With each of us concerned about the obesity epidemic, a strict adherence to a healthy diet seems to be a welcoming thing. But, when this adherence becomes an obsession, it is a matter of utmost concern. Known as orthorexia (emerging disordered eating pattern), people with this obsession stay away from food that is not “pure”, avoid foods once they loved to eat (this is common among women), start skipping family meals or dinners outside and are extremely hesitant to eat a meal which has not been prepared with their own hands.
Though introduced in the 90s, orthorexia has been gaining popularity in the recent years because of food marketing gimmicks for organic foods along with hyped dietary instructions by the media. In orthorexia, unlike anorexia nervosa, quality and not quantity of food is of utmost concern. Coming across the word anorexia nervosa for the first time? Know what it is all about from the website www.firsteatright.com.
Although the goal of orthorexia is to become healthier initially, the intention becomes extreme such that the person does not touch any food that does not carry the organic or whole food label in it. These people also avoid everything processed, from white flour to sugar. Even whole-grain bread which is healthy and full of fiber is not consumed as it has been processed in some way.
While orthorexics don’t fear putting on weight as in the case of an anorexic, characteristics of obsession and the progressive nature of the disorder is similar. They slowly start eliminating food groups starting with dairy or grains. Gradually they chop off yet another food group, and another, with the motive of following a “perfectly clean” healthy diet. Eventually, orthorexia leads to malnourishment as many critical nutrients are eliminated from the diet.
Orthorexics Don’t Have a Healthy Relationship with Food
Sharing leads to bonding between people in the society. But orthorexics find family meals to be a minefield as they are extremely anxious of the method of food preparation and don’t find it to be pure. When someone exhibits increased signs of anxiety around foods because they are not consuming what they want to eat or the amount that they want to eat, these are sure signs of orthorexia.
While most of us enjoy eating food, people suffering from orthorexia don’t feel the same with good food and are far away from a healthy relationship with food. Such people feel blessed when they eat foods that they feel safe or neat and can yield to self-loathing and anxiety when they deviate from their self-imposed extreme diet restrictions.
Battling Against Orthorexia
People suffering from orthorexia need professional help as early as possible which can otherwise lead to serious mental and physical health consequences. If you suspect someone to be affected by this disorder, it is best recommended that you advise the person to meet a therapist, at least for a one-time consultation. Don’t put out the statement bluntly, but take care to keep it as polite as possible. Something like, “Why don’t you talk to someone to confirm that this is normal” would be far better than “You must meet the therapist immediately.”
Orthorexics are like the half-filled bucket. They neither have complete understanding about food and nutrition nor are they unaware of it totally. These people have knowledge about food and food science from sources such a magazines, blogs and videos that might not be authentic. Registered dietitian nutritionists deal such patients with one simple but worthy question which asks the client to mention the list of things that they miss out because of self-imposed eating rules such as these. RDNs further feel that these people may succumb to isolation if the disorder is not treated immediately.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.