Thursday, October 17, 2013

Obsessively healthy

Enough laziness....time to get my workout on!

I knew those Pilates classes were good for my core! :) 

Much as I am a sucker for the Scopitone era, one thing that does strike me is that a lot of the women (and the one guy) dancing around that pool would be considered "unfit" by today's standards. And not in the sense that they are "fat", but rather that they don't look "strong." (Which is really another way of saying "thin but with visible muscles.")

I'm all for understanding what a healthy body looks like and I still get a bit giggly when I catch my reflection in a mirror (Hello, studly!), but I know that it took some time to actually convince myself that I don't have to be a solid six-packed beefcake dude nor super-skinny fella to look good AND look healthy. 

And yet there's this trend happening with these "Fitspiration" or "fitspo" posts on websites, facebook, etc. I'm sure you've seen them, so I won't bother putting one on here, even snarkily. 

It's still a shaming and somewhat misguided way of saying "you're not good enough, but here's some bad, pat advice with a still unrealistic photo to make you feel passive-aggressively better." And I know I'm not the only person that has problems with this trend. This post covers it pretty well.  However, it also draws me towards a topic about which I'm not too happy; the excessive attitude of many of the health-minded people. 

At various points in my life, I've had to drop some friends and acquaintances who were just unhealthy to be around. Sometimes it was for reasons centering about substance abuse, sometimes it was someone who just promoted a toxic environment. It's never easy, even when you know you have to do it, but it does happen. And lately I've had to "unfriend" those people who I felt were not healthily contributing to Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle. 

I'm not talking about people who insisted on eating pans of lasagna in front of me or those who would get frustrated now that I've cut back on the beers. Different eating habits don't mess up friendships, at least in my thought process. No, the people who I had to "let go" were all "healthy living" folks. Because how they were treating themselves (and others) was very unhealthy.

I previously posted about Social Physique Anxiety and my own change in mindset towards gyms and working out. We've seen enough about eating disorders and how societal factors contribute to those. But what about exercise and "healthy living"? Can someone treat it like a disorder? Is there such a thing as going too far? 

A few bloggers have coined it as "healthorexia" but I see it's actually been addressed some years before as Orthorexia Nervosa. That does seem to be more oriented solely towards food intake, but the expression does seem to be used as well to denote those folks who take both healthy food and exercise to an extreme.  

There have been some studies questioning whether or not it is an actual disorder and one somewhat troubling study seeing if there was a prevalence of orthorexics among Dietitians! (Hmm...Dietitians with food issues...that's like Librarians as hoarders.)

Whatever it's official diagnosis, I can't help but think these Fitspo photos have not helped. It gives the impression that you're otherwise doing it wrong. 

And I'm not immune. Almost a decade ago, I tried the Low Carb diet. And one day, I ate 8 grapes. And I proceeded to freak out that I ruined my whole diet experience. Thankfully, I immediately checked myself and realized there was something fundamentally wrong with any eating plan that would do that to your head. 

And yet, that's what we're seeing in orthorexics and those people who are no longer my friends. Every few weeks was a new "eating plan" that usually included some point of abstinence, starvation or "special food", while exercising to the point of continued injury and ill health. And then deriding those who did not follow the same plan. Never mind that it often changed from week to week. As a friend, I tried to support them but it soon became apparent that they did not want support that didn't follow their own strictures. 

But I've now seen this behavior all over the web, too. And unfortunately it's now easily shared among the internet and with it, the bullying atmosphere that comes with this medium: 

"You didn't puke? You're not exercising enough!"  
"You made non-paleo cupcakes? Stuff your face with failure!" 

How does this help people feel better about themselves? I'm all for being pushed into working harder. That's why I go to a trainer. But it's not about doing something til I puke. Or as my trainer put it, "I'm not here to beat you up, Dan. You seem quite capable of doing that yourself. I'm here to take it in the right direction."

So, I'm not a fan of this orthorexic movement. But I also hope that in my own quest for Streamlined life, I have not been perpetuating this attitude among others. One of the saddest parts of my Streamlined Ska Librarian journey is losing friends who feel they no longer "know me" because I'm trying to live healthier. Is it because I'm no longer staying out late drinking pitchers and eating entire pizzas? Or have I become something less palatable? Have I become as toxic as those people that I have had to unfriend? It's a reality check, to be sure. 

I'd like to think I'm basically still me, but more aerodynamic. So I hope to work on still being that way. If I start posting photos of airbrushed athletes with "hang in there, baby!", you all have the right to delete me.


Kinzl, Johann F., Katharina Hauer, Christian Traweger, and Ingrid Kiefer. “Orthorexia Nervosa in Dieticians.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 75, no. 6 (2006): 395–396. doi:10.1159/000095447.
McInerney-Ernst, Erin Michelle. “Orthorexia Nervosa: Real Construct or Newest Social Trend?” Thesis, University of Missouri--Kansas City, 2011.
Vandereycken, Walter. “Media Hype, Diagnostic Fad or Genuine Disorder? Professionals’ Opinions About Night Eating Syndrome, Orthorexia, Muscle Dysmorphia, and Emetophobia.” Eating Disorders 19, no. 2 (2011): 145–155. doi:10.1080/10640266.2011.551634.

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