Orthorexia: An Obsession with Eating Healthfully

Orthorexia is becoming a common point of discussion in the eating disorder (ED) field, and the debate may lead to the question, “can you be too healthy?” That’s not exactly the right question. Being “healthy” is a matter of balance. If a person is engaging in orthorexic behaviors, a form of obsession and restriction, they have already crossed into disordered behavior. Therefore, the right question is, “can you be too preoccupied with your health and the quality of your food?”

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What is orthorexia?

BlueBerries-copyOrthorexia is an obsession and a fixation on eating healthfully. There is an intense focus on food quality and purity, and there may be self-imposed punishment if any dietary mistakes are made. The self-esteem of a person struggling with orthorexia may be tied to their sense of diet purity, which often results in feelings of superiority. Orthorexia is often described as a “fixation on righteous eating” where the ultimate goal or preoccupation is health, not thinness. Diet purity is achieved by repeatedly washing food before it is eaten and by restricting ingredients that may pose potential harm such as foods with artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, pesticides, unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, or foods that have been genetically modified. These dietary restrictions can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health complications. People with orthorexia feel the need to prepare all the food they eat and will refuse to eat food prepared by others. They are often socially isolated because of their obsession, their search for diet purity taking precedence over relationships with family and friends.

Treatment and Recovery

Carrots01CopyIt is important to note that “orthorexia” is a term of convenience that describes a specific set of behaviors and characteristics, but it is not an officially recognized DSM diagnosis. However, an individual can seek treatment for these behaviors, and their best chance of recovery is through a professional eating disorder treatment facility. A New Journey Eating Disorder Center has years of experience treating eating disorders, and we work constantly to stay abreast of new findings in ED diagnosis. We have many clients that display orthorexic patterns, and our nutrition program is carefully tailored to help individuals establish a healthy relationship with food. Clients learn about the body’s natural processes for metabolizing and gaining nourishment from food, they learn the importance of meal planning and portion sizes, they are taught to be mindful of their bodies, and are given practical skills they can use to continue their recovery once they return home. If you or a loved one is suffering, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. We’re available 24/7 at 800.634.1733 or info@anewjourney.net.