"At what point does being health conscious or a fitness enthusiast morph from something positive and fulfilling into something problematic, or even physically dangerous? Or, more simply put, when does your focus on health become unhealthy? We all like to look good, eat healthy, and feel strong. Therefore, it"s often difficult to recognize and confront when you"ve passed the tipping point and need to find a way to rebalance, or seek help. Many of my clients are intelligent, strong, and motivated people who have simply lost control and allowed diet and exercise to dominate their existence. On a personal level, I"ve also struggled with periods where I allowed my originally well-intentioned plans to eat healthy or stick to an exercise program to cross the threshold. If you feel the same way, you might be dealing with some form of a disorder called Orthorexia. In this blog, I define orthorexia and help you spot some common behaviors and warning signs associated with the disorder.
WHAT IS ORTHOREXIA?
The simplest way to understand orthorexia is when the focus on eating healthy becomes unhealthy. Orthorexia is a condition marked by an extreme fixation over the quality and purity of food. It commonly results in highly inflexible eating patterns, with individuals creating rigid "food rules" which usually consists of segmenting foods that they will eat into categories "good" and/or "healthy" foods and "bad" foods, which are sometimes completely avoided. While some people struggling with eating disorders may focus on limiting the quantity of food with which they consume, people who struggle with orthorexia typically are far more concerned with the quality of the food they intake.
By therapy/scientific standards, orthorexia is still a somewhat new and developing area. In fact, the term "orthorexia" was not introduced until the late 1990"s. Even today, and despite significant studies and literature addressing the disorder, orthorexia is not recognized as an eating disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and, therefore, is not an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
With that said, however, my experience as a therapist (and also as someone who has been involved with and knows many people involved with the health/fitness world and culture) is that orthorexia is becoming far more prevalent, especially among people who count themselves as healthy-eating and fitness enthusiasts. As diet and exercise regimes become more extreme and complex, I have seen a shift away from more traditional eating disorders to new forms of disordered eating, including orthorexia, that often cloak themselves (at least initially) as being healthy. Many people may start out feeling physically and emotionally good about their "clean eating" goals, but over time, their relationship with food becomes one that is self-punishing and driven by fear, anxiety, and shame. Before they know it, their strict food rules dominate their daily thoughts and activities, resulting in social isolation, depression, and sometimes worse."
Actually, maybe not such a trend as one we have borrowed from other food cultures. Have you been to one of ...Build-a-bowl: Quick meals with great sauces.