Understanding orthorexia nervosa, healthy food eating disorder

There was a time when people used to count calories and reduce their food intake so that the weighing machine doesn’t give them a heartache. In their quest to be in the pink of health, people are more inclined to eating healthy food these days.  

Eating healthy is the smartest way to stay healthy. However, excess of anything is bad and this holds completely true for eating healthy food as well. In order to be as healthy as possible, people often establish an unhealthy relationship with eating habits, which leads to a new kind of eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa.

Disorder common in US

Orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder found in those who have an extreme level of obsession with eating healthy food. The term has been derived from two Greek words – ‘ortho,’ implying straight or right and ‘orexia,’ meaning appetite. Although orthorexia nervosa is yet to be recognized as an eating disorder, its prevalence has been reported in a large portion of the U.S. population.

Orthorexia nervosa develops when people start following a strict and restricted diet. Being too obsessed with eating the right kind of food, people with the disorder begin eliminating bad fats, and calories, and start focusing on consumption of fruits and vegetables. Eating food items with artificial colors, salt, sugar and dairy products is a big no for them. This approach towards eating soon starts taking a toll on their health. Besides, it impacts their social life as they limit themselves to enjoying only their relationship with eating healthy food.

Patients of orthorexia nervosa tend to be more isolated

As compared to a person with anorexia nervosa who is obsessed with not gaining extra weight, a person with orthorexia nervosa is obsessed with keeping himself clean and pure. Such a person makes sure that he sticks to a healthy diet. Owing to their strict diet, people with orthorexia nervosa tend to be more isolated and avoid mingling in social groups, which in turn leads to their higher anxiety level, mood swings and panic attacks.

People with the disorder are prone to divide the food items into good and bad. They ensure that they eat only those items that fall into good category as this gives them a sense of pride. Moreover, they even distance themselves from people who are not into healthy eating. Their fear of eating impure food keeps them away from sharing food with others. They plan their own diet, spend a lot of time reading about the right kinds of food and even detox themselves on a regular basis.

Effects of orthorexia nervosa

One of the major issues concerning people with orthorexia nervosa is that they consider others to be inferior. The might start giving less importance to their family and friends as they are too engrossed with their dietary plans and patterns. Restricting the diet also leads to a poor nutritional intake, which in turn leads to heavy weight loss and malnutrition.

Way to recovery

A person with orthorexia nervosa interprets healthy eating in an entirely different way. Therefore, it is crucial to make him understand that there’s a fine line between eating healthy and being excessively obsessed about it. Such people need to be educated about the basic nutritional requirements of human body, necessary food intake, etc. Psychological factors leading to this disorder should also be carefully handled in a way that they begin considering food as a part of their life and not life itself.

Professional help is the best remedy to cure this disorder. If you or a loved one is battling any kind of eating disorder or mental illness, contact our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for clinical assistance. You may contact us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online to speak with a mental health specialist.