Healthy Diet or Eating Disorder – Spot the Line

The increasingly rising awareness of the importance of healthy eating in the recent years has led many to obsess over everything they eat. The fitness communities have continuously encouraged their members to eat ‘clean’, track their ‘macros’ or perform ‘fasts’ in order to cleanse their bodies. You may think that it’s perfectly normal to look after yourself, follow a healthy diet and track what you it – yes you’re right. Usually such behaviors pose no threat but what if they turn into an obsessive compulsion? Just because someone is not morbidly skinny like the stereotypical anorexia sufferer or doesn’t vomit like bulimics do doesn’t mean they don’t have a problem. In fact, the scale of the problem has been significant to the point that in 1996 Dr. Steven Bratman invented a term for his health-obsessed patients.

Orthorexia nervosa – even though it’s not a clinical diagnosis at this moment, it represents any symptoms connected to an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating and lifestyle. Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat healthier and get fit, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.  They fixate on specific quantities and ways of dealing with cheating (sometimes dangerously similar to the binge-purge disorder). Often orthorexics consider beating temptation a moral victory – it improves their self-esteem. Just like other eating disorders it has much to do with control – being in control of your diet makes you in control of your life.

Ironically, the healthy eating soon turns into a health hazard. The sufferers often exclude certain foods and even food groups from their diets, the variety and calories become very restricted. On top of the physical issues orthorexics lose interest in other activities and even friendships.

Alarming Behaviors

So what signs should you watch out for if you or someone you know follows a healthy diet a little too closely? If the time spent on planning, preparing and tracking food takes up most of your life and most off all occupies your thoughts – seek help. Do you feel overwhelming guilt when you eat something you do not deem ‘clean’? Does all your sense of accomplishment and pride come from sticking to your ‘clean’ diet? If so, you should talk to your physician or perhaps find a therapist who will help you work through the underlying issues with you. Looking into your emotions and resolving issues that may have been buried deep inside for years will help you deal with obsessing about your diet so much.

Here are some interesting and alarming facts about eating disorders:


What You Should Know About Sweeteners


artificial sweetnersMany dieters and health conscious people wisely avoid sugar in its different forms and shapes, especially refined.  The dangers of processed foods containing refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup made from corn starch are no longer a secret. Consumption of these ingredients has been linked to obesity, diabetes and high levels of uric acid in the blood which in turn increased the risk of developing gout and even cancer.  It is, therefore, wise to avoid sugar and corn syrup but how can it be substituted?

Both artificial and natural sweeteners have been gaining popularity in the quest to fight obesity, especially in the western countries. Are they safer than sugar and how do they affect your body?

Natural Sweeteners

 Stevia – extracted from a South American plant, used for medicinal purposes, it is not only sweeter than sugar but possesses health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and sugar levels. As much as the taste may not be to everyone’s liking, it is easy to get used to and the benefits outweigh the slightly odd aftertaste.

Erythritol – sugar alcohol found naturally in certain fruits, but most of the powdered erythritol is made via an industrial process. It doesn’t spike blood sugar or insulin levels and has no effect on cholesterol or triglycerides. According to studies it is very safe. Consuming too much may cause upset stomach.

 Xylitol – contains 70 per cent of the caloric value of sugar. It may have some benefits for dental health, reducing the risk of cavities as well as improving bone density. It doesn’t affect blood sugar or insulin levels. It can also cause digestive side effects at high doses. Using Xylitol if you have a dog is not recommended as it is highly toxic for canines.


Artificial Sweeteners

 Aspartame – Aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Although aspartame has four calories per gram, but the strong sweetness means little of aspartame is used and essentially no calories are ingested. It is used for diet drinks and sodas but it isn’t recommended for cooking and baking as it’s not stable in high temperatures.

Acesulfame K (potassium) – like aspartame 200 times sweeter than common sugar with little calorific value and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Often mixed with other sweeteners to make it more sugar-like. It is heat stable unlike aspartame and is used in baking mixes and protein shakes.

 Sucralose – sold under brand name Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar. It is the most heat stable artificial sweetener and is therefore used in most consumer goods as it is manufacturer’s favorite.sweetners

Side Effects

There has been a lot of concern about the safety of both types of sweetener but studies
are inconclusive. So far it has been proven that the quantities which we are capable of consuming are safe and harmless.  Some cases have been reported where high consumption of sweeteners may affect blood sugar levels, insulin response and increase appetite but again these are unique cases and should be analyzed on an individual basis.



Sugar Addiction – Fact or Myth



Can sugar consumption really be called an addiction? Even though you may think this is a bit of an exaggeration, think about the withdrawal symptoms. They really can be compared to those of a quitting alcoholic. Both mental and physical symptoms are tough and quite intense. Experiments conducted on rats show that the animals deprived of sugar had lower levels of pleasure – stimulating dopamine, and they suffered from anxiety and the shakes. Except for headaches, the usual withdrawal symptoms include: low mood, anxiety, fatigue — and daydreams of binging on sugary treats. It all sounds too real when you consider the research that proves you can actually get hooked on sugar. Scientists have found that it’s addictive and stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin. So similarly to a drug addict, if you want to free yourself once and for all you have to go through the painful process of detoxing.sugar

How it affects your taste

In a California study, researchers found that most subjects stop feeling cravings after 2-3 days and 87 per cent were feeling ‘clean’ and free from cravings after 6 days. On top of that, after such detox, you require less sugar, your palate changes and food seem ‘sweeter’.

Further benefits of detoxing

Not only will you feel better and experience less sugar crashes and cravings. Most of all, it will benefit your health and decrease risk of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Lots of sugar can have terrible consequences such as a premature death
connected to a cardiovascular disease or cancer.

 How to fight the sweet tooth

1.    Substitute sweets with fruit.

Choose the low GI low sugar fruit such as berries and eat them in moderation. The will help you resist eating refined sugar found in sweets. 

2.    Beware of artificial sweeteners.
Even though small amounts of diet soda or sugar free sweets can help you in times of crisis, be careful as artificial sweeteners are known to increase appetite.

3.    Clear your house of temptation.
It will be much easier to fight cravings if you don’t see any sweets around you – simple as that.

4.    Look for constructive distractions
If you find yourself struggling, take your mind off it – go out for a walk, watch a movie, go work out. Be proactive and avoid dwelling on your cravings.

Although some experts recommend reducing your sugar intake over time, dietician Carole sugar affectsBartolotto believes that cutting it out altogether is the best way to get through a detox. According to her going ‘cold turkey’, as hard as it may be is the quickest and most effective way to fight the addiction.