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A Diet Too Healthy For Your Own Good – Orthorexia

 

In a society that is obsessed with weight and the new health food craze, it’s a small wonder that so many people are eating much healthier. However, some people are plagued with an obsession to be the healthiest and the purest, and to let foods become their identity. They suffer from a condition called orthorexia nervosa, an eating condition where people become fixated on the obsession to eat healthily, to the point where it becomes both physically and psychologically detrimental. These effects are often similar to those afflicted with bulimia or anorexia, and range from heightened fear and anxiety disorders, to insomnia and dangerously low BMIs.

Orthorexics often start out on a seemingly innocent attempt at eating healthier and managing their food intake. However, it often stems from a deeper sense of longing for control, escape from fears, body perfection, avoidance of poor health, and/or the intent to create an identity. Orthorexia often begins to manifest when people cut out entire food groups that are essential to a nutritionally balanced diet; such as removing dairy, meats, eggs, gluten, and any fat. Naturally, the obsessive nature of this disorder leads people to an isolated lifestyle – their lives begin to revolve around planning out their diet, exercise regimen, and punishing themselves if they fall off their strict diet. Unsurprisingly, these behaviors lead to serious health consequences for those orthorexics.

As with any eating disorder, sufferers are prone to immense physical and psychological stress. By removing food groups, people often damage or weaken nerve tissue and deplete the skin’s health reserve, as well as trigger unnecessary stress hormones. Other serious physical side effects include extreme weight loss and dangerously low BMIs, insomnia, depleted energy, lost appetites, and malnourishment. The psychological effects are just as severe; including anxiety, depression, and increased fear and obsessive-compulsive behavior.  In addition, people lose the ability to eat intuitively –they lose the ability to recognize hunger or the feeling of being full. These behaviors that flourish in isolation lead to further isolation, and increased paranoia about people commenting on their weight and/or behaviors.  Unfortunately, orthorexia seems to be easier to hide or explain than other eating disorders.

Unlike anorexia and bulimia, the behaviors of orthorexics are more socially explicable. For instance, people can explain their restricted eating by explaining that they are attempting to eat healthier. While they believe this, others often congratulate them for taking that step – leading them further into the pit of despair and obsession. It is difficult for anorexics to explain why they starve themselves, why bulimics force themselves to purge to a “normal” person. However, orthorexia is based on the obsession with health rather than weight, making it easier to deflect questions and concern. Fortunately, there are treatments that are available.

Orthorexia is a complicated behavioral disorder, yet there is still treatment available. During treatment, orthorexics are taught how to eat a nutritionally healthy diet without the obsessive qualities running their lives. They are also taught how to define themselves by more than their food intake, and encouraged to explore the other areas of their lives that they may have been avoiding by diving headfirst into compulsive eating. All in all, recovery from orthorexia is possible. In order to encourage this we need to become more proficient in recognizing the warning signs, and encourage people to seek help if they are suffering.  That way, we will begin to move forward and help eliminate the numbers of those who may be suffering from this disorder.

 

Works Cited:

Bailey, Ashley. My Battle with Orthorexia. 24 March 2013. 3 April 2013 <http://www.bodhi-life.com/2013/03/my-battle-with-orthorexia.html>.

Iserloh, Jennifer. Orthorexia: Taking healthy eating to a whole new level. 24 March 2013. 3 April 2013 <http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/03/24/>.

Kratina, Karin. Orthorexia Nervosa. n.d. 3 April 2013 <http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa>.

 

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A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Addiction, Conditions and Disorders, Research, Treatment · Tags: anorexia, anorexia nervosa, anxiety, BMI, bulimia, bulimia nervosa, depression, despair, eating disorder, fear, health, healthy diet, Hunger, insomnia, isolation, obsession, obsessive compulsive disorder, orthorexia, orthorexia nervosa, restricted eating, Treatment, Weight