Sex, Drugs and Olive Oil – on obsessively healthy eating and orthorexia

It all started a couple of days ago with that woman in front of me at the supermarket checkout. I watched her for a while and somehow I got extremely annoyed. It wasn’t about her look – the skinny jeans, the nikes, the blond hair that she has put together in a messy bun. It was about her attitude. The derogative look with which she examined the boys in front of her that were about to buy chicken, chips and 2 liter bottles of coke. The arrogance with which she packed spinach, blueberries and  protein powder into her own shoppingbasket. You could easily imagine how she would walk home after her food shopping with a self-contented smile. How she would prepare herself a snack of half an avocado and a gluten-free bread, before heading directly to the gym. Do you really believe you’re something better just because of the „healthy“ food you buy?, I thought. In this moment, it became really clear to me that nowadays food has become so much more than just a source of energy. It reflects a whole lifestyle.

Today, it gets more and more difficult to be „special“. The general mentality is that to divide yourself from others it’s not enough anymore to be „only“ good. A good basketball player, a good listener, having good language skills. No, you have to be the best. In other words, you have to be perfect. We long for a perfect social life (being as popular as possible). A perfect career (earning as much money as possible). A perfect appearance (being as toned as skinny as fit as possible). Then we recognize that there’s no masterplan for most of those things. We don’t reach 100%. We get frustrated.

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Come on, there must be at least one area in which I do everything right, we think. In which I’m perfect. Feeling unsure, we are looking for clear structures and rules to follow. Feeling empty and replacable, we’re looking for something to dedicate ourselves to. Some of us seem to think that they can be outstanding by eating perfectly and healthier than others. The way we’re eating, what kind of products we choose has somehow become a part of how we caracterize a person. Something that defines us. The problem is: there is no general consent at how „perfectly healthy“ eating looks like. I mean, if you asked your grandma how many different types of diets could she name? Meateater and Vegetarians maybe. And you? Pescetarians, HCLF, Rawtill4, vegans, paleo and so on.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame anybody who aims for a healthy lifestyle and tries to consume as much fresh, seasonal food as possible. But there’s a risk that the occupation with food takes up far too much space in our lives than it should. That it becomes an obsession and even an illness. Maybe you’ve already heard of orthorexia. Sufferers try obsessively to eat as healthy as possible. They feel guilty for eating certain foods and neglect their social lives. The eating disorder can go from cancelling a night with the girls, because of the „unhealthy“ liquid calories to rather starve than eating a pizza for dinner.

There’s so much to be afraid of nowadays – wars, climate change along with so many other things. The possibility that somebody could have mixed too much oil and sugar in a salad dressing is certainly not one of them. So it’s okay if, sometimes, our cravings aren’t „reasonable“. Food shouldn’t be connected with anxiety, but something we enjoy! So next time you feel like ordering a burger, but there’s a little silly voice in your head telling you to better go for a salad, because this would certainly be the „healthier“ option: think again. And don’t listen.

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