Roxy Jacenko admits her clean eating went too far

Roxy Jacenko admits her clean eating went too far

Roxy Jacenko admits her clean eating went too far

Dr Evelyn Lewin bodyandsoul.com.au

“I starved myself for a good twelve months. Everyone was cheering me on, saying, ‘Oh, she’s training so hard at the gym’. Well, no, I was eating air. I was not smart about how I was living my life.”

Photos: Supplied

PR mogul Roxy Jacenko has just admitted she had an eating problem.

That, in a bid to eat 'clean', she went too far.

“I starved myself for a good twelve months,” she said in a new podcast for mybody+soul.

“Everyone was cheering me on, saying, ‘Oh, she’s training so hard at the gym’.

“Well, no, I was eating air. I was not smart about how I was living my life.”

Thankfully, Roxy’s attitude towards her diet has changed dramatically.

“I eat normally [now]. I’m still careful [about] what I eat, but if I want to have dessert, I’ll have the tiramisu. I would never have before…”

Roxy is far from the only person who, in a bid to eat ‘clean’, has taken things too far.

In fact, there’s even a term to describe those who develop an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with healthy eating: orthorexia nervosa.

American doctor Steven Bratman coined the term in the late 90’s to describe his health-obsessed patients.

So how do you know if your desire to eat 'clean' is good for you – or whether you might have a problem?

Becoming obsessive in any way is a huge red flag, says Health and Community psychologist Dr Marny Lishman.

That includes counting calories, getting anxious about food, and obsessing over what you will and won’t eat.

Constantly thinking about food, or talking about it, is a sign your thinking has become distorted and your relationship with food is no longer healthy.

If your eating habits impact other areas of your life – such as your relationship, friendships or work – she warns you’ve veered into dangerous territory.

For Accredited Practicing Dietitian Kathryn Hawkins, a key sign your desire to eat ‘clean’ has gone too far is if you’ve become extreme.

She warns that developing extreme eating habits puts you at risk of distorted eating and poor body image.

And, she notes, ‘clean eating’ can turn problematic quite quickly.

In fact, she says the term itself is “totally made up” and can mean a lot of different things, which often includes rigid eating habits and eschewing indulgences altogether.

Meanwhile, she believes indulging every now and then is totally okay, and that there’s a time and place for “fun” foods.

If you do indulge, your response to your perceived ‘slip up’ can also indicate if you have a problem.

If you recognise it’s not a big deal, Dr Lishman says you’re likely to have a healthy relationship with eating.

But if it causes you anguish, that’s worrying.

According to National Eating Disorders Association, there are also questions you can ask yourself to see if you might have a problem.

These include, “Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?” and, “Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?”

The more questions you respond ‘yes’ to, the more likely you may have orthorexia.

Then there are the physical signs your ‘clean’ eating is creating health issues, says Dr Lishman.

Things like extreme weight loss, feeling fatigued, having vitamin or nutrient deficiencies or looking physically pale or unhealthy should all ring alarm bells.

Instead of analysing whether eating ‘clean’ has become a problem for you, Hawkins doesn’t advise following this diet in the first place.

Instead, she says you’re better off eating a balanced diet.

While this may seem “boring,” she says there are heaps of changes you can make to ensure you eat healthily – without becoming obsessive.

Start by recording what you normally eat.

Then, make healthier tweaks – like adding more vegies to your dinner or swapping sugary drinks for mineral water.

If you think you have an issue, Dr Lishman suggests seeing your GP, dietitian or psychologist, who can help challenge your mindset about eating.

While eating ‘clean’ may appear to be healthy, Dr Lishman says it’s better to choose a lifestyle that’s sustainable, without being extreme.

That’s what Roxy has discovered.

“I eat properly now… I’m much more mindful of health and wellbeing.”

If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, you can seek advice, support and access to resources by calling Butterfly’s National Support Line on 1800 33 4673 or emailsupport@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au.

If you or someone you know is struggling or needs help, call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. In an emergency, call 000. For a correct treatment plan, book an appointment with your GP.

For more information on mental health and treatment options, visit Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, Lifeline, RUOK or Headspace.

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