Orthorexia is a dangerous eating disorder that you’ve probably never heard of. Orthorexia Nervosa includes those people who have an extremely unhealthy habit of eating healthy foods. While this may seem like a positive thing, orthorexia can be very harmful to your health in several ways. In this blog post, we will discuss orthorexia in detail to make you understand better about the disorder so that you can be aware of it and treat it effectively in case you are suffering from the problem.
What Is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia Nervosa is a form of phobia in which individuals become overly obsessed with their food’s nutrition. Individuals with orthorexia frequently believe that their sense of self-esteem is dependent on their ability to strictly adhere to a diet they view as good.
Orthorexia, unlike other eating problems, is more concerned with the nutritional value of meals than their quantity. People who suffer from orthorexia instead of anorexia or bulimia are preoccupied with meal quality rather than weight loss or being thin. They have an unhealthy preoccupation with the “purity” or “cleanliness” of their meals, as well as an obsession with the health benefits of nutritious eating.
Although there are no formal criteria for orthorexia, it does have certain traits and symptoms that the community recognizes worldwide:
- Experiencing unintentional malnutrition or weight loss due to severe limitations placed on their diet.
- Unable to deviate from a particular eating style or diet plan without feeling immense anxiety.
- Examining ingredient lists and nutritional labels compulsively.
- The crux of self-starvation despite having no medical, cultural, or ethical justification for doing so.
- Excessively long periods planning, purchasing, and preparing meals they believe to be healthy.
- Devoting attention to other people’s food choices or excessive interest in or criticism of others’ eating habits
- Spending an inordinate amount of time perusing menus or contemplating the meals served at events.
- Thinking that other people’s food wouldn’t live up to their standards of “healthy,” thus choose to prepare their meals and deliver pre-made meals to events.
- An unhealthy obsession to clean eating consists of adhering to a regimen of treating disease with food.
Although you may set out to improve your health merely as a first step, this focus can grow more obsessive. Orthorexia likely has a variety of causes, although researchers are still unsure exactly what causes it. Many factors have contributed to its growth. Risk factors for developing orthorexia are:
- Good intentions and an interest in supporting your health via food choices might lead to orthorexia over time.
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors and prior or current eating disorders are easily recognizable risk elements. Orthorexia may show up as a more “socially acceptable” method to restrict food in some situations.
- Other individual risk factors include striving for perfectionism, high anxiety, and a desire to dominate.
- Socioeconomic variables, including higher income and access to “clean” foods (e.g., organic produce), social media usage, and weight stigma or prejudice, are all linked with orthorexia-related behaviors.
- In universities, students who opt for health-related disciplines (such as nutrition and dietetics, biology, and kinesiology) may be more prone to exhibit orthorexia symptoms than others but it can happen to any student regardless of their major subject.
- Additionally, the increase in the promotion of “clean eating” cultures on social media may contribute to orthorexia. Clean eating is a philosophy that promotes whole, minimally processed foods as healthy. However, the phrase “clean eating” moralizes food by painting other dishes as “unclean” or undesirable. Food moralization stigmatizes certain meals and can lead to orthorexic tendencies.
However, because there is no established diagnostic tool for orthorexia, determining what puts someone at a higher risk is difficult. As a result, further study is necessary.
Orthorexia has been linked to a variety of adverse health consequences, which are generally divided into one of the three following categories:
- Orthorexia, which has only a few studies to its name, is likely to produce many of the same medical issues as eating disorders.
- An insufficient quantity of vital nutrients can result in malnourishment, anemia, or a dangerously slow heart rate if food intake is restricted.
- Major problems include a slew of issues, including digestion difficulties, electrolyte, and hormonal imbalances, metabolic acidosis, general debility, and a weakened immune system.
The physical difficulties listed above can be deadly, and they should not be disregarded.
- Orthorexia is a type of obsessive-compulsive eating that can drive people crazy. When their food-related routines are disturbed, orthorexics may become irritated.
- Furthermore, breaking individual dietary restrictions is likely to result in feelings of guilt and self-loathing, as well as a desire for “purification” through rigorous fasts.
- People who have orthorexia spend a lot of time analyzing if particular meals are “clean” or “pure” enough. This might include worries about vegetables’ pesticide exposure, and artificial flavors or preservatives.
- They may spend more time researching, cataloging, weighing, and measuring food or preparing future meals outside of meals.
People who are preoccupied with their weight may be less productive, participate in fewer social activities, and have a harder time having fun.
- When individuals with orthorexia consider quitting their perceived control over food, they become anxious or afraid.
- It might be tough to participate in social events centered around food, such as dinner parties or dining out, if you stick to a rigid diet.
- Intrusive food-related thoughts can complicate social interactions which give origin to a belief that their eating habits are superior to others.
- These symptoms can lead to social isolation, which is a typical occurrence among those who are struggling with orthorexia.
Hence, Orthorexia gives rise to the above-mentioned negative physical, psychological, and social side effects.
It’s uncertain whether orthorexia is a distinct eating malady, a variant of anorexia nervosa, or a subtype of OCD. However, there are many different diagnostic tools that healthcare professionals may employ to identify orthorexia. These include
- CORTO-15: The CORTO-15 is a 15-question screening tool that can be used to spot symptoms and behaviors associated with orthorexia. Diagnosis requires a score of 40 or higher.
- ORTO-R: The ORTO-R is a questionnaire that assesses orthorexia nervosa. This revised version of the ORTO-15 includes the six most significant questions regarding orthorexia symptoms and behaviors.
- BOT: The Bratman Orthorexia Test (BOT) is a 10-question questionnaire that includes “Yes/No” answers. The questions are geared toward obsessive food thinking, nutrition and health beliefs, restriction, and other themes. It isn’t widely used, though.
- EHQ: The Eating Habits Questionnaire (EHQ) is a 21-item questionnaire that measures knowledge, positive vs. negative feelings, and problem behaviors regarding healthy eating. However, researchers have recommended that it may be improved before it can serve as a reliable diagnostic tool for orthorexia.
Since every problem comes up with its solutions, likewise, there are remedies available to overcome orthorexia. You can seek aid easily. One needs to stick to the solutions which suit him the best and remain consistent towards it to get the desired benefit. In this regard, some helpful solutions are:
Self Help Strategies
You should possess the ability to identify that you are struggling with Orthorexia. If you don’t know the process, don’t worry. Some ideas are:
Think About Your Eating Style
Consider how your eating habits influence your life. Healthy eating is one thing, but having an inflexible diet is a different story. Having an unhealthy preoccupation with food, focusing on the goodness of specific meal selections, being critical of other people’s choices, having strict eating restrictions, limiting your food options to a select few “good” meals, and feeling great guilt or self-loathing if you deviate from your diet are all symptoms of orthorexia. Examine whether those close to you have expressed concern about your fixations or referred to you as “obsessed.”
Find Its Effect On Your Social Life
Your eating habits might jeopardize your social life and friendships if they are extremely rigid. You may not join your pals for lunch or decline dinner invites if you have several ‘black list’ foods, for example. If you’re struggling with orthorexia, consider what you can do to reconnect with your friends.
- Invite your friends and family to supper at your house.
- Avoid doing things that are directly related to food. Begin participating in social activities again after treatment has ended.
- Consider whether the people you know have been avoiding inviting you to activities in which you would normally participate. This might be because you pressure them into eating nutritious meals.
Analyze Your Exercise Routine
- Orthorexia is an eating disorder that focuses on healthy foods. Some people become preoccupied with fitness and exercise. Consider reducing the amount of time you work out if your regimen is rigorous and impacts other parts of your life. If you work out for two hours each day, consider cutting down to one hour each day as an example.
- If your workout is causing you pain but not assisting your body, consult a doctor to establish what restrictions to adhere to and what intensity level to utilize.
A major red flag is when you disregard your doctor’s restrictions or resume exercising before being medically ready to do so after an injury.
Modify What You Eat
- Remove your rigidity. Orthorexia includes rigid food rules. Perhaps you stick to a strict regimen that forbids you from eating certain things, or you only eat “clean” foods or specific colors of food. While revisiting your diet with new or ‘evil’ foods may be uncomfortable at first, start by adding one new item each week.
- You don’t have to dive headfirst into unhealthy meals like sweets, processed foods, or junk food. Begin slowly and gradually increase your intake as you feel more comfortable and still healthy.
- Add foods that scare you. Take a challenge and begin eating foods you’ve always avoided. This may be chocolate, sugar, or bagels for some people. For others, it might be fruit or dairy products. Take a little effort now and again to eat something you fear. Even if it’s just a few bites, it can help you get over your phobia.
- Make choices based on your wishes. People who have orthorexia make decisions based on what they eat. Learn to listen to your body’s signs, rather than rigid rules regarding what you should eat and when you should eat it. Eat when you are hungry, not when you are supposed to. Instead of following a rigid diet, consider asking yourself, “What would I want to have for breakfast?”
Talking about it with a significant other or a trusted family member or friend might help you begin the process of processing and identifying your body’s signs. Journaling may also be beneficial.
Face Difficulties And Move On
Those who suffer from orthorexia are prone to severe emotional distress and a loss of self-esteem when they violate the healthy eating “rules” they have set for themselves or cave to their cravings for food they believe is unhealthy.
Some people use orthorexia as an excuse to avoid addressing other issues. These might be painful emotions or contentious relationships. For instance, some individuals dive into alcohol and drug addiction, while others fixate on a certain thing and focus their lives around it. It may be time to get honest if you ignore your difficulties and concentrate only on food and pure eating instead of tackling them.
- Instead of fleeing from or denying your difficulties, take things one at a time. Consider if you’ve ever had obsessions about different things in the past. Addictions are known to change throughout a lifetime. For their thoughts on the matter, ask trusted friends or family.
- Accept your decision and move on if you feel guilty as a result of an unhealthy choice. Forgive yourself and recall that one ‘bad’ decision doesn’t define you, your self-esteem, or your identity.
- To relieve guilt, ask a trustworthy friend or family member to sit with you while you eat and talk with you afterward until the feeling passes. This might be a useful diversion strategy to get you back into regular eating habits.
These are some helpful methods that can help you alter your unhealthy obsession with eating habits and diet and thus improve your overall physical and emotional health.
To overcome the stress of Orthorexia, you have to alter your eating diet as well. Given below are some helpful ways to do that.
Get Some Blood Tests Done
Start working on your health by meeting with your doctor. Request a blood test to examine your nutritional health. This can guide you through any nutritional shortages or hormonal imbalances that you may have. Blood tests can reveal iron, vitamin, mineral, hormone, and cholesterol levels as well as information about your appetite hormones (Leptin).
If you haven’t eaten much fruit for a long time, your body may be lacking the nutrients it needs from vegetables, fats, and proteins. A blood test can aid in the process of correcting any deficiencies.
Consult A Dietician
If you’re not sure how many calories you need, talk to a dietitian. To assist you to balance your eating, work with a dietitian. Your dietitian may examine your eating habits and then make any necessary adjustments for optimum health. While making changes is difficult, keep in mind that a dietician is an expert who can assist you.
Make monthly appointments with a dietician and track your progress. You may see that after a while, you feel better as a result of your food choices.
Take Help Of A Therapist
Have a good hold on your sentiments as well. It will maintain your rationality and you won’t lose your emotional balance. This is the most important strategy to follow. Consultation with a therapist may help you to overcome this issue. You may want to discuss it with someone but at times you are not able to find a single person who can understand what you are going through. A psychotherapist may assist you in working through your emotions and developing a healthier relationship with food.
- They may prescribe you some medications to help with the extra symptoms of orthorexia. Medications are helpful to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety, and depression. Some individuals find that medications help treat related problems associated with orthorexia. If medications aren’t enough for you, work with a psychiatrist to see whether they’re an appropriate option for you.
- Therapists can help you deal with guilt and regret. You may feel overwhelmed by guilty when you stray from your pure lifestyle or rigorous daily routine. The foods you eat and the healthy way of life you lead may be linked to your feelings of self-worth or identity. Even if you occasionally stuff yourself with something bad, it’s fine to have a varied diet. What you put in your body is not who you are; rather, it’s in the foods that you avoid.
It’s generally believed that being mindful of the meals you consume and how they impact your health is a good thing. However, for some individuals, there is a thin line between nutritious eating and developing an eating problem. It’s conceivable that your emphasis on health has transformed into orthorexia if you believe your present healthy diet is negatively affecting your health, mental well-being, or social life.
This illness, like all other eating problems, has the potential to be deadly. It shouldn’t be taken lightly. Please be aware that help is available, and eating disorders can be treated. It’s critical to speak with a professional health care provider, such as a physician, psychologist, or registered dietitian.
You can try contacting Mantra Care. They have a team of therapists who provide various types of affordable online therapy to assist you with issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, and eating disorders. You can book your first online therapy or download their free Android or iOS app.