Back in college I had to take the usual speech class. Some people dread it. Some are indifferent. Luckily, I was indifferent, but we had to give speeches and write papers on the exact same topic the entire semester. It had to be something we cared about if we were going to have to talk about it that much, right? I decided on orthorexia nervosa.
In the spirit of Poiema, I’m going to attempt to gracefully tackle this topic that is orthorexia nervosa. For those who don’t know, anorexia is technically ‘anorexia nervosa’ and same with ‘bulimia nervosa.’ There’s no real meaning for the word “nervosa” in the English language, but in Latin it means nervous. Contextually, it means “the psychological addiction to a behavior, belief, or habit” that effects the body via the nervous system, or the mind.
We all know what anorexia and bulimia is, but few know about orthorexia; Few really even know that it exists. Orthorexia nervosa is essentially the obsession with being healthy. Some may think that’s a weird idea to grasp. Being healthy is a good thing. Can it actually be a bad thing? Yes.
This topic needs so much light shined on it because in the world of social media, we’re all concerned with what our bodies look like. Guys, too. There’s a fine line between being healthy and being obsessed. My intention is not to offend anyone, but rather let you know that it’s ok to not go to the gym one day – or even all week! Go eat pizza with your girlfriends. Drink that carb loaded beer with your guy friends on a SEC Saturday. If you want a bag of your favorite candy, eat the whole thing and enjoy it.
Obviously, there’s balance on both sides of the spectrum. I’m all about quality of life and rocking those #HappyPounds, but also working out + eating healthy 80% of the time. Okay, well maybe 60% of the time is more accurate. But, if you’re telling your friends, “no I can’t go out to eat with you because they cook their food in real butter,” rethink things. If all you do is obsess over food all day long, ask for help. Whether that’s because you’re hungry and you’re not letting yourself eat, you’ve eaten too many calories for your daily allotment and you feel guilty, or something doesn’t fit into your macros and you refuse to make an exception because it’d mean you failed, ask for help. If you’re finding yourself obsessed with the way you look and nitpicking every part of your body, ask for help.
Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit so we should take care of our bodies and strive to be healthy but not to the point where it becomes an idol. Anything in excess, even good things, that become an obsession to the extent that it impacts not only our relationships with others but with God while controlling every choice or decision is an idol.
This is a real struggle and there’s no shame in admitting you’re going through this. I’ve been there. I didn’t realize it, but I have. Senior year of high school I was eating a piece of fish and a few pieces of broccoli before going to bed for the night. I’d wake up at 5 am on a Saturday to go to spin class or go to BodyPump and immediately right after spin class. My occasional dessert? Greek yogurt with strawberries. I remember being at my best friends house and I was asked if I wanted a (unhealthy) snack and saying no because in my mind, I would lose progress if I gave in. I’d stand in front of my mirror and look at this new lean body of mine, but yet, most people didn’t even notice I’d lost any weight. I definitely didn’t need to lose any weight, but I wanted to because in a twisted way I thought it’d make me more attractive. My motive? I was obsessed with my lean body and I had to feed that obsession.
Listen to me, please. If you’re healthy and taking care of your body, that’s great! Your body is a temple and it needs exercise + healthy food. But, your body doesn’t need to be deprived of rest & quality time with friends and family. When you look back at your youth when your 60, 70, 80 years old, do you want to remember all the hours you spent at the gym because #Gains or do you want to remember the nights you spent with your best friends?
God made you the way you are for a reason. Tall, short, apple shaped, pear shaped, petite, slender, thick, athletic.. whatever title you want to use. See yourself as a work of art. Because you are. You’re identity isn’t in a number on the scale, your pant size, or how many rolls you may have when you sit down. It’s in Jesus.
You’re strong. You’re capable. You’re smart. You’re funny. You’re kind. You’re wise. You’re beautifully and uniquely you.
Love who you’re created and designed to be.