What the *bleep* is Orthorexia??

There is truth to the saying ‘Too much of anything can be bad for you.’ and believe it or not,  there are no exceptions….even when

Young woman eating salad --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Young woman eating salad — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

it comes to healthy eating. You read that correctly…Yup, I said it….you can have a healthy eating disorder known as Orthorexia.

In her Women’s Health article Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Goes Too Far, Dr. Lisa Petersen, Clinical Director, Eating Recovery Center of California asks:

Do you obsess over the quality or purity of foods you consume?
Do you avoid restaurants, family gatherings and other settings where you can’t eat healthy or “clean”?
Does the thought of eating “normal” food make you anxious or upset?
Does your ability to adhere to your strict eating regimen define your worth?

If you answered “yes” to one or all of the questions posed above, you may be at risk for—or suffering from—orthorexia. Orthorexia is an emerging pattern of disordered eating characterized by an extreme obsession with healthy eating and avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. 

Dr. Petersen goes on to say “While other eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are rooted in the quantity of food consumed (too little, too much, purging calories through vomiting, exercise or laxative abuse, etc.), orthorexia emphasizes the quality of food consumed. Eventually, a person’s diet becomes so restrictive to eliminate the so-called “bad” foods that it begins to affect physical, social and emotional well-being and overall quality of life.

While orthorexia may become a serious condition, it is not an official eating disorder diagnosis. However, like other clinically recognized eating disorders, orthorexia is not just about food. In general, eating disorders develop from a complex group of factors, including genetic propensity, temperament, external pressures and triggering life events.”

On the surface, orthorexia appears to be motivated by health. As a result, friends, loved ones and health care professions often overlook serious warning signs of this pattern of disordered eating, including:

  • Obsession with food cleanliness or purity
  • Increasing rigidity around what, when and how foods are consumed and prepared
  • Elimination of foods and entire food groups
  • Significant or rapid weight loss
  • Physical symptoms, including brittle nails, hair loss and pallid skin
  • Anxiety about eating
  • Atonement for “slip ups” through increased eating or exercise vigilance
  • Withdrawal from professional, educational, social or family activities and commitments in order to adhere to rigid diet protocols

As we strive for healthy living and eating, let us be mindful of this emerging disorder. No one is saying that you should abandon healthy eating, just remember that too much of anything can be bad for you. Stay balanced as we live a healthy & victorious life from Under our Brims.


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