Orthorexia Nervosa

When Healthy Eating Becomes Unhealthy

Orthorexia Nervosa what is.orthorexia what is orthorexia nervosa

Eating healthy is a good thing, right?

We all know that eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can improve our physical and mental health, prevent diseases, and make us feel better.

But what if eating healthy becomes an obsession?

What if eating healthy causes more harm than good?

Orthorexia nervosa is not yet recognized as an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, but it is a serious condition that affects many people around the world.

Orthorexia nervosa is characterized by an extreme fixation on eating “pure” and avoiding “bad” foods. People with orthorexia nervosa may have rigid rules about what they can and cannot eat, and may experience anxiety, guilt, or shame when they break those rules. They may also isolate themselves from social situations that involve food, or judge others for their food choices.

It’s different from other eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, in that the main goal is not to lose weight or change one’s body shape, but rather to achieve a perceived ideal of health and purity. However, orthorexia nervosa can have similar consequences as other eating disorders, such as malnutrition, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, dental problems, osteoporosis, heart problems, and even death.

What Causes Orthorexia Nervosa?

There is no single cause, but rather a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Some of the possible risk factors include:

  • Having a history of dieting or disordered eating
  • Having a perfectionist or obsessive personality
  • Having low self-esteem or body image issues
  • Having a history of trauma or abuse
  • Having a chronic illness or a family history of illness
  • Being exposed to media or social media messages that promote certain diets or lifestyles
  • Being influenced by celebrities or influencers who endorse certain diets or products
  • Being part of a culture or community that values health and wellness
  • Having a lack of knowledge or education about nutrition and health

How to Recognize Orthorexia Nervosa?

It can be hard to recognize, especially in a society that encourages and praises healthy eating. However, there are some signs and symptoms that can indicate that someone may have orthorexia nervosa. Some of them are:

  • Spending excessive time and energy on planning, preparing, and researching food
  • Following strict rules or rituals around food and eating
  • Eliminating entire food groups or categories from one’s diet
  • Feeling anxious, guilty, or ashamed when deviating from one’s diet
  • Avoiding eating out or socializing with others who do not share one’s dietary beliefs
  • Being overly critical or judgmental of others’ food choices
  • Basing one’s self-worth on one’s adherence to one’s diet
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, hair loss, skin problems, digestive issues, or menstrual irregularities

How to Treat?

Orthorexia nervosa can be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, nutrition counseling, and medical care. The goals of treatment are to:

  • Restore one’s physical health and nutritional status
  • Challenge and change one’s distorted thoughts and beliefs about food and health
  • Develop a more flexible and balanced approach to eating
  • Improve one’s self-esteem and body image
  • Enhance one’s social skills and relationships

Some of the specific types of treatment that can help with orthorexia nervosa are:

  • Family-based therapy (FBT), which involves the participation of family members in the treatment process and helps restore normal eating patterns
  • Nutrition counseling, which provides education and guidance on healthy eating and nutrition
  • Medical care, which monitors and addresses any physical complications or co-existing medical conditions

How to Prevent Orthorexia Nervosa?

It can be prevented by promoting a positive and realistic attitude towards food and health. Some of the ways to prevent orthorexia nervosa are:

  • Educate yourself and others about the dangers of orthorexia nervosa and the benefits of balanced eating
  • Seek professional help if you or someone you know shows signs of orthorexia nervosa
  • Avoid following fad diets or extreme dietary regimes that are not based on scientific evidence
  • Limit your exposure to media or social media messages that promote unrealistic or unhealthy standards of health and beauty
  • Cultivate a diverse and supportive social network that values you for who you are, not for what you eat
  • Engage in hobbies and activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, not stress and anxiety
  • Practice gratitude and appreciation for your body and its abilities, not criticism and comparison

Orthorexia nervosa is a condition that involves an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. It can have serious consequences for one’s physical and mental health, as well as one’s social and emotional well-being. Orthorexia nervosa can be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, nutrition counseling, and medical care. Orthorexia nervosa can also be prevented by adopting a positive and realistic attitude towards food and health.

If you think you or someone you love may have orthorexia nervosa, please seek professional help as soon as possible.

You are not alone, and you deserve to live a happy and healthy life!