Orthorexia: Too Much of a Good Thing

Orthorexia: Too Much of a Good Thing

Most people are familiar with anorexia, but there is another -rexia out there - orthorexia nervosa. "Orthorexics" fixate on righteous eating and avoiding "bad" or unpure foods, such as processed snacks and non-organic produce. The decision about whether a food is good or bad is subjective and tends to follow the orthorexic's own strict guidelines.

Orthorexia is not officially recognized as a disorder at this time, but it shares many commonalities with recognized eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Usually, orthorexia appears to be motivated by health - whether preventing poor health or trying to reverse a health issue. Like anorexia and bulimia, orthorexia can also be motivated by a need for control, a desire to be thin, or a need to transcend food and live purely.

Though they tend to have an overabundance of information about food and nutrition, orthorexics often suffer from misunderstandings about food or nutrition. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, orthorexics "don't always have accurate information. Sometimes their sources are magazines and blogs that might not be reputable." Further, fear mongering websites and quack activists perpetuate misinformation and prey on consumer fears. This climate can easily cause a contentious, concerned patient to go into overdrive.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, the following questions can help you identify if you are on a destructive path to orthorexia:

  • Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
  • Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
  • Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else – one single meal – and not try to control what is served?
  • Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
  • Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
  • Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
  • Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat? 

If you are concerned about orthorexia or other eating disorders, please visit NEDA's website or ANAD's website.

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