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'Has our push for healthy living altered our perceptions of what is truly healthy?'

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With the phrase ’healthy living’ becoming more and more common, learning disabilities editor, Olivia, learns about the fine line between being healthy and creating an unhealthy habit

It’s over 10 years since Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners Campaign began, perhaps not the first healthy eating fad that has ever existed, but I remember everyone talking about it at the time and I believe you would struggle to find someone in this country who hasn’t at least heard about it.

This campaign really got my generation thinking more about what we eat and how much we exercise.

So, where are we 10 years later?

Has our push for healthy living altered our perceptions of what is truly healthy?

“The craze is snowballing at a rate that nobody could have predicted”

The new craze of healthy eating and exercise is impossible to get away from on social media. With personal trainers like Joe Wicks and Alice Living becoming Instagram sensations the craze is snowballing at a rate that nobody could have predicted.

A healthy eating craze victim myself, I too have been sucked into this lifestyle, but as a penny-pinching student I have come to realise that it is way out of my monthly budget. Therefore, being thrifty I decided to make some “clean eating egg muffins”, figuring they were easy to take to placement with me as a snack, to substitute the masses of cakes and biscuits that torment me every day. As I typed in “clean eating e…” into google I was shocked to see the results, the fourth term that appeared was “clean eating eating disorder”, and so I clicked.

“Orthorexia is an eating disorder defined as an obsession with healthy foods”

Shocked, I found report after report of young people beginning a healthy lifestyle and it cumulating into orthorexia, an eating disorder that is defined as an obsession with healthy foods. One girl sitting her AS exams writes:

“We all started the diet because we were really stressed and tired and had heard eating better made you feel better, but for me it went wrong. I cut out snacking, I had smaller portions, and everything was a health food.”

I’m sure the guilt associated with eating healthily and “cheating” rings true with most and delving deeper into the world of people suffering from orthorexia has highlighted for me how quickly this “guilt” can escalate into a mental health problem.

It’s not something I knew about and I’m sure many of my fellow student nurses are equally unaware. It certainly sounds like something we need to keep in mind when discussing healthy lifestyles and health promotion with our patients. I believe that for some, a clean eating diet is a great way to live a healthy lifestyle but for others it can be the catalyst towards a loss of control and a cycle of unhealthy eating behaviours, this paired with the easily accessible media surrounding clean eating, orthorexia is becoming increasingly common.

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