The Clean Eating Disorder

Good morning! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. We finally had some amazing weather which we were able to enjoy on Sunday. Saturday was a bit of a write off as I spent most of the day in the gym – training legs and then a couple of hours for team practice as we prepare for new release week. But, we managed to get the dogs out for a long walk on Sunday. And it’s always a good sign that spring is here when you can have all the windows open!

Our refeed meal on Saturday was all you can eat sushi in an effort to keep it a little healthier. We then erased that effort with some timbits and I satisfied my week-long craving of a rice cake, peanut butter, and banana sandwich. Even with all the carbs, I don’t think I managed to replace everything I used over the weekend. Maybe next weekend…

Anyhow, onto the main topic – when healthy eating goes too far. I believe that healthy behaviours have the potential to get taken too far and can become a negative aspect in your life – and this problem is a prime example. A new eating disorder has been recognized by the National Eating Disorder Association, but hasn’t (yet) been included in the DSM-5 as a clinical diagnosis. I think it’s an important problem to shed some light on as it’s so new, few people are aware of it.

When healthy eating goes too far, it can become orthorexia which is regarded as a fixation on “righteous eating”. Usually, the behaviours start out innocently as someone strives to improve their eating by sticking to healthy (“clean”) foods, but it turns into an exhaustive list of off-limits foods. The focus is on food purity and foods get eliminated based on their lack of health benefits – even very healthy, nutritious foods.


Problems arise when the list of “allowed” foods gets so small, the eater is missing vital nutrients and minerals, and is likely very low calorie. It’s ironic because the person is trying to eat as healthy as possible, but has essentially gone the opposite direction due to the restrictions.

Additionally, they’re often incredibly tough on themselves in terms of sticking to this perfect diet. Each day is a new chance to be better, eat healthier, or find new information about food. As with other eating disorders, the fixation and obsession with food takes over and impacts their day to day life as food is all they focus on. However, the difference with this disorder is that the focus is on food quality rather than body image.

Having the goal to eat healthy is great, and I think learning about food is a great first step. However, when it negatively impacts the rest of your life, it’s a problem. Also, when you eliminate a lot of foods, you’re doing yourself a big disservice by cutting out important nutrients.


Eat for optimal heath, and find a balance that works for you. Moderation is something everyone should strive for. If you choose to avoid processed foods because you don’t like how they make you feel, that’s fine. But if a craving hits from time to time, don’t sweat it and don’t punish yourself for satisfying it. Again, I strongly believe following an 80% to 20% rule is great for most people and will allow you the flexibility to be healthy and enjoy a few treats (when desired).  Eat smart and have fun with it!

If you think you, or someone you know, is dealing with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorder Information Center has plenty of information and a toll free help line (1-866-633-4220). 

About Ashleigh

I'm passionate about health and fitness. I work as a Health Promotion Specialist, a group fitness instructor, and also a coach for physique competitors / weight loss clients. I grew up as a competitive athlete, and have continued with this passion as a Women's Physique competitor. Research and writing is another interest of mine, which I use to share my knowledge with the general public.
This entry was posted in Body Image, Education, Fitness, Food, Health, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Wellness and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Clean Eating Disorder

  1. Hi, I came here from the Zemanta/Wordpress related links. I didn’t see many articles I liked on that list (my own post is specifically about how fiction handles overweight people, so most of the “eating disorders” articles were only barely related), but I appreciate this one!
    Love that ecard graphic, too. 😉

  2. Pingback: Bugging Me: Fictional “Fat” People | Side Quest Publications

  3. Hayley says:

    Thanks for writing about this…it’s such an important topic that is oftentimes overlooked. Eating healthy is promoted so much nowadays that people ignore the whole other side to that which is being TOO healthy (which in turn makes it not healthy at all..). Great post!

    • Thanks Hayley! It’s so true, it can easily slide into an unhealthy behaviour. I’m a huge advocate for everything in moderation, and never cutting food groups.

      Thanks for reading & the kind words 🙂

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