I have a tendency towards Orthorexia. Many people in my vocation do. We spend so much of our time studying about diet, food ethics, and nutrients that it is very easy to become obsessive about the quality of food we eat. We’re naturally food nerds to start with. Plus, we feel that we ought to be setting an example for our clients about clean eating and a healthy lifestyle. Being a product of our own programs is great advertising. It’s walking our talk, right? I’m great at walking my talk. So great, in fact, that I have myself in a bit of a sheltered situation where I forget what it is like to eat “normally”.
Orthorexia Nervosa: a fixation on righteous eating. Those suffering from orthorexia typically spend an unreasonable amount of time focused on the quality and purity of food and may feel guilt, and/or experience social isolation as a result.
The thing is, insisting that your food meets an exhaustive list of prerequisites before you eat it isn’t a healthy way to live. We would never recommend this path for our clients. If you spend most of your time thinking about, shopping for, and preparing your food at the expense of everything else in your life, you may want to revisit your priorities.
Primary food, those things that nourish you beyond what you eat, like relationships and a fulfilling career, matter more than what you swallow. Food is meant to be a social experience. People in cultures who share in the gathering, preparation, and consumption of food live longer and have longer health-spans than those who eat alone. Yes the quality of food matters, but maybe not as much as the way in which it is consumed.
Keeping this in mind, I used a weekend visiting family to run an experiment. What would happen if I ate just like everyone else without restrictions? I decided to say “yes” to pizza, breadsticks, pie, and (gulp) fake butter for a weekend to see if what I eat really does matter.
Here’s what happened
I had a normal (for me) breakfast consisting of Bulletproof Coffee. I took my usual supplements at the usual times, and we hit the road about 9 am.
I don’t normally snack, but at around 10 am I had a sea salt and dark chocolate Kind Bar.
For lunch, on the road, the test began for real. We had packaged lunch things (kind of like Lunchables but with Triscuits and better-looking, though still-processed, meat), carrots, and apples. I really had to try to eat the lunch-pack thing, but I did it.
We arrived at my parent’s house around 1 pm. For an afternoon snack, I had a few handfuls of store-bought nut and dried cranberry mix. This was eaten entirely because it was there.
For dinner, we had pizza from a chain pizza place. I hardly ever eat processed grains. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I ate anything with white flour. Similarly, I try to avoid processed meats and “normal” cheese, although I’m not as fastidious about this. In the spirit of the experiment, I acquiesced and ate a few pieces of thin crust, supreme pizza and a cheesy breadstick with marinara sauce.
I took my normal supplements at the normal times (Plexus BioCleanse and ProBio5, Ashwagandha, and liposomal glutathione)
I went ahead and had an Irish whiskey on the rocks after dinner. I don’t drink much these days, but occasionally I like a nice whiskey in the evening. I did take charcoal before bed just in case.
How I felt: In the evening I was hugely bloated. My pajama pants were even tight. I had a bit of gas, as well, but not as much as I expected.
How I felt: My sleep monitor actually said that I slept really well. Maybe it was the whiskey. My guts feel okay, but I had to poop twice before breakfast.
I took my normal supplements at the normal times (Plexus BioCleanse, Ashwagandha, fish oil, B-vitamins, and evening primrose).
For breakfast, we had coffee, sausage patties, two fried eggs, and a homemade caramel roll–I mean, bring it on.
How I felt: After breakfast, I was in the bathroom again with (ahem) liquid diarrhea. It should be mentioned that my system has been pretty sheltered. I’m sure that my little gut buddies were a bit shocked. I also had uncomfortable gut grumbles throughout the day and didn’t want to be too far away from a bathroom.
I had my Plexus Slim drink at around 10 am like I usually do, and I’ve got to tell you, I did feel better afterward. I know it sounds like a shameless promotion, but I think the stuff really works. It isn’t just for weight loss. It also has prebiotics and antioxidants for optimal gut health. You can check it out here.
For lunch, we had a meal that more closely resembles what I normally eat. Ham, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and lemon meringue pie. The pie was homemade with cornstarch and loads of sugar. It was delish.
How I felt: I was tired after, so I took a nap. During the afternoon I had a grumbly belly and bloat. I started to have more uncomfortable sensations in my lower belly towards afternoon. I really wanted to take more Slim, because I thought it would help but, in the spirit of the experiment, I didn’t want to throw something new into my routine.
For dinner, we had pulled pork sandwiches with barbeque sauce, baked beans, and a relish tray. I did have the whole-grain (and, incidentally, home-made) bun and the barbeque sauce, but I drew the line at beans. Legumes are at the top of my food sensitivity list. I know that they will send me over the edge from being slightly uncomfortable to being majorly uncomfortable or even downright sick. We had another piece of lemon meringue pie for dessert.
How I felt: I was really tired all evening. My guts were actually pretty okay for the most part, aside from bloat and some rumbling.
How I feel: My sleep monitor again said that I slept really well, but I don’t feel like I did. I am still bloated and have some loose stools, but so far I’m not too worried about the four-hour drive home.
All in all, ignoring minor uncomfortable effects that eating a food might cause is largely warranted due to the benefits of fully enjoying food with others. This only works, however, if you actually enjoy the food and the company. Don’t let worrying about the possible effects a food will have on your system ruin the experience. Your little gut buddies will know if you are stressed out and will react badly. Relax, and fully enjoy your food. Eat mindfully and engage in uplifting dinner-time conversation to enhance the experience.
Keep in mind, however, if you have actually diagnosed food sensitivities, allergies, or auto-immune conditions that are affected by certain foods, you need be more fastidious about avoiding these foods. For example, I avoided the baked beans because I have a diagnosed sensitivity to them and people with Celiacs disease cannot be as cavalier about grains as I was this weekend.
It should also be noted that effects of food sensitivities may show up days later. I may not have heard the last from that pizza I ate Saturday night. If anything significant happens later on this week I will post updates on my Facebook page @nourishmewellness.
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