Guest Post: The Unhealthy Obsession with Being Healthy

Time for another guest post! Today I have the wonderful Nia from The Mixed Medic here to talk to you. Her site is an exciting mixture of Western approaches to medicine and Eastern philosophies about wellness and mindfulness. Make sure you stop by and say hello after you've read this post! 

When Does Healthy Become Unhealthy? 
There are so many 'inspirational transformation' stories that start coming out around this time of year, a repetitive message of "New year, new you" and "Here's what the 'new you' should look like" type stories. One thing that struck me was just how many of these transformations involve people previously diagnosed with an eating disorder such as anorexia. This is a life threatening mental illness whereby people become consumed by low self-esteem, restricting food intake and exercising excessively, as a result they put their body under intense stress and become depressed. It often affects people with certain personality traits such as OCD, competitive-types and perfectionists.

Now this is just subjective opinion but I don’t believe that the body building physique on the right necessarily demonstrates the pinnacle of health. In fact many comparisons can be drawn between eating disorders and the rigid calorie counting, strict physical regime, self-image obsession and supplement-taking involved in competitive body building. It is therefore strange that one can be so stigmatised by society while the other is overly glorified. Whereas the fashion industry are criticised for promoting anorexia, the fitness industry are glorified for their lifestyles that have resulted in the lesser known condition, orthorexia. Some sufferers of eating disorders find themselves transitioning over from one to the other during 'recovery', enabling them to eat without having to 'lose control' of their strict routines, calorie counting or body changes. It is this need for control that is the driving factor behind both ideals.

What is Orthorexia? 
This is essentially a pathological obsession with 'clean eating', sufferers will strictly only eat foods they believe to be healthy and is considered an eating disorder much like any other. It is an unhealthy obsession with being healthy whereby falling off the bandwagon can lead to self-punishment and mental stress. Eventually food choices become so restricted, their health may suffer.

Modern Role Models 
Social media seems awash these days with ripped fitness figures preaching their lifestyles and purporting a 'clean eating' movement. As much of the western world concurrently suffers from an obesity crisis with its health implications and cost to society, this can only be a welcome move. Weight lifting and such a lifestyle obviously does have its benefits physically and mentally, yet it is often only this aspect of such a lifestyle that receives any attention.

I can't help but feel that many of the negative aspects of shooting to the other extreme are not highlighted enough, especially when so many loyal fans of these social media fitness fanatics are in a young age bracket. When asked if he had a girlfriend yet, my little brother of 17 stated he didn't "because [he] needed a six pack" first. As a female who understands the warped mindset an ED sufferer may experience, a parallel can be drawn between such statements and the pervasive thoughts underlying most disorders that they 'won't be good enough' for anything or anyone, until a set ideal is reached; often an extreme ideal that is unsustainable for the average joe.

Personally I want to be able to go out with my friends for a drink in the evening, have meals out and enjoy real food (none of this protein bar/meal supplement/ fake food more than is necessary), enjoy what life has to offer, not be a slave to the gym or 'macros' and self-obsession. Simultaneously I know I want to take care of my health, both physical and mental health, wellness and wellbeing are about more than having the perfect body or 'detoxifying' yourself with clean eating. There is no set ideal that you need to buy into for the perfect body and the perfect life, it's a marketing exercise where you are made to feel guilty for your perfectly normal, average lifestyle.

I have my ups and downs like any normal functioning human being but I found peace of mind and self-confidence in focusing on a bigger picture, my career and interests, my hobbies and eventually my current significant other, who reminds me daily of what really matters in life and what really creates happiness and self-worth: living with love.

Thank you so much for your amazing post, Nia! If any other bloggers would like to guest post on then please get in touch!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
Why 'Fitspiration' is Anything But
Are All Health Bloggers Anorexic?