The rise of online influencers advocating an extreme diet or fitness regime based on perfection as either an overt or covert theme is apparent. Their appeal and alignment to a person running a perfection obsession is unfortunately a match made in hell.
The physical dislocation of digital business channels from their audiences means that the negative impact of their site or following on any one member may not be seen or felt. The social media channel itself will be moderated and curated toward a perfect positive experience for all those who click there.
The downsides and the bad experiences with whatever is sold or promoted there will not be seen or experienced by the audience. It will all seem to be a wholly positive proposition to the unthinking person who lacks adult critical thinking when they view such forums as the total story or picture.
As they say in stock market circles DYOR (Do Your Own Research). However the vulnerable do not want the facts as they often want to be saved and find the solution to their perfection dilemma. Blind faith replaces adult critical thinking in these circumstances as it does in cults.
The other symptom of our perfection obsessed online lives is the strange attraction to the ugly or the perfect ones who have lost all their looks. What I mean here is if you look at many news feed sites they will all have a headline and link entitled TEN CHILDHOOD STARS WHO ATE TOO MANY PIZZAS GROWING UP, or 10 HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITIES WHO GOT FAT OR ARE NOW UNRECOGNIZABLE.
Clink on any of these links or buy any gossip magazine and you will enjoy a visual feast about say, Meg Ryan or Goldie Hawn or Macauley Culkin presented in the most unflattering poses. This voyeurism and trolling is but one more form of obsession with the body beautiful and the cult of perfectionism and its counterpart of shaming those who are not or no longer perfect.
In between are online trolls who target those who are in the public eye who they feel should be shamed, attacked and/or booted off whatever public platform they enjoy. Notice how female media celebrities like Tracey Grimshaw, Samantha Armytage, and Caroline Wilson get targeted for their looks and figures by trolls and even by other media personalities.
The Caroline Wilson example involving Eddy McGuire is interesting for Sam Newman who is one of her most vocal critics appears to go to great lengths in grooming and Botox to fight off the natural elderly biological state he in reality is. He appears to reject and cover up his own true self and projects this hatred onto a woman like Caroline Wilson who is a professional journalist and media commentator and who is literally comfortable in her own skin.
At the end of the day it is all about being in balance or as the Buddha would say it is about taking the middle path or middle road, which inherently is not extreme, or at either end of any spectrum. Extremism in any form tends to bring suffering with it and so clean eating and perfectionism are but yet two more manifestations of suffering we can fall into.
There are some online resources you can access if you identify with this article. A summary is included below. I have included the following checklist authored by the eatingdisorderhope.com online site to highlight possible behavioural symptoms and extreme thinking in the area of orthorexia.
Signs someone might be suffering from orthorexia
Common behaviours to be aware of include the following:
- Elimination of entire food groups in attempt to have a “clean” or “perfect” diet.
- Severe anxiety regarding how food is prepared.
- Avoidance of social events involving food for fear of being unable to comply with the diet.
- Thinking critically of others who do not follow strict diets.
- Spending extreme amounts of time and money in meal planning and food choices.
- Feelings of guilt or shame when unable to adhere to diet standards.
- Feeling fulfilled or virtuous from eating “healthy” while losing interest in other activities that were once enjoyed.
These extreme behaviours go beyond usual attempts to live healthily or adopt lifestyle changes because they can negatively influence a person physically, emotionally, and mentally.
As orthorexia progresses and develops, it can truly mimic damaging effects seen in anorexia and bulimia, such as malnutrition.
The Butterfly Foundation support help line: 1800 33 4673.
Contact the Energetics Institute for more information about Depression, Anxiety, and other body-mind states of being that affect yourself or someone you love and interact with.
Richard Boyd MBA, BBus, AdvDipCEBPsych, Cert Coaching AICE, AIFM, ExtDISC Certified. He is a Body Mind Psychotherapist, counsellor, author, and the CEO of Energetics Institute who works with individuals, couples and groups to offer a discreet, supportive counselling, coaching and psychotherapy service from Inglewood, Perth, Western Australia. He is also the CEO and founder of Conscious Business Australia