Healthy Interest vs Obsession


It’s finally June! I can’t believe the year is almost half over! If you haven’t taken a look at your New Year’s Intentions, this is probably a good time to do that in case you’ve forgotten about them. I find that the beginning of anything (months, seasons, etc.) is a good time to go back over my goal and evaluate my position.

Moving along, I know that health-minded folks make up a significant portion of my readership, but this post is for anyone who’s ever battled a vice that is healthy in theory but can become addictive. For me, this thing is studying health and nutrition and collecting recipes. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a stack of unused cookbooks that serve the same purpose as picture books. For you the habit may be exercise, experimenting with your diet, cleansing, etc.  Most of  us have heard of orthorexia by now, and we all know that we can have too much of a good thing.

To give you a little insight into my (often obsessive) interest, I love to learn about health and nutrition and I have hundreds of recipes though I rarely use them. The problem is, I often do these things when I’m stressed or when I’m avoiding something, like when I have writers block or another form of creative fear. I can sit and organize my unused recipes for hours, I can read stacks of books promoting one nutritional theory, and this usually translates into obsessive and/or compulsive eating because I feel either restricted or afraid on some level of what internal organ will fail if I don’t eat that way.

When I feel more balanced, I rarely cook and I don’t think much about health. I do believe that studying food and health does have it’s merits though, so I want to balance it in my life.

Yesterday I felt compelled to look through my recipes again and to pick some out that I’d like to try. In the past I’d go through and catergorize them according to whatever diet philosophy I was studying at the time, and even though I’ve given up dieting, it was still a very diet-like behavior, like orthorexia without the will-power. I got out my cookbooks, thumbed through them but kept close tabs on my feelings so I’d know when I started feeling obsessive and needed to stop. That feeling never came, and I found myself getting bored after just a little while. No staying up into the wee hours organizing, no pouring over article after article on the merits of X supplement or Y diet restrictions. I just didn’t need it anymore.

Do you struggle with any vices like this? Working out? Cleaning you house? Your healthy diet? If you’ve been told that you’re “obsessive”, or if you feel like you must do these things, you might want to consider the line between a healthy interest and an unhealthy obsession.

Where is that line? 

  • Do you feel frantic, like you can’t stop doing something or that you have to get to a certain point before you can stop?
  • How often do you think about it?
  • Does this activity make you feel peaceful, inspired and happy, or do you feel like you must, or that something bad will happen if you don’t?
As a person with strong obsessive tendencies around food and health, I constantly ask myself these questions when I read food or lifestyle blogs, books, when I make grocery lists, etc.
I believe the key to managing healthy obsessions is balance. Here are some tips for managing an otherwise healthy obsession:
  • Keep tabs on the time you spend engaged in or thinking about this activity. If necessary, set a time limit or stop completely for a little while.
  • Pay close attention to your thoughts and emotions as you workout/cook/read/etc. If they start to speed up or feel negative at all, find something else to do.
  • Give yourself adequate time for relaxation and reflection to develop a calmer attitude. 
Note: If you find that obsessive thoughts persist despite your efforts, you may want to speak to a counselor or holistic doctor to check on possible imbalances or underlying emotional issues.
Many of us health-conscious people, especially in the blogosphere I’ve noticed, have a history of obsessive tendencies, so we would do well to keep tabs on our habits, especially if we’re still in transition from a restrictive to a healthy lifestyle.
Have you ever struggled with over-doing a healthy habit? 

Posted on June 1, 2011, in Exercise, Food, Intuitive Eating, Natural health and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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