When Healthy Eating Becomes Bad for You

Posted on March 22, 2017

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What is Orthorexia nervosa? It sounds like it would be related to anorexia nervosa, which is not wrong, but both eating disorders could not be more different. While anorexia is centered around an unhealthy restriction of food intake, orthorexia, a term coined by physician Steven Bratman in the 90s, is defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.

People with orthorexia nervosa restrict their diets so stringently that it often leads to inadequate nutrition and unbalanced food intake. In some severe cases, this could lead to weight loss and perhaps even malnutrition. They will spend large amounts of time everyday obsessing over the ingredients in their food, and they are very particular about the ways in which their food is prepared. While patients with bulimia and anorexia are concerned about how much they eat, patients with orthorexia are concerned about the quality of the food that they consume. However, being particular about food quality is not a clear distinguishing factor between orthorexia and other eating disorders. Rather, it is when this concern turns into a psychological obsession that this becomes orthorexia. People with orthorexia often avoid food with artificial ingredients such as artificial food colouring, preservatives or flavourings, genetically modified food or food that might contain remnants of pesticides. Weight is usually not an issue for them. This condition often starts from a mere wish to eat healthy and escalates to something more obsessive.

Eventually, their self-maintained views might cause them to feel a sense of superiority over others who are less concerned with the quality of the food they consume. Not only does orthorexia have the power to affect one’s physical well-being, but it can also affect other aspects of one’s life, such as one’s social or working life, for example. They may feel unnecessarily guilty when they consume food outside their highly restrictive limitations, and might not be able to tolerate those who do not share their views. Some could end up spending way too much money on food that is of a “higher quality”.

At present, statistics regarding the actual number of cases is not known, and methods of diagnosis often vary. Little research has been done on this lesser known eating disorder, and it is not technically recognised as an official psychiatric diagnosis in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. While it is not certain whether orthorexia nervosa will ever be technically recognised as a psychiatric disorder, obsessive behaviour of this nature should still be warned against and taken note of.


Category(s):Eating Disorders

Source material from Psychology Today


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