When Healthy Becomes a Dangerous Obsession: Exploring Orthorexia

othorexia

We’re all familiar with the term ‘clean eating’ and know how important it is to eat the right foods in the right balance, no matter what our eating regime or diet plan is. But what if this turns into an obsession that becomes out of control? Experts are now seeing a distinct rise in the number of people suffering from a condition called Orthorexia Nervosa and with it, a fixation on so called ‘self-righteous eating’.

Exploring Orthorexia

Someone with this condition will become obsessed with the quality and purity of their food, they may avoid eating out, or anything that anyone else other than themselves has touched.

Whatever diet plan or eating regime you’re following, whether young or old, getting the right balance of nutrients is important in maintaining good health for everyone.

However, the Orthorexia sufferer will go the opposite way and become very restricted in the types of foods they will eat – often turning to a raw food diet, or one that restricts many forms of good quality proteins and micronutrients needed for healthy living. Jordan Younger, blogger and founder of ‘The Balanced Blonde’ was one such sufferer, whose vegan diet became so restrictive that her periods stopped and she became fearful of eating anything with protein in it, calling eggs her ‘fear food’.

The Orthorexic Diet

As we’ve seen, despite their obsession with health and clean living, the diet of the Orthorexic can be very lacking. The condition also spills out into other areas of life too, meaning that the sufferer may become very socially isolated, withdrawn or depressed. As their obsession increases, their physical health will suffer too, with women reporting that their periods cease, their hair starts to fall out and their teeth and nails become brittle and break easily.

Side Effects of the Condition

Sufferers may end up unaware or unable to identify any of their own physical feelings towards food:

  • They may not recognize when they are hungry
  • They may not recognize when they are full
  • If they fall off the wagon and eat anything they consider to be impure, their urges to become stricter in only eating pure food will grow stronger

Treatment

Treatment for more severe cases of the condition can involve inpatient therapy and counseling, combined with anti-anxiety medications and an eating plan that will slowly reintroduce missing nutrients, proteins and minerals into the diet that have previously been cut out. It’s a highly treatable illness that has a good recovery rate.

Contributed by Jess Walter, Freelance Writer