Confessions of a (Former?) Health Foodie


June 19, 2012 by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

My training and background as a naturopathic doctor followed by years of working as a health and nutrition writer started me down a path that I had a hard time getting off. My career choices—coupled with my tendency to over-do pretty much everything—set me up to start dissecting all that I was eating. Worse still, I became obsessed with virtually every bite that went into my children’s mouths.

Looking for better health through nutrition became its own disease. Looking back, I see now that I was suffering from a mild case of orthorexia nervosa—a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman to describe an unhealthy obsession with healthy foods. I prefer the term, “health foodie.”

mettamatt (flickr)

I’d write an article on the cancer-preventive properties of vitamin D and then start tallying up my kids’ daily D totals. “They need more egg yolks and fatty fish,” I’d repeat to myself at the end of the day, vowing to make nutritional amends in the morning. I created charts and check lists to hang on the fridge that I could consult to help us reach our 5-A-Day of this and that. If my daughters happened to eat birthday cake with sicky sweet synthetic frosting, I’d be planning a week’s worth of detoxifying meals to follow.

This work of eating well was thoroughly exhausting, but I’d comfort myself with the knowledge that I at least I was “in the know,” always abreast of the latest news and trends in nutrition.

I’d always loved to cook and to share the eating experience with my family and friends. But with all this new knowledge of what damage I’d be doing my body and those of my loved ones, I just couldn’t stand by and watch us destroy ourselves with a toxin-laden loaf of bread. (Did you know that high temperatures can form cancer-causing compounds in certain foods? No? Forget I mentioned it—you’ll be better off for it!)

It didn’t take me long to realize that we had an even bigger problem at the dinner table: the pleasure in eating was rapidly fleeing our home. Something had to be done. The answer: stress less and eat real food.

This might sound obscenely obvious, but I had lost the broccoli forest for the trees, as it were; all this worry about which nutrient was responsible for which health-protective effect was literally making me crazy.

I wanted to bring back the joy that had once accompanied our family’s mealtimes. I wanted my children to be relaxed—not blissfully unaware—but comfortable in choosing and eating nutritious foods. I wanted to feel good about my food.

(reposted from Eat Happy.)

3 thoughts on “Confessions of a (Former?) Health Foodie

  1. violicious says:

    Yes! This was me last year (and for several years before that). I was frankly concerned if I was going down a fad diet pathway, think grapefruit diet of the 70’s. We now are eating wheat again and guess what! I am actually making more healthy foods at home than we did before and there have been no repercussions. Orthorexia nervosa. Gah. I can’t believe it has a name.

  2. […] Recently a friend posted about orthorexia nervosa.  I can’t even go in to the fact that I have a fear that I have mucked up at least one of my children’s relationships with food. When does a diet turn in to a ‘diet’? There is a line and I am not sure where that is. After exploring all the options we have decided on this one. This one full of real, healthy, mostly home-made food. Opening ourselves up to more food experiences and to people and their offerings. […]

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