Clean Eating

Most people have heard of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or even binge eating disorder, but something such as orthorexia does not even appear in the DSM-V. Orthorexia is the unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food or “clean eating.” Many people may suffer from this condition and not even know it; doctors have trouble diagnosing it in the first place.

Like all eating disorders, orthorexia is never just about the food; mental health always plays a role in pathological eating behaviors. People with orthorexia are obsessed with eating healthy food. They may get these ideas from diet fads, social media trends or word of mouth.

One example of a diet followed by people with orthorexia is eating only fruits and vegetables. The idea of eating anything else is just not an option for them. Even sugar may lead someone with orthorexia to believe that they will develop diabetes. Another common belief is that anything that is not “clean” may disease the body.

Consequences of orthorexia include poor body image, social isolation, malnutrition and mental distress. A poor body image is due to the idea that “unclean food” harms the body. Social isolation may be due to the fact that people with orthorexia may not want to be around others who do not eat healthy, or may not want to reveal their eating habits to others.

Malnutrition can obviously also be a problem if the diet is not complete. But it is thought that orthorexia does not have to do with the concern for weight loss, but more about being healthy, pure and demonstrating high moral standards. It may present in people who are perfectionists or who demonstrate obsessive-compulsive traits.

It’s not difficult to understand why orthorexia would cause mental distress. Any obsession with a behavioral eating pattern is stressful to begin with: one’s thought process, perception, self-esteem and ways of being are altered. Many people with the condition know that something is different or even wrong with their eating habit, bringing upon feelings of guilt and insecurity.

If you suspect anyone of having orthorexia, you should always listen to what they have to say, without being judgmental. Any sign of judgment from your part and you will drive them away. Always be caring and compassionate; demonstrating empathy should be one of your greatest tools. You want to develop a strong alliance, not push them away into isolation.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)


8 Replies to “Orthorexia”

      1. Absolutely. It started as veganism until I eventually cut out all bread, pasta and rice as well because the process of choosing the “healthiest” kind of carb became too overwhelming. I essentially ate only fruit and vegetable, sometimes legumes. No sauces unless they were “pure” and natural. Mealtimes became ritualistic and if I made something that was less than satisfactory, my anxiety would spike because I would feel like it was a waste of a meal. I was insatiable, always hungry and always thinking of food. Sugar equivalent to poison, I was convinced that I could feel the “sugar particles” tingling in my blood and body, doing harm. What kind of harm? No idea, I just knew it was bad. My weight loss was a side effect as my main goal was to become “pure”. I developed an inflated sense of almost superhuman ness- I wanted to be ethereal and i though the way to get there was through what I put in my body. I became profoundly socially anxious and at the same time, profoundly lonely and alone. I wouldn’t wish Orthorexia on my worst enemy. But it’s so difficult to recover from due to the way society idolizes “wellness” and “clean eating”. Recovery from Orthorexia means unlearning everything we have been taught about food and nutrition and actively challenging the problematic messages we receive through media and educational systems.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am doing much better now. This was in my early twenties and i moved back in with parents. My mom took full control of what I ate. Once I started to put on weight have adequate nutrition, my anxiety around said food began to get quieter and I began thinking more rationally. After I first gained 30 lbs, I then entered psychotherapy. I don’t know that I would have benefitted from psychotherapy at the weight that I was and with such a malnourished brain. My experience very much taught me what health is and isn’t. I still struggle some days especially when I feel physically bloated or when I am stressed and my appetite is confusing. But it doesn’t invade my mind for chronic, long periods of time anymore and I have more room in my life for my relationships and career.

        Liked by 1 person

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