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I have been in the wellness industry for almost 20 years, and the most the most dangerous thing I have seen is the “all or nothing” mindset. Sometimes, when you start an extreme diet with the intention of doing it forever, you can’t help but swing to the opposite extreme.
One week you are eating 50 bananas a day and restricting your fat intake, and the next week you wind up binging on ice cream and french fries. Sound familiar? The popularity of extreme fad diets over the last decade has strengthened that mindset, even making it acceptable. Extremes can lead to self-sabotage or worse, or Orthorexia, which leads to isolation. There is another way to be healthy without living in a "bubble."
What is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia is a term and medical condition that has been created in the last 10 years. It is now considered an eating disorder, in the same category of bulimia and anorexia. Orthorexia is defined as
- an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy;
- a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful.
The key word here is obsession. I love eating healthy food and I will continue to eat a high raw, plant-based diet as long as it serves my body, mind, and spirit. The key is that when we are focusing only on food, instead of all the factors around us, we get lost in a dogma or food "religion."
My Experience with Orthorexia
I can identify with being Orthorexic. In the past, I spent a lot of time obsessing about healthy food choices and even judged people who weren’t eating as “good” as me. What a joke! Funny enough, when I could finally pop my head out of the bubble long enough to see what was really going on, it was me who was unhealthy.
Maybe not in my body, but definitely in my mind and spirit. I would either mentally praise or bash myself for the choices I made. On most days, I got a 100% as I was doing all the right things according to the raw, vegan "rules." Then there were other days when I would have sugary, gluten-filled cookies.
The problem was I wouldn’t have just one, but a whole bag! I would wake up the next day feeling so terrible in my body and mostly my mind. I would vow, “never again!” I have since learned that I have an awesome road map for a healthy balanced diet (for me), but there is no such thing as a perfect diet for everyone. The best thing that I can do every day is to make the best possible decisions with the options that are available to me.
There are days or weeks when I drink coffee, and I really, really enjoy it! Some days I have a glass of wine with my friends, though not as enjoyable, so I do it less often. It’s okay. I don’t feel guilty about it. I live a balanced lifestyle now, and it allows for that.
My Balanced Lifestyle
Today I am much more relaxed, joyful and more accepting of myself and others.
What I do for my body: I eat organic, fresh, plant-based foods every day. I start my day with a green juice and a cup of organic, mold-free coffee, sweetened with stevia. If I get hungry before lunch (especially when I’m exercising a lot) I’ll have a green smoothie which includes lots of spinach, frozen berries, some hemp seeds and Vitamineral Green powder.
Lunch time is almost always a giant green salad with a variety of sprouts and greens, seasonal, raw veggies, avocado, and one of my favorite homemade salad dressings or a drizzle of MCT oil and lemon juice. I love topping my salads with dehydrated almonds or pumpkin seeds, freeze-dried peas, olives, and dulse (dried seaweed).
Maybe I’ll have another snack before dinner, such as a grapefruit or some strawberries. At night, I like to have something heartier like another big salad with some steamed pumpkin, broccoli or sauteed greens and onions. Occasionally I’ll have some wild caught salmon or some eggs from Farmers Market (I know the farmer and the chickens are treated well).
What I do for my mind: I love listening to podcasts and books on tape. I find lots of variety and usually end up listening to something about health, meditation, or business. I read books when I need a break from technology and these often involve some type of self-improvement or business education.
What I do for my spirit: I meditate every day for at least 20 minutes. Go out dancing with friends. I laugh and play a lot! Take time out as needed to lay on the couch and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Read angel cards regularly to get insights and inspiration. Seek out deep, heart-opening conversations whenever possible. Continue to witness my own journey and become an observer to my habits and patterns so that I can call myself out on my “stuff” to make sure I don’t get too serious.
What I do for my body, mind, and spirit: I exercise 6 days a week. I run, practice yoga or dance. It’s the perfect way to sweat, remove toxins, have fun and improve my brain function.
Tips for you to live outside the bubble
1. Dance. Crank up the music and start moving your booty. Wear comfortable clothing and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. You are doing you. Before you know it, you’ll be sweating and having a blast.
The best part is that you will be detoxing your cells while you are having fun. Research shows that dancing actually improves your brain function! According to an article in Psychology Today, both cognitive thought processes and muscle memory are improved if you dance at least once a week.
2. Exercise. Through regular aerobic training that incorporates some type of dance at least once a week, anyone can maximize his or her brain function. Dancing is proven to make you smarter, reduce stress and lower your risk of dementia.
As you dance, blood is pumping to your brain, increasing its oxygen supply. As you think about the next step you will take, you create new neural pathways. All of this moving and flowing can be the perfect solution to clear out the junk and get your dose of mood enhancing endorphins.
3. Eat Organic. Reducing your pesticide intake will help you feel better without restricting yourself from the rest of the world.
4. Cleanse regularly. Don’t underestimate the power of cleansing and fasting. I take time out at least 4 times a year to do a liver cleanse, a dry fast or a juice fast in order to keep my body, mind and spirit feeling clean, clear and balanced. The key is to do it because you enjoy the results, not to punish or deprive yourself because you were “bad”. It will also allow you to enjoy the other parts of the year feeling more balanced, energized and healthy.
It’s a Journey
The goal over time is to build a balanced and healthy lifestyle that maintains itself. Making balanced choices every day is a better long-term strategy than going on crash diets and experiencing the yo-yo effect. We want to feel exhilarated not defeated at the end of the day or week. Remember, as the fictional school teacher Miss Frizzle always says, “Get messy! Make mistakes!”
Feed your inspiration, not your isolation.