Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How Much is Too Much When it Comes to Healthy Eating?

As the obesity epidemic rises around the world, more and more importance and emphasis is being placed on healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle to manage one's weight. But just as we point the finger and 'diagnose' people as being unhealthy, it appears we do the same for those who take the opposite route. In every case there are extremes, but when does healthy eating become 'orthorexia'?

Orthorexia is gaining attention as a disorder potentially as serious as anorexia or bulimia - it involves the fixation on eating only healthy or "righteous" foods all the time. In fact, there is speculation that perhaps the “Godfather of Fitness” Jack LaLanne 'suffered' from this pattern of eating.

In case you need a refresher, Jack LaLanne was considered "America’s Number 1 Physical Fitness Expert and Guru", a health, fitness and nutrition pioneer who emphasized the importance of healthy living in the every day life of the average American. He died at the ripe age of 96.

You might remember Jack LaLanne as the guy who sold juicers on TV, but he was actually the first person to ever sell vitamins and fitness equipment on TV and developed many important fitness machines that appear at every gym today. He was the first person to have their own fitness program on TV and the first to advocate for the use of weights in regular exercise regimens in men, women, the elderly and the disabled. He was the first to advocate the importance of nutrition in healthy living and developed the first nutrition bar and instant meal replacement drink.

If you've ever heard anyone use the phrase "Ten seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips", you can thank Mr. LaLanne for that - he said it first. He was also known for having said "Your waistline is your lifeline", which we know today is truer than ever. In addition, he emphasized the importance of nutrition and healthy living by saying "If you eat right, you can't do wrong", which is perhaps why there is speculation that he was obsessed with "righteous" eating, or was orthorexic. He also said "It’s not what you do some of the time that counts, it’s what you do all of the time that counts." For Mr. LaLanne, a healthy lifestyle meant practicing moderation, exercising regularly and eating natural, healthy foods all the time.

Jack's mission was a simple one, and his life's work was devoted to "helping people to help themselves feel better, look better, and live longer." It certainly worked for him! In his impressive 70 year career, Jack accomplished many of his goals, set numerous world records and inspired people all over the world to do whatever they can today for a healthier tomorrow. He lived a long, full and healthy life, so was his obsession with health really a negative? Not in my opinion.

He had it right when he emphasized moderation and the fact that "it's not what you do some of the time that counts", meaning here and there, indulgences and treats are valid and necessary for your mental health! The rest of the time, however, healthy eating and exercising are the cornerstones of good health and lend to a lower risk of disease. Perhaps some people do take 'health' to the extremes, but overall, we should celebrate those who advocate for healthy eating and active living and try to apply those philosophies in our own daily lives.