Beware of Orthorexia

Orthorexia – a proposed distinct eating disorder characterized by extreme or excessive preoccupation / obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.
The term is derived utilizing the Greek “orthos,” which means “right,” or “correct,” and is intended as a parallel with anorexia. It literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”

Even though it is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis, I have come across several people who fit the profile. I would like to bring awareness to it, because anything which interferes with your happiness, is not worth it. Yes, I strongly believe we should strive to eat as healthily as we can, but not obsess over it. Once it becomes an obsession, I believe it stops being healthy. Taking a holistic perspective: sure, your body is well nourished, but how about your mind? Are you happy and at peace or are you stressed about food?
Personally, I’m all for equilibrium!

I hope this post is useful for someone.

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Eating habits – how I lost 46kg

Most people assume I did some hardcore crash diet to lose as much weight as I did (46kg / 101lbs last time I checked).
People come up to me “oohh you’ve must have sacrificed 9e5f8eccc4c631a3eccdc51a504b9d4aa lot”, “I’m sure you had to keep your mouth shut”, “which weight loss supplement did you take?” (this last one is just plain offensive to me, tbh). Again, and again, I need to explain that I’m not, nor have I ever been, on a diet, I did not take ANY supplements. Instead, I corrected my eating habits for the long run. It was a painstakingly slow process, and I’m not done yet (and perhaps I’ll never be), but I “simply” made fundamental changes to what I eat, and started exercising.

Information / knowledge has been the driving force behind all the changes I’ve implemented. Learning and understandi11816300_1011699612203355_3103311428349738562_ong what certain “foods” do to your body and brain is, to me, one of the most empowering things. Once I started learning about nutrition I stopped falling prey, for example, to processed food claims of healthiness. I did not feel deprived because I didn’t eat that frozen pizza, I felt proud for making that choice for myself, but not because it “would make me fat”, rather because it would fuel inflammation, mess with my metabolism, drive blood sugar spikes, etc.

So, as many people have asked me, which were the major changes?
Keep in mind that I’m going on 2 years of this process, I did NOT introduce all these changes at once, nor quickly. I did it baby-step by baby-step, over several months, one change at a time. I changed with health rather than aesthetics in mind.

Major things I’ve removed:

  • Soft-drinks. It took me about 6 months to completely remove this from my life. You can read why on my post Soft drinks = ☠   I avoid fruit juices too, because they keep the sugar and lose the fibre of the fruit.
  • Pasta, white bread, and anything with refined flour in it. You can read why on my post Refined flour isn’t cool
  • Added sugar. To be totally honest I haven’t been able to completely remove it, but at this point the only thing I eat is dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa, which nevertheless has added sugar. You can read why on my Sugar = Drug of abuse Part 1 and Part 2
  • Pretty much all processed food: cookies, frozen meals, fast food, ice cream, pre-cooked meals, breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurts, sausages and deli meats, chips, gelatins, salad dressings, etc. As a general rule of thumb, if it has an ingredient list I’m not eating it.

And then people look at me with that “what the hell do you eat??” face.

No, I don’t eat depressing salads and other preconceived ideas about healthy eating, I love food and cooking, and I create some pretty awesome tasting meals with the help of my bff: the Internet, which holds a humongous collective knowledge of recipes. Examples here, here, and here.

I eat real food, my friends 🙂
Protein, complex carbohydrates, real fat, fruits and vegetables.
5d849cf59097cdc1dab48dfe1192a3b3Eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, tofu, green peas, lentils, quinoa, all types of beans, chickpeas, oats, almost all types of nuts (some of them I don’t like the taste, meh, I’m picky), olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, mushrooms, cocoa powder (100%), several seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia, sesame; eggplant, collard, tomatoes, kale, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, spinach, carrots, and pretty much all vegetables I can get my hands on; bananas, kiwis, oranges, pears, grapes, berries and pretty much all fruit I can get my hands on.
As for drinking: plenty of water, freshly brewed herbal tea and unsugared coffee.

Please take into account that at 1st… it was blergh, and there were a lot of setbacks, and that this doesn’t mean I don’t slip every now and then to some white chocolate covered almonds, or to a glistening orange pudding… Sugar is a hell of a drug, and I’m just human.
Correcting my eating habits was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, but it was beyond worth it and I’ll never go back. The overall way you feel everyday when you put proper nutrition together with exercise is one amazing loop, believe me.

Sorry for the long post, here’s a final thought:

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Yes, I eat fat

Following the principle that “a calorie is not a calorie”, I include healthy fats in my eating habits. Contrary to what the media, the food industry and even several doctors advocate, fat is good for you on so many levels. Just not the saturated/chemically processed kind. When I say “fat” I mean the real, the natural, kind: avocados, nuts, olive oil…

Since I started this process I have aimed for optimum nutrition. Unfortunately, aiming at something, doesn’t mean achieving it, but I strive for it and constantly look for new information with that in mind.

Of the several articles I have read this is probably my favourite one because it includes a lot of information (yes, it’s quite long, but worth reading):

Choosing Healthy Fats – Good Fats, Bad Fats, and the Power of Omega-3s

If you prefer something shorter, here’s this quick overview:

Five Reasons a Healthy Fat Diet is Good for You

And ever shorter, these 6 bullet points:

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I still strongly believe that information is key in changing anyone’s mindset. Information is power, use it.

Guy gives up added sugar for 1 month

Dutch TV producer LifeHunters recently created a short film (6m35s) with the highlights of an experiment where a man completely gives up added sugar,  artificial additives, and alcohol for a month.

I believe this crash approach is too extreme and completely unsustainable, but since it was just an experiment, sure, why not?

I have heard the expression “toxic environment” several times, and one of the things I like about this film is that it showcases how difficult it can be to “stay the course” when everything around you is set up to lead you into consuming food-like products, and that includes your friends. Saying one “just needs will power” is a gross understatement, and this video sort of touches that subject.
You also get a glimpse into the emotional hardship everyone should expect when first giving up sugar (even me, who took the baby-steps approach felt it). But it wears off, and afterwards you realize how much better you feel, and how the struggle was worth it.

Here’s the video, it’s short, enjoy:

Less sugar = better everything

I came across this article and even though I haven’t been able to completely give up added sugar yet (chocolate… my Achilles heel) I have SIGNIFICANTLY reduced its intake. Even without entirely removing added sugar, I can tell you I have experienced all 5 things, and there are many, many, more which aren’t listed here. Click on the link to read the article.

5 Things That Happen When You Quit Eating Sugar

Ps: Number 4 has become powerfully true for me: “Fruits will taste plenty sweet, and if you do take a bite of a cake or pie, you’ll be shocked at how overpowering and overly sweet it seems.”

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Best drink EVAH

Several studies have shown that most of us simply do not drink enough water to stay hydrated. Water is the best drink you can have and when our body doesn’t get enough of it, it has to manage what is available and impair certain functions to make the supply go round. This means chronic dehydration affects us in a multitude of ways.

After looking for information on the subject, I realized I clearly (used to) fit the symptoms of chronic dehydration, but before I read about it I had no idea that what I felt were consequences of the lack of water in my body. As I’ve already shared, giving up soft drinks was a real struggle, but a successful one, and I’m not a fan of alcohol either so (for a couple of months now) the only thing I drink is water, plenty of it, and sometimes freshly brewed herbal tea. I am happy to share that this was quite possibly the change which had the strongest impact on my overall well-being.

I won’t say much more because there’s plenty to read on the article below about the body’s many cries for water. Trust me: you’ll be surprised. And no, your body doesn’t deed fluids, it needs water.

12 Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration

And you should also check out the complete version of the infographic below.

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