Should your life be ruled by what you eat? Orthorexia is a subclinical eating disorder characterized by an obsession with eating healthy. Your obsession on a balanced diet can result in unhealthy consequences.
An “unhealthy obsession” with healthy eating is known as othorexia nervosa. The term literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexics start out an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but they become fixated on food quality and purity.
Orthorexics become consumed with what and how much to eat. Orthorexia is a disease in which people view their diet as a way to feel virtuous, clean and even spiritual. The more extreme a person's "healthy" diet is the more virtuous they feel.
What’s wrong with eating healthy
The diet of orthorexics can actually be unhealthy, with there being nutritional deficits specific to the diet they have imposed upon themselves. These nutritional issues may not always be apparent. Eating healthful, per se, is not a bad thing but following any diet plan too rigidly or for the wrong reasons can lead to negative consequences.
Orthorexia may make you socially isolated, often because you plan your life around food. You may have little room in life for anything other than thinking about and planning food intake. Orthorexics lose the ability to eat intuitively – to know when they are hungry, how much they need, and when they are full.
There is nothing wrong with eating healthfully unless it takes up an excessive amount of time and attention in your life, deviation from that diet fills you with guilt and self-loathing and you use it to avoid life issues.
Signs of orthorexia
Both men and women profess that dieting practices are for health, men do it to look attractive while women do it to lose weight. The desire to live up to society’s standards strongly drives many people to follow a “perfect” diet. But, how do you figure out if you are actually on the healthier side of the diet? If you have the following symptoms, you aren’t.
You aren’t eating intuitively- Orthorexics lose their intuitive eating and lack of pleasure in eating. Intuitive eating is simply knowing what food you want, how hungry you are, finding your food choices pleasurable and knowing when you are full. Becoming restrictive in your food choices requires willpower and often means going against your mind and body's cravings. Resolving to never give in will undoubtedly lead to a loss of control.
You feel guilty for slip-ups- You may feel bad when you eat too much or deviate from your diet, if you have orthorexia. The guilt may get magnified and result in self-disgust. Spending so much energy on ignoring the intuition to eat "right" foods results into robotic and pleasureless eating.
You’re socially isolated- People with orthorexia are so steadfast on their "healthy eating," they plan their life around their diets. They may only shop at organic or health food stores. If you are orthorexic, you may want to avoid all the restaurants because you are suspicious about what the cook might be doing to your food.
Treatment for orthorexia
The hiding behind the “eating right” ideal makes it difficult to diagnose an orthorexia disorder. Also, it is not a clinical diagnosis, and many medical and mental health professionals are not even aware of the problem. However, a therapist or other medical professional who specialises in eating disorders can help you if you think you have symptoms of orthorexia.
Normal eating- It is about listening to your gut and eating when you are hungry and continue eating until you are full. Normal eating requires you to be flexible about food in response to your hunger, your environment and your feelings. This means not having a "one-way" diet.
Find middle-ground foods- Most orthorexics know about their “good foods” and “bad foods.” It helps to find “middle-ground foods” which they aren’t so guilty of having. Once you can view food as being on a spectrum, you can feel a relieving sense of freedom from the all-or-nothing syndrome.
Fun food experiences- Even if you don't have a disordered eating pattern, fun food experiences can give you a better relationship with food, diet and your self-image.
These are just a few ways to overcome an obsession with healthy eating. Having a balanced diet is an integral part of having a healthy lifestyle but it should not be the only facet of your healthy lifestyle.
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