While eating healthy is admirable, when it becomes an obsession and compulsion, a person may end up turning a positive behavior into something “very harmful.” That’s when the well-intentioned person ends up with a disorder known as Orthorexia Nervosa.
Sometimes the line between eating healthy and being obsessive is a difficult line to distinguish. This is even more challenging especially in the U.S. where fast food restaurants are plentiful on every corner and the majority of the population is noted to be overweight or obese.
Orthorexia differs from anorexia nervosa because the motive behind the obsession is different. In Anorexia nervosa, the individual focuses on being thin with an irrational fear of becoming overweight. Whereas with orthorexia, the main component is the desire to eat only those foods that are “healthy”; “clean” and “green”. Hence, in orthorexia the focus is on the quality of their food.
Orthorexia is most closely related to Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, APA, 2014). This disorder is on the rise but nobody knows just how widespread it is at this time.
Our food culture tends to enable this disorder. Fad diets and marketing play a big role in defining “healthy” for different people. Health food stores and even suburban supermarkets offer a variety of foods from gluten-free, free-range, organic, sugar free, fat free, GMO free, wheat free, and on and on… There’s something for every type of obsession. It’s important to learn about marketing ploys versus medical necessity and true healthcare.
Unfortunately, orthorexic diets can be lacking in key nutrients such as protein, iron, and B vitamins. But just as troubling is the skewed emphasis they put on food and its place in their lives.
The key question here is ‘what is healthy?’ Healthy, in the case of Orthorexia, becomes the culprit in a sense. What is healthy to one
individual differs from the definition of healthy to another.
Ask yourself the following questions. If you endorse two or more of the following, please contact Dr. Susie for a free 10-minute phone or Skype consultation.
Tips to end this internal battle:
If you recognize any of the above behaviors in yourself, seeking the help of
a medical professional should be your first step.
Reclaiming balance isn't easy, but some of these tips might help: