Photo Credit: Mod Vive

Photo Credit: Mod Vive

It’s wonderful to be healthy. It can improve every aspect of your life. But some people think this obsession with eating healthy has been taken too far. Orthorexia nervosa can be defined as an obsession with eating healthy foods. Eating healthy is not only a lifestyle, but an obsession that effects every aspect of a person’s life.

According to New York Magazine, The term orthorexia was created in 1977 by Dr. Steven Bratm. As of now, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the authoritative guide on diagnosing mental disorders, does not recognize orthorexia. However, the National Eating Disorder Association recognizes orthorexia as a serious condition. Here is a list of some of the symptoms those with orthorexia experience.

It’s hard for them to function in mainstream society: Simply put, those suffering from orthorexia have trouble functioning in mainstream society. They can’t eat any type of prepared food without obsessively checking if it’s ok. Dinner parties and special occasions are tainted by asking a million questions about each dish, and even digging in the trash to search for food labels. Many times, orthorexics will simply choose to not eat along side those they are socializing with. The only thing that matters is if they are in control of their food situation. Complicated rules like, “I have to space my eating out to once every three hours until 8 o’clock,” turn normal social situations into high stress disasters. (via Timberline Knolls)

sad woman on a diet eating a small salad

It’s their way or the highway: Orthorexics have a dogmatic belief system. Their food system is right, and yours is wrong. They’ll find evidence based on their philosophy and preach it to the world. You may start to feel extremely uncomfortable about even eating a bowl of cereal in front of them, as it usually leads to them telling you 100 facts about why milk is terrible and you shouldn’t be drinking it. Basically, their obsession with healthy foods keeps them from using a much-needed filter.

They eventually become unhealthy: The crazy strict rules that control an orthorexic’s eating habits soon start to make them unhealthy. They may cut out whole categories of food that are essential for the body. For example, someone that adheres to a diet of almost all fruit is missing out on the health benefits of vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and protein. It often catches up with them, and they may start to experience serious medical problems.

A popular blogger, the Blonde Vegan, recently made headlines by admitting she was an orthorexic. Her eating habits made her so anxious and so unhealthy that she sought professional help, and has now made the decision to move away from veganism.

photo credit: People Magazine

Photo Credit: People Magazine

The important thing to realize when talking about orthorexia is that eating right is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. Having a happy life requires balance in many aspects. This is part of the recovery process for those suffering from orthorexia. The National Eating Disorder Association describes recovery as an identity shift in which one goes from a person who eats healthy food to “a person who loves, who works, who is fun. They will find that while food is important, it is one small aspect of life, and that often other things are more important!”