealtime, there is a problem that must be tended to with gentleness and compassion. Food should be an enjoyable and delectable experience of nourishing your beautiful body with Earth’s bounty. A sacred act. A meditation.
4. Feeling limited in social situations
This could also lead to isolation. Sometimes people who are too strict with themselves will not dine with friends because the restaurant doesn’t have food that’s healthy enough. Or, at the very least, there will be stress. If your diet is resulting in you staying home to cook when you’d rather be out.. or if you feel limited in your social interactions due to food, that is a red flag. I remember one year I stayed home by myself during a holiday instead of spending it with my family because I wanted to be sure I had all of my ingredients and special bowls and cutlery. If your friends are eating at an unhealthy restaurant, plan ahead. Eat in advance or better yet suggest a different restaurant. Having community and friendship is a vital part of health… more important than food in my opinion. I believe we are healthier when we are having fun even if we don’t eat completely healthy than if we confine ourselves out of deprivation and eat broccoli all alone.
I discuss cravings in Number 1, and cravings can lead to binges. When we find ourselves bingeing on food, that is our body acting out and telling us something’s not right. It’s not that our bodies actually need a whole bag of chips or an entire pizza, but the more we deprive ourselves, the more our bodies will almost automatically react in this (equal and opposite) manner. I used to eat the same (boring) dinner every single night. I convinced myself I liked it, and I was just happy to eat since I only ate one meal per day. After dinner, despite my sincere efforts and conscious will, my body found itself bingeing on a bag of pretzels. This is immediately after eating a hearty dinner! There was no hunger. When we ignore our natural impulses, we may be at the mercy of bingeing. Again, use it as a teacher. Become a detective and start to bring more balance to your life. Trust yourself.
2. Feeling bored with food choices
Being healthy should not be boring, and if that’s our mentality then it will be. Eat a variety of foods every day. Eat what mother earth created instead of processed artificial foods. I believe our culture does a great job of equating healthy food with something cardboard-tasting. That is just a conditioning and a complete illusion. Eating nature’s bounty is an ecstatic feast for the senses. We must shift our mindset regarding what healthy food should taste and feel like. Also, it’s important to create variety and experiment with new foods, new spices, and anew recipes. There is such an abundance of incredible nourishment on this planet! And a piece of cake every now and then doesn’t hurt either.
Cravings are the number one sign that something is out of balance. Everything in nature balances itself out; day and night, sun and moon, male and female, etc. We must be gentle with ourselves. If we use our mind to run our bodies, we are in for trouble. Eat what you crave, but find the healthiest version. Or chew it really well and savor the pleasure of taste! When we deprive ourselves, we can only go so far. Our bodies will act out… cravings are one of those ways. I remember I had intense cravings for foods I would never eat when I was in the midst of Orthorexia. I would fantasize about bagels and cream cheese and huge pasta dishes. I was just so far out of balance in the other direction that my body was literally fu*king with me. So much for self discipline! Body knows best. Always. There’s no getting around it.