The Hidden Eating Disorder: Orthorexia

Orthorexia, or the obsession with eating healthy foods, is affecting more and more people today in our diet-crazed world. I wanted to touch on what it is and why it’s so important to understand because, unfortunately, so many women…I’d venture to say more than not…deal with orthorexia to some extent or another. I was one of those women. And I was in denial for years before I finally realized I had a problem with how I viewed food and sought help. 

Though orthorexia isn’t a diagnosable disorder in the DSM-5, it can be of major concern for those in the midst of it. But the scary thing is, people can oftentimes get by without knowing that they’re severely malnourished because of extreme restriction around foods and only a handful of foods that they feel comfortable eating. That’s why it can also be thought of as the “hidden eating disorder”.

It’s so highly praised in society today to be restrictive of foods. Take, for example, all of the fear-inducing documentaries that have come out recently about food, leading so many people to want to cut whole food groups from their diet…all out of fear. Or the new diets that come on the market every year, promising change but yielding no result. Our media raves about celebrities following this or that eating style and beg you to try their way and see if you’ll be as “successful”.

No wonder we have such a negative complex associated with food! No wonder we now have an up and coming new diagnosis of mental disorder termed “health-obsessed”! —sorry, that was a little heated, but this is a big deal and it saddens me so greatly that so many women (and men) are stuck in a health-obsessed mind.

There’s some attractive things about orthorexia. You feel in control, you feel empowered and elevated above others. But these seemingly positive things are no match for the negatives including poor social life (you feel uncomfortable eating anywhere you’re not familiar with), valuable mental space taken up by thoughts of what you’ll eat, poor mood (ultimate hangries), and ultimately poor nutrition from extreme restriction. Ironic isn’t it, that the basis of being health obsessed actually turns into a physical malnutrition.

So here’s some things to think about for yourself. 

Do you find yourself thinking constantly about food, planning your next meal, or stressing about your meal plan “going wrong”?

Do you avoid social outings where you’re not sure what’ll be on the menu.

Do you feel guilt for “giving in” to eating foods you didn’t plan on?

Do you feel a high from being in control on a diet?

It’s hard to live today without being influenced in some way, shape, or form to obsessive thoughts around being healthy. Like I said, I’ve been there. And the difficult thing is that oftentimes, people struggling with orthorexia believe that they’re doing everything right. And they are…if healthy meant being perfect about eating. But it doesn’t. Healthy has to include imperfection, otherwise it turns into obsession.

“Healthy has to include imperfection, otherwise it turns into obsession.”

I’m not saying that eating healthy foods is a bad thing. The issue lies when fear steps in and you stop trusting your body to do all the things it’s good at doing with food (things like your liver detoxing & your metabolism adjusting). It always goes back to trusting your body to take care of you, and being intuitive about eating.

So talk to me! What are your thoughts? Can you resonate? Have you found it difficult to live in today’s society and not be “health obsessed”?

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