When we start a new way of eating we tend to get caught up in the details of it and sometimes it can consume a lot of our thinking. We read every article online, read into every health headline we hear on the news, and spend hours planning our "perfect" grocery shopping list. Over time, however, as these new routines may become part of a healthy lifestyle, we tend to obsess less on the details, and more on making healthy eating a part of a balanced schedule. For some individuals, however, the obsession of healthy eating remains long-term and can do them more harm than good.
This condition in its most severe form is known as orthorexia, or an obsession of cutting foods from one's diet. It can start from simply cutting foods from one's diet to remedy a digestive issue or allergy, but can slowly spiral into cutting out any and all foods that the media has portrayed as being "bad" or "dangerous" such as food preservatives or artificial colors. The individual becomes obsessed with their way of eating and may try to convince everyone around them that they need to eat that way too or risk becoming sick. The individual may also start to buy into supplements that claim to contain healthy substances to make up for the nutrients they are missing from their "natural" diet .
I always tell my clients that in order to best make healthy eating part of a healthy lifestyle you must make practical choices that you can follow for the long-term. Practical choices will allow you to eat healthy but still lead a healthy, normal social life with family and friends, allow you to enjoy the holidays with a treat or two, and will not take significant time away from your loved ones. You must learn to incorporate healthy eating habits into your daily schedule without making them the only thing you focus on. A full and healthy life must include not only eating healthy, but also exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, keeping stress levels down, and spending time with family and friends.
An obsession with "healthy" eating can have the opposite effect that you may originally choose to achieve. Those who place themselves on a restrictive diet may end up developing an eating disorder that can lead to vitamin deficiencies, anxiety and stress, as well as taking the pleasure out of eating. In addition, individuals may end up "rebelling" one day and reverting to unhealthy behaviors to "free" them from the restriction they previously placed themselves in. Exhibiting such behaviors can also lead to increased risk of eating disordered behavior in the children of such individuals since foods are being labeled as "bad" or "dangerous" and can make children afraid to try foods that were not approved by their parental figure.
Now, I am not telling you to go crazy and eat takeout or sweets every day, or even every week for that matter, but know that depriving yourself or your children from trying foods you may not view as preferable, will only instill a fear of food, which is not a healthy behavior to be had. Balance is required in all areas of our life to ensure not only physical health, but emotional and mental health as well. Therefore, if you or your child wants to indulge in a sweet treat to celebrate the holidays or a special occasion, remember that no matter what the media has hyped up, a little bit of "hydrogenated soybean oil" every once in a while is not going to put you in harm's way, but instilling a fear of food will.