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Healthy eating or orthorexia

Healthy Eating or Orthorexia?

Orthorexia usually leads to social isolation or even physical harm.


In modern society there’s ongoing “trend” related to healthy living. It often includes healthy eating, exercising, relaxation from stress, etc. Many celebrities promote this so-called healthy lifestyle in some way, usually through social media such as Instagram. But, can this become exaggerated? Is “too healthy” sometimes “unhealthy”? Scientists recently often mention eating disorder called Orthorexia, which could be defined as obsession with only eating healthy food, a fixation on righteous eating. National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) doesn’t recognize orthorexia as diagnosis, but it accepts symptoms that are unique for this condition: believing that eating the “right” food is a “good” behavior; inability to deal with breaking the eating plan; following eating plan that interferes with regular everyday activities.


Can we notice eating disorder when we see it? Not always. Usually people who suffer from anorexia are easily recognizable, due to their extremely low weight. But, it can be very difficult to recognize orthorexia and to distinguish it from normal “healthy” eating.


“The search for healthy eating can become unhealthy.”


It’s OK to be enthusiastic for healthy eating, but when boundaries get crossed and enthusiasm turns into obsession – it could be eating disorder. In that case healthy eating does not serve as vitality maintainer anymore, but impairs one’s mental, and perhaps physical, health. Steven Bratman, the creator of a term “orthorexia”, describes this condition as “emotionally disturbed, self-punishing relationship with food that involves a progressively shrinking universe of foods deemed acceptable”. For those individuals thinking about healthy food becomes the core topic of the day and primary source of self-esteem. As a consequence, orthorexia usually leads to social isolation or even physical harm.


When eating healthily becomes an obsession, limits individual’s behavior and physically endangers them, we can say it is pathological. It is often being noticed that orthorexia, as well as anorexia, has elements of obsessive compulsive disorder. What differs orthorexia from typical OCD or anorexia is the presence of idealistic and spiritual underlying factor, connected with one’s identity. That could be the reason why those people usually don’t perceive their eating pattern as pathological and tend to refuse any kind of help. Maybe they believe they are doing the right thing, unlike most of people, which serves them as a reason why not to listen to them.


The bottom line is: if a certain intended behavior causes you more anxiety than enjoyment, maybe you should reconsider following it. After all, we usually engage in activities that we benefit from. If you feel like you are losing control over some habits and that they began to control you, it’s maybe not healthy to proceed in that direction. It’s essential to maintain other relevant areas of your life on the level, not to neglect your other life goals and devote all of your time to that particular interest. It’s important to be psychologically flexible and recognize when lifestyle choice gets out of control.