Orthorexia Nervosa – Is it Really a Disorder?

You probably knew that healthy eating is one of the best way to get fit and prevent serious diseases. You won’t be hearing health tips that suggests otherwise. The media, medical field, your family and the society as a whole advices you to eat good foods all the time. After all, who would like to have an unhealthy life?

However, too much of everything may not always seem good especially with regards to eating. Yes, there are dozens of eating disorders that you might probably not aware of. What’s worst is that, you probably showing some signs of these disorders without you noticing it.

I am talking about Orthorexia Nervosa, it is defined as an obsession or fixation on righteous eating. People with orthorexia highly follows an extreme dieting regimen which highly avoids perceived unhealthy foods. Like other eating disorders, orthorexia may lead to severe malnutrition or even death. Let’s take a deeper look into this topic.

History of Orthoroxia Nervosa

steve bratman

Dr. Steve Bratman

The term “orthorexia nervosa” is from Greek origin “orthos”, meaning correct or right, while “orexis” means appetite. Combining these two words you will get “Correct Appetite”. The idea about this condition was first introduced by Dr. Steven Bratman, basically from his own research on eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa.

Bratman explains that orthorexic people suffers from specific preferences of different foods, selecting only those that they know as “healthy foods“. So these people are so choosy with regards to foods, avoiding most types of foods that are perceived to contribute to weight gain or could give disease.

Most known bad foods such as fats, commercial foods, processed foods, preservative-based foods, foods with additives and even animal eating are all avoided by an individual suffering from orthorexia nervosa. So unlike Anorexia and Bulimia eating disorders which are focused on quantity of food consumption, orthorexia is highly different condition.

What is more alarming is that, each of us are prone to develop orthorexia. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, both of which are focused to get thin, orthorexia can develop to people without aiming to get slim. In short, health conscious individuals that just wants to be healthy and naturally fit have higher probability of developing this condition.

Although this condition is similar or related to eating disorders, many experts believed that Orthorexia is a mental disorder.

How to Identify if you are Orthorexic?

Since the condition is focused on being healthy, orthorexic individuals have more underlying beliefs that includes fear of poor health, improving self-esteem, inner-peace through foods, getting an identity through dieting and even weight loss. The National Eating Disorders (NEDA), through an article by Dr. Karin Kratina, compiled a simple self-analysis to determine if you are dealing  with orthorexia.

  • Do you wish to just eat occasionally and not worry about the quality of food?
  • Do you like to spend less time on food and lots of time on life?
  • Does it sound beyond your ability to eat foods cooked by someone else – one single meal and not try to control what is served?
  • Are you consistently analyzing foods that you think unhealthy for you?
  • Do love, joy, play and other activities take a backseat to achieve perfect diet?
  • Do you feel guilty when you stray from your diet?
  • Do you feel you are in control when you eat your ideal diet?
  • Do you think you are on a nutritional diet and wonder how other people eat the foods they eat?

If your answers to these questions are yes, then you are already dealing with orthorexia.

So What’s Wrong with Healthy Diet?

orthorexia nervosa

Image credit: www.sheknows.com

You are probably confused by now how a healthy diet could be considered as a disorder. Dr. Bratman states that orthorexia is an unhealthy eating habit which can cause nutritional deficiencies dependent on the individual’s preferred foods. Since Dr. Bratman experienced the condition himself, he knows very well the consequences of being orthorexic.

Since orthorexic people aims to establish some “identity” with regards to dieting, they are more isolated from people resulting to social issues. Orthorexic only cares about the foods to eat and will give little attention to everything else. This can lead to lose their sense of eating such as the quantity of foods, feeling of fullness and hunger and many others.

Orthorexic individuals also have the feeling of guilt or shame whenever they eat the wrong foods, a similar dilemma to any other fat diet advocates.

Dr. Bratman added that he pursued wellness through healthy eating for years, but he gradually noticed that there is something wrong with his eating habit. Many aspects of his life began to change including simple conversations with other people, the difficulty of eating meals without meats, fats and harmful chemical ingredients and many others, all began to take a toll on his life.

He later have difficulty of bringing back his old self, free of limitations and keep his life out of constant thoughts for foods. In short, his life centered or focused on foods, nothing else. He stated on his website, “I had been seduced by righteous eating”.

Dr. Bratman concludes that following a strict or healthy eating does not automatically mean that you orthorexic, because there is really nothing wrong with a healthy eating program. It can only affect your life as a whole if:

  • you departing from that diet results to guilt and self-loathing
  • it affects most of your time
  • it is intended to prevent life issues

Orthorexia Nervosa Treatments

There is a big debate on how to carefully examine or diagnose a suspected orthorexic patient. Over the years after Dr. Bratman published his research, many people doubts the truthfulness of the said disorder. Many believes that this is just an underlying condition from an anxiety disorders or sensitivities from food intolerance or allergies.

Another issue that orthorexia encounters is that, there are many plots or motivation behind the development of orthorexia. One suspected orthorexic will never admit that he or she has this disorder, making treatments more difficult. Aside from being a mental disorder, orthorexia also causes emotional instabilities, which constitutes to a more delicate treatment.

Like any other eating disorders that requires professional psychiatric help, orthorexia highly requires skilled practitioners who can convince the patients to go back into his normal eating habit.

Orthorexia Nervosa Conclusion

Dr. Steven Bratman may have produced a stirring discovery with regards to healthy eating. Take note that Dr. Bratman never said that you have to avoid healthy foods but instead he provided guidelines and proper diagnosis on how to identify the symptoms of orthorexia.

The main point is that, our body needs balanced nutrition which obviously derives from all food groups. Depriving yourself from “perceived” bad foods will affect your life negatively as well as your health, as per Dr. Bratman’s research. I think with regards to eating, moderation is the key. If the said factors above had a big impact on your life, then you are probably suffering from orthorexia nervosa.

Do you want to be heard in this blog? Participate on this article by sharing your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. Let’s help others to know more about this condition and how it can help on their over all health endeavors.

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Noah Mark

Hi, this is Noah and thank you for reading this post. I hope you learned something here. Rest assured that I will continue to bring you the best weight loss information in this site to help you overcome all your weight gain endeavors. Please follow me on Google+ and Twitter to learn more.

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