When Eating “Pure” Goes Too Far


There is a lot of attention in the media focusing on eating healthy foods.  Overall, eating a balanced, nutritious diet will improve your health.  However, a problem arises when overtime this drive to eat healthy turns into an obsession.  This obsession is known as orthorexia.

Orthorexia is defined by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as an unhealthy fixation on eating only healthy or “pure” foods.   The fixation can lead to social stress and ultimately isolation.  Fear may arise when attending events that require eating foods prepared by others.  Stress may be caused by not knowing how someone prepared the food, what ingredients were involved, and what cleaning techniques were used.

At this time, the National Eating Disorders Association does not officially recognize orthorexia as an eating disorder.  Although similar to other eating disorders, a person with orthorexia does not restrict in an attempt to lose weight but rather in an attempt to be “healthier”. This restriction to only “pure” foods often leads to exclusion of important food groups, thus eliminating key nutrients and potentially leading to malnourishment. For example, an orthorexic person may not consume whole grain bread because it is not in its “pure” form.  Foods that contain artificial colors, flavors or preservatives may also be avoided.

If you are wondering if you have orthorexia, answer the following questions from the National Eating Disorders Association.  The higher amount of “yes” answers that you have, the more likely you are to have 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 on living and loving?
  • Does it sound 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 the ways foods are unhealthy for you?
  • Do love, joy, play and creativity take a backseat to having the perfect diet?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
  • Do you feel in control when you eat the correct diet?
  • Have you positioned yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the food they eat?

 

If you or a loved one believes they may be suffering from orthorexia, Inner Door Center ® can provide professional help.  Working with both a licensed therapist and registered dietitian will help to normalize your eating pattern.  Please call our office at (248) 336-2868 to find out more information. 

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