Oh hello, my name is ____! I am a gluten-free paleo hyper-local non-GMO organic sugar-free vegan. Unless you are serving a kale salad with unicorn fairy dust I unfortunately cannot attend your holiday party tonight.
Ok, so that made-up person I just invented is a bit extreme. However as a Dietitian I am seeing more and more people who are taking healthy eating to unhealthy proportions. There is actually a new term that has emerged, called “Orthorexia Nervosa”. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has defined orthorexia as:
“Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.” An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style. Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.
Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating. Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.”
A Dietitian’s struggle to be “perfect”
I will admit as a Dietitian I sometimes feel pressured to eat a certain way. Clients and colleagues expect that I eat a lot of salads, I don’t eat poutine and I have a super-human ability to pass up chocolate cake. All these expectations can sometimes lead to guilt, shame and many of the characteristics described above. For example, during my October Unprocessed challenge, I defintely felt guilt if I somehow “slipped”. I also felt that my social life was impacted, as I couldn’t enjoy take-out or I would turn down going out for dinner with friends because heaven forbid, I ate a dish that had processed ingredients. I don’t regret taking on the challenge, but reflecting back I should have given myself a bit of slack 🙂
How to create a healthy balance
Here are some of my thoughts to help not only myself, but others who want to approach good nutrition in a healthy way:
1) Don’t strive to be “perfect”: I try and make healthy choices when I can. However I tell myself (and others) that it is OK to have pizza with friends, it is OK to have a piece of cake. Moderation on both ends of the spectrum is important.
2) Don’t define yourself as the “person who is the healthy eater”:One of my favourite quotes from Karin Kratina (she wrote a great article on Othorexia for NEDA) is “in recovery, identity will shift from “the person who eats health food” to a broader definition of who they are – a person who loves, who works, who is fun”. I’m learning to identify myself not just as a Dietitian, but as a person who loves her friends, family, live music, snowboarding etc.
3) Don’t be afraid to talk to someone:Disordered eating is rarely about the food itself. Often it is about underlying emotions, the need for control in life etc. Talking to a friend, family member or health professional can be a great first step in feeling better about yourself and improving your relationship with food. I find it helpful to talk with colleagues (aka other Dietitians) and share the struggles we sometimes face.
Now I’m off to enjoy a guilt-free holiday party, with a few snacks! xo
I’m baaaaaack. It has been quite a few weeks since my last blog post, and for that I apologize. Now that I am over my jet lag and slowly recovering from a few personal issues, I am going to be posting more frequently.
I thought I would share a few of my “foodie” highlights from my most recent Euro trip. My cousin Amanda and I went on a whirlwind 3-week trek across Europe, stopping in Iceland, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium and the Netherlands. Although we experienced our fair share of churches, museums and historical walking tours, my favourite part of the entire trip was the food. I was hoping to share my food highlights in each country/city, keeping in mind I am in no way a food photographer 🙂 (if anyone is interested in helping me out for future posts, please let me know!)
It’s not a matter of “if” I go back to Iceland, it’s a matter of “when”. Seriously, they should be hiring me for their tourism board, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Iceland. The landscape, the history, the incredibly sexy men with beards, it was amazing! The food? Ehhhhhhh I probably wasn’t as adventurous as I could have been. For example, I did not try the traditional Icelandic dish Hákari, which is putrescent (fermented) shark meat. Just hearing the word “putrescent” made my stomach turn. However the quality and taste of simple dishes in Iceland surprised me. My favourite dishes included:
Greenhouse tomato soup. We visited one of the many family-owned greenhouses outside of Reykjavik. Iceland can be pretty barren- there isn’t a lot of natural vegetation growing. Greenhouses have sprouted up everywhere to grow fresh produce year-round. The soup was delicately spiced and tasted so, so fresh!
Fish and Chips. Icelandic fish and chips were some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Icelandic hot dog. Say whaaa? Hot dogs? What kind of dietitian are you? Yes yes I know. However I had to try these so-called famous hot dogs as several people told me it was an important experience in Iceland. So we went to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, the famous hot dog stand in Reykjavik and got ours with the works (crispy fried onions, raw white onions and sweet dark mustard). The uniqueness of an Icelandic hot dog is the meat itself- Icelandic hot dogs are actually made mostly of organic lamb, with a small bit of beef or pork mixed in for flavour. Yum!
Bavarian dinner. We arrived in Munich on a Sunday afternoon and this girl unfortunately did not have a great first impression. EVERYTHING was closed! I guess coming from a city where nothing closes on Sunday I was a bit confused. However we did manage to find a traditional Bavarian restaurant called Fraunhofer that was open and absolutely charming. I had organic roast pork au jus with traditional dumpling. It was YUM YUM YUM! Here is what a potato dumpling looks like in Bavaria:
Prague, Czech Republic
Czech dumplings. OK, I will fully admit we did not embrace many traditional foods in Prague. Amanda and I met up with one of my besties Bryce, who currently lives in Berlin and took the train down to meet us. We definitely embraced the cheap beer and Christmas market gluhwein, but most of the meals we had in Prague were pretty standard (stews, soups etc). However we did make sure to sample the dumplings, which were simple, but satisfying!
Belgium (aka food paradise)
Moules-frites. Yum yum yum, I LOVE me some mussels. And I fully embraced the side of frites to soak up the delicious sauces. In Brussels I tried lemon butter mussels, which were baked in some sort of roux. Basically the mussels were used as a carrier for an entire stick of butter. And I ate it all up!
Street Frites– Ah yes, more French Fries. All over Belgium frites are sold with an array of delicious sauces. You want to try as many as possible so you keep going back for more! My favourite sauces included andalouse and Ghent sauce.
Waffles- Of course you can’t leave Belgium without having at least a few waffles. There were 2 main types of Belgium waffles you could purchase: Liege and Brussels. Liege waffles are made from a dough similar to bread, with chunks sugar added so the waffle is very sweet. Brussels waffles are made with a thin, yeast-leavened batter which is less sweet and crispy. I preferred liege waffles as they required very little “extras” to make them tasty. A little powdered sugar and maybe some fruit is all you need! Apparently only tourists ask for whipped cream on their waffles so I of course kept with the local tradition:
Flemish stew. We tried this stew after a recommendation from a local guy in Brussels, at a restaurant called C’est Bon C’est Belge. Basically Flemish stew is made with beef, and the key to making this different from other Western Europe stews is the addition of a dark, abbey-style Belgian beer. O.M.G. This stew was so fantastic. It had a rich, sweet, yet savoury sauce that was so tasty I literally had to lick the plate.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Asian fusion. This was my second visit to Amsterdam and I remember the food being pretty good, but nothing outstanding. We stayed on a hotel boat owned by a lovely English couple (Dave and Anni). Dave gave us some recommendations for restaurants, including a tapas restaurant called Woo Bros. It was a pretty fancy place, so Amanda and I dressed up (well, as much as we could given that most of our clothes were dirty by the end of the trip) and hit up Woo Bros for our last night in the city. We were not disappointed! We ordered several small plates to share including salmon sashimi with avocado, cold spring rolls, fried udon noodles and lobster maki rolls. It was a fantastic end to a great trip.