Orthorexia Nervosa: When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

Orthorexia Nervosa: When Healthy Eating Becomes an ObsessionHave you ever wondered if it is a little obsessive of those individuals who eat healthy?  Not just healthy, but really, really healthy all the time?  While it may not be obsessive to constantly eat healthy no matter the situation, it is considered to be a condition which affects otherwise healthy individuals who have an extreme fixation on healthy eating.  If this is something that you think may be affecting you or someone you know, the term you are going to want to understand more of is called orthorexia nervosa.

What is Orthorexia Nervosa?

The moniker of this condition has a very close resemblance of other eating disorders, but the difference is in these disorders, or conditions, they will not cause malnourishment, at least not to the full extent of the others.  While orthorexia nervosa is not listed as an official eating disorder, it is very similar to other eating conditions such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia [1].  Similar to these other conditions, orthorexia nervosa is a condition by which healthy individuals fixate about calories consumed in order to stay healthy.  However, true “orthorexics” typically do not obsess about losing weight or being thin.

How is Orthorexia a Problem?

One of the biggest issues with being orthorexic is when you can no longer eat out at a restaurant.  Also, individuals with orthorexia nervosa are so fixated on healthy and clean eating that sometimes eating an advertised “fresh” meal is not good enough.  Someone with orthorexia nervosa would refer to “fresh” food as fresh as picking it off a vine, plant, or bush and eating it within hours.  Now what restaurant can offer this level of freshness?  Not many, regardless of what they advertise.  Listed below are some signs of someone with orthorexia nervosa.  Take a look through the list to see if some of your habits are listed.

Common Signs of Orthorexia Nervosa

  • Unbalanced Diet. Some of the concerns with being orthorexic are that someone with this condition will typically eat an unbalanced diet because he or she has issues with the purity of the food being consumed [2].
  • Avoiding Foods. Individuals with orthorexia nervosa are observed to avoid foods that contain unhealthy ingredients such as foods with any fat, preservatives, additives, or any additional non-natural products found in common foods.
  • Constant thinking about your diet. Those with orthorexia nervosa spend the majority of the day thinking about their diet.  In fact, individuals can spend around three hours every day thinking and obsessing about their diets [3].  This can involve planning meals several days in advance (more than just the typical meal planning many families perform every week) and the constant obsessing of meals that will come ahead.
  • Nutritional Value. What is more important when you eat your dinner: the nutritional value or the joy you receive from eating it?  If you do not have orthorexia nervosa, you will answer that the joy of eating or the flavor of eating is what you crave most on a majority of days.
  • Decreased Quality of Life. There is a relationship with the quality of life you live and the overall quality of your diet.  If you feel like your quality of life is falling and your quality of diet is increasing, then you may be affected.  Find that happy medium and assess your eating behaviors to determine if orthorexia nervosa is something which affects you.
  • Do you feel guilty when you stray from your strict diet?  If you answer yes on most days, then you too could be affected from this condition.

While orthorexia nervosa is not an official diagnosis you can get from your doctor, it is something from which you can discuss with a therapist or your doctor.  If you feel that you are leading an overly obsessive lifestyle inclusive with a very strict diet, consider talking this over with your doctor, therapist, or qualified healthcare practitioner.



[2] http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/health/orthorexia/

[3] http://www.eufic.org/

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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