Orthorexia has only been a term since 1996, coined by Dr. Steven Bratman, a physician working with those suffering from eating disorders. Orthorexia is the unhealthy obsession with the purity, quality, and health benefits of one’s food that goes to dangerous extremes and well beyond the desire to eat healthily.
Sarah Shew, food blogger @biteoffmorethanyoucanshew, describes the process of how one can so easily go from being conscious of their dietary choices to obsessed. “I was training for a marathon and began keeping track of what I ate. It got to the point where I couldn’t go a day without writing every single calorie down. I stressed about going out for dinner with friends because I’d become so anxious worrying there wouldn’t be anything I could eat (by my own extreme definition). My all-consuming focus on food literally took over my life.
A friend brought it to my attention when she witnessed me logging my lunch meticulously in my app. She commented on how much time, energy, and effort I spent tracking my food and exercise. I was embarrassed and it really opened my eyes to the fact that this had gotten out of hand and become a real problem. It was creating the exact opposite feeling from what I’d hoped to achieve. I finally realized it wasn’t making me healthier. It was making me incessantly stressed and causing me to miss out on my life.”
Shew posts both healthy and decadent plant-based recipes on her blog. She reports it’s still a struggle every day, but she now approaches food from the point of view of how it makes her feel instead of how few calories and how much nutritional content the dish contains.
- Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
- Is it beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared by someone else and not try to control the ingredients?
- Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
- Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and judge others for the foods they consume?
What Should You Do If You Believe You Might Be Orthorexic?
Seek help from a professional who has experience working with individuals afflicted with eating disorders, specifically orthorexia. And NEDA points out, as is true with any problem, that the first step is admitting you have a problem. Wick takes the approach of food being fuel and coaching those living with this that food is also to be enjoyed. “At times it means eating with them and discussing feelings and brainstorming a variety of food options that feel comfortable to them. Often, the strictness of their particular ‘healthy’ eating has caused them to be malnourished in a certain macronutrient or a variety of micronutrients. Almost all will need some sort of professional counseling to see what the underlying cause of this need to have what we are eating define our mood and behaviors—anxiety, perfectionism, low self-esteem are all common. It’s often a slow process because there’s a fine line between eating healthy and being obsessed.”
By Lara Falberg
- A Growing Obsession For Clean Eating Is Taking New Dangerous Heights. - February 3, 2018
- Chunkie Dunkies + Dina’s Gourmet: The Keto Diet Gold Duo. - January 25, 2018
- Thinking AboutAdult Braces? Everything You Need to Know Before Deciding. - December 15, 2017