Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Becomes Unhealthy – With Heather Caplan

When you think of dietitians, you probably think of, well, diets.

It’s right there in the name, and most dietitians are devoted to helping people follow regulated diets that will, in theory, make them healthier.

Heather Caplan isn’t like most dietitians.

The certified running coach and host of the RD Real Talk podcast believes diets are nothing but counterproductive and that “diet culture” is full of hidden agendas and falsehoods detrimental to our wellbeing and mentality towards food.

Not just that, but dieting can go way too far, causing conditions like orthorexia in which an unhealthy fixation on eating healthy can lead to symptoms like hair loss, difficulty sleeping, chronic fatigue, anemia, and hypothyroidism.

You read that right. Too much healthy eating can be unhealthy.

That’s why Heather exercises a non-diet approach at her private practice in Washington, DC, helping runners relearn the “intuitive” eating that diet culture can make so foreign to us.

In this episode, Heather discusses the pitfalls of diets, shares her firsthand account with orthorexia, and gives us some tips on how to adopt intuitive eating for optimal health and performance.

Heather Caplan TrailRun

Questions Heather is asked:

4:36 What prompted your passion for nutrition?

8:26 Why do you not believe in diets?

12:51 Are there long-term consequences to ‘weight cycling’?

14:29 Why do we get away from intuitive eating as we grow up?

16:48 How can we re-learn intuitive eating?

21:03 What is your opinion on diet trends?

25:33 Would you suggest runners try to lose weight while training for a marathon?

29:37 What do you mean by ‘health at every size?”

31:36 What is Orthorexia?

38:35 What are the long-term effects of Orthorexia?

41:36 What are some of the common signs of Orthorexia?

43:51 What might people expect to hear on your podcast, “RD Real Talk”?

46:20 What are your Real Talk Roundtable events?

Quotes by Heather:

“The reason I don’t give people diets and that I don’t believe in them is because they don’t work.”

“There’s a large body of evidence showing us that over 95% of dieters end up gaining their weight back, and usually they don’t just gain it back but they gain back more.”

“When working with people I always try to get them to a place where food is not something you have to constantly think about and your body’s not something you have to constantly think about, and that frees up so much mental energy for so many other things.”

“We were born with this innate ability to eat intuitively, and that’s a lot of what it really comes back to: is unlearning our cultural diet rules.”

“Orthorexia is defined as an unhealthy fixation on eating healthy foods, and I think there are probably quite a few people listening who maybe just heard that and thought, ‘Hm…I wonder if that’s me.’”

“We largely are under the belief that if someone has an eating disorder then they must be really thin, and that is absolutely not true. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.”

Take a Listen on Your Next Run

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Mentioned in this podcast:

Article: Mindful Eating for Runners by Heather Caplan
Article: Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Efforts Go Too Far
Article: Should You Really Work With a Sports Dietitian
Save on Heather’s Nutrition Services
Follow Heather on Twitter
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