By SHANNON SKAE, health and life coach at Revive with Shan
Orthorexia is defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. The idea is to eat only “pure” foods and not anything deemed unhealthy. It is not currently recognised as an eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. However, this may change as awareness of this disordered eating approach gains awareness.
Eating nutritious food is usually good for you, but if it becomes a compulsion, deprivation, or restriction, you likely have orthorexia.
This approach to eating can cause physical problems because what someone deems healthy or unhealthy can lead them to cut out essential nutrients. For example, orthorexics may cut out entire food groups, such as processed foods, sugar, meat, dairy products, carbohydrates or gluten. These food groups may contain essential nutrients for healthy bodies and minds.
The increase in orthorexia is due to society’s shift towards healthy eating that includes eating organic foods, veganism and vegetarianism, and extreme exercise. It is important to note that while these are all healthy and should be engaged in, to an extent, overdoing anything can result in harm to your wellbeing.
Balance in all areas of your life is vitally important, especially as you only have one life to live.
Examples of orthorexic behaviour:
- Worrying about the food quality. E.g. ‘is it organic?’
- Avoidance of eating out or having food prepared by others.
- Fearing sickness because you worry about how clean the food is.
- Researching food and posting photos of food all the time.
- Refusing to eat a wide range of food outside your routine.
- Fearing a loss of control.
- Overly critical of other people’s food choices.
- Often feeling self-love and guilt depending on your food choices.
- Compulsion to check and re-check nutrition and ingredient labels.
- Spending hours per day thinking about food.
- Concerns about body image.
- Negative or self-harming thoughts about your body.
A dietitian or health coach can help address orthorexic thoughts and behaviours. A dietitian is helpful because, as experts in nutrition, they can prescribe you a more flexible meal plan while maintaining adequate nutrition.
A health coach is helpful because they do not enforce rigidity, deprivation, or compulsion. They focus on nourishing foods but also on the nourishment of the mind and soul. This means that they delve into the thoughts behind the compulsion. This holistic approach takes things slightly further than a dietitian who only looks at diet.
Where an eating disorder is severe, both dietitians and health coaches will refer you to a medical doctor and/or a psychologist or psychiatrist.
If you feel any of these symptoms apply to you – do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
Eating disorders can be severe, and it is essential to know that you are not alone on your journey towards healing.