It’s important that you take steps to cut the junk from your life and start forming healthy eating habits. The only way you’ll lose weight, get in shape, and reduce your risk of disease is to make healthy choices, which takes a lot of hard work and dedication. You’re going to have to buckle down and be aware of everything you put into your body. Only then will you eliminate junk food and add only healthy food to your diet.
But, like everything else, there is “too much of a good thing”. While paying attention to your food choices is vital for a healthy body, you can become overly fixated on healthy eating to the point of obsession. When this happens, you may be on the path to developing orthorexia nervosa.
What is Orthorexia Nervosa?
Coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997, Orthorexia Nervosa describes people who have a pathological fixation on eating healthy or “pure” food as a means of losing weight, overcoming chronic illnesses or improving general health. It’s more than just placing importance on the healthy eating; it crosses over into the realm of obsession.
Although it’s not medically recognized, this particular kind of mental disorder is essentially an unhealthy fixation on eating healthy foods. Bratman believes that Orthorexia Nervosa is similar to the eating disorders such asanorexia and bulimia. While anorexics and bulimics focus on the quantity of food, an orthorexic fixates on the quality of food.
The problem with this disorder is that it actually begins with good intentions. You try to eat only healthy food, a habit that is EXCELLENT for you. You eliminate most of the junk from your life, try to eat as raw and natural as you can, and ensure that your diet is as healthy as possible.
But over time it begins to become a fixation for you. You can’t NOT eat healthy, or else you will feel bad, guilty, or ashamed. When you experience these negative emotions associated with your food intake, you’ve crossed into a danger zone.
What Causes the Problem?
There are many things that could cause eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and orthorexia. The “healthy eating-obsessed” environment in which we live definitely contributes to the problem. Lifelong obesity or a desire for weight loss can also increase your risk of fixation on a pathological need to eat healthy. Many people are naturally predisposed to taking things to an extreme, and many of them end up suffering from eating disorders, alcoholism, or substance abuse. Obsessive and compulsive tendencies can also increase your risk of developing a problem like orthorexia nervosa.
- Adopting a diet that is entirely made up of raw food (uncooked raw vegetables, fruits and legumes) or adhering to a fruitarian diet (consuming only fruits, tomatoes and cucumbers)
- Obsession with healthy eating
- Lecturing family and friends on the virtues of adopting a “pure diet”
- Unable to eat meals anywhere else but his or her own home
All of these things are symptoms of the real problem: the fixation or obsession in your mind. In moderation, all of these things are actually healthy. Eating raw food, adhering to a healthy diet, encouraging others to eat healthy, and eating only food you prepare can help you to make the switch to a healthy diet and lifestyle. But if they go too far, you cross a line into the danger zone that is eating disorders.
What happens if you let the orthrexia nervosa continue?
- Can lead to isolation, rigidity, and alienation
- False sense of superiority
- Emaciated appearance due to a lack of a balanced, nutritional diet
There has been no research done as to whether or not there is a biological cause specific to orthorexia nervosa. The most susceptible sufferers are middle-class, well-educated people who read about food scares in the papers, research them on the Internet and have the time and money to discover what they believe to be better food alternatives. Dr. Bratman believes that treatment for orthorexics is possible through the advocating of alternative diet choices.