Orthorexia is a term coined by Dr. Steve Bratman describing an obsessively healthy diet. This may include fixating on certain foods or ingredients as bad or impure. Those who struggle are not motivated by being thin but with eating what they believe to be healthy. Though it is an unrecognized diagnosis, it falls into the category of eating disorder NOS. Orthorexia, like other forms of eating disorders, leads to a decrease in quality of life due to time spent focused on food, obsession about food, and rigid rules about eating. Most who struggle with any kind of eating disorder do not think they have a problem. Only 1 in 10 who have an eating disorder receive treatment?
Who is at risk?
Those who are struggling with their identity, purpose, and self-worth are at risk. Most eating disorders begin between ages 12 to 25.
Family eating habits, such as not eating home cooked meals together or parents regularly on a diet have led many individuals to no longer know what is normal eating. Typically, those with more perfectionist personalities are at risk as they struggle to deal with stressors in life and begin feeling that many parts of life are out of their control. Frequently, they have friends who are focused on body image and are dieting or talking about methods for controlling their weight. This leads to feeling one has to pretend to be more put together than they are to others and/or difficulty showing emotions. Magazines, television and other media may cause anxiety and fear of how certain foods affect the body.
Others at risk are those who try to diet, get caught in an obsessive cycle which leads to extreme dieting practices.
How does it begin?
Any kind of eating disorder can start with one trying to have a healthier diet. The line gets crossed when it becomes an obsession; when a good day or bad day depends on what one ate or how much they exercised.
What does it exhibit?
- Decreased in social interaction (thoughts about food intrude on relationships)
- Cycling through emotional extremes
- Obsessing about food
- Self worth based on one’s eating practices
- More pleasure out of eating “correctly” rather than enjoying the experience of eating
- Feeling extreme guilt for eating foods that are not on one’s mental “healthy” food list
- What or how one eats gives them a sense of achievement and control