Orthorexia is a serious eating disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by an unhealthy obsession with eating “healthy” foods, and can lead to damaging behaviors and mental-health issues.
Unfortunately, orthorexia can also have serious physical effects on the body, making it even more important for sufferers to seek help.
In this blog post, we will be exploring the impact of orthorexia on mental and physical health, from the psychological implications to the physical symptoms that may arise. We will also discuss what treatment options are available for sufferers of orthorexia, and how to recognize the signs of this eating disorder.
Defining Orthorexia as an Eating Disorder
In recent years, Orthorexia has become an increasingly recognized eating disorder. As defined by Dr. Steven Bratman, Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating, to the point that it interferes with an individual’s quality of life.
Those who suffer from Orthorexia may limit their food intake to only ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ foods, and may become obsessed with avoiding unhealthy food or ingredients. This unhealthy fixation on healthy eating can lead to an array of mental, emotional, and physical health issues.
Mental Health Effects of Orthorexia
The second mental health effect of Orthorexia is the psychological toll it can take on an individual. People with Orthorexia often become obsessively focused on what they choose to eat, leading to a constant battle of self-doubt, guilt, and anxiety.
It can also lead to feelings of guilt and shame when they feel they have not followed their “rules.” On a more serious level, some individuals with Orthorexia may struggle with disordered eating, depression, or even eating disorders.
It is important to note that the mental health effects of Orthorexia are not limited to those with the condition—the psychological stress it can put on family and friends can be significant.
How Orthorexia Can Impact Physical Health
Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with eating healthy foods. It is often seen in people who have a history of eating disorders or an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
It can have serious physical health implications, including malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, anemia, and electrolyte imbalances. Orthorexia can also lead to an inability to digest certain foods, which can make it difficult for a person to get the nutrients they need from their diet.
Furthermore, the lack of variety in foods consumed due to orthorexia can lead to a narrow range of nutrients, which can compromise the body’s ability to maintain optimal physical health.
Diagnostic Criteria for Orthorexia
The diagnostic criteria for Orthorexia, as outlined by Dr. Steven Bratman in his book, Health Food Junkies: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating, are as follows:
- Preoccupation with eating healthy foods.
- An obsessive-compulsive attitude toward food selection.
- Spending an inordinate amount of time and energy in planning meals.
- Judgment of others based on their dietary habits.
- Eating only certain foods that are deemed to be healthy.
- Feeling guilty or ashamed when indulging in “less healthy” foods.
- Loss of social relationships due to food choices.
These criteria serve as a guide for health care professionals when diagnosing Orthorexia and assessing its severity.
Signs and Symptoms of Orthorexia
From a mental health perspective, Orthorexia is a serious condition that can impair quality of life. However, it can also have physical consequences. Here are five signs and symptoms of Orthorexia:
- Obsessive Thinking About Food and Diet: People with Orthorexia are typically preoccupied with what and how much to eat, and will often research foods to ensure they are healthy.
- Extreme Restriction of Food Intake: People with Orthorexia may severely restrict their intake of food, often cutting out entire food groups in the name of health.
- Social Isolation: People with Orthorexia may stop socializing with friends and family, or may only engage in activities that involve food they deem “safe.”
- An Increase in Anxiety: People with Orthorexia may experience anxiety around food choices and may be overly concerned about food quality and safety.
- A Decrease in Physical Health: Orthorexia can lead to malnutrition and its associated physical health consequences. It is important to be aware of these signs and symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent further complications.
Physical Effects of an Orthorexic Diet
The physical effects of an Orthorexic diet can be just as serious as the mental ones. As previously mentioned, the restrictive nature of the diet can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, which can cause physical symptoms like fatigue, lack of energy, and poor immune system function.
Additionally, due to the restriction of certain food groups, people following an Orthorexic diet can become deficient in essential fatty acids, leading to an increased risk of inflammation and increased risk of certain diseases.
Finally, depending on the severity of the Orthorexic behavior, individuals may experience weight loss, which can lead to further health issues.
The Role of Nutrition in Orthorexia
The role of nutrition in Orthorexia is often overlooked. Orthorexia is a medical condition that is characterized by an unhealthy fixation on eating healthy, natural, and organic foods. People with Orthorexia are typically malnourished, as they restrict their diets to such an extent that they miss out on essential nutrients.
This can lead to severe deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients, which can result in long-term health complications. Nutritionists and dietitians can play a crucial role in helping people with Orthorexia to understand the importance of a balanced diet and to learn how to make healthier food choices.
Treatment Options for Orthorexia
The term “Orthorexia” was coined in 1997 to describe an obsession with healthy eating. While some individuals may be able to handle Orthorexia, others may need treatment to alleviate the symptoms. Treatment options for Orthorexia include psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and medication.
It is important to note that the goal of treatment should not be to eliminate healthy eating habits, but to create a balanced approach to nutrition. Psychotherapy can help individuals learn to identify behaviors that contribute to their Orthorexia and to modify those behaviors.
Nutritional counseling provides education on what constitutes a balanced diet and how to incorporate it into daily life. Finally, medication may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
With the right treatment, individuals with Orthorexia can learn to establish a healthy relationship with food and become more mindful of their eating habits.
Challenges to Overcome with Orthorexia
In the document titled “The Impact of Orthorexia – From Mental to Physical”, we discussed the growing phenomenon of Orthorexia, or an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. This condition can have serious implications on a person’s mental health and physical wellbeing, and can be very difficult to overcome.
Here, we will discuss the nine challenges that an individual must face when attempting to overcome Orthorexia. These challenges range from psychological issues, such as anxiety and perfectionism, to physical issues, such as malnutrition and disruption of the body’s natural biological rhythms.
It is important to address these issues in a comprehensive manner in order to successfully overcome Orthorexia.
Possible Long-Term Consequences of Orthorexia
The long-term consequences of having Orthorexia can be severe. People who suffer from Orthorexia may experience physical effects due to the restricted diet and associated nutrient deficiencies, as well as psychological effects due to the extreme focus and stress of attempting to maintain a perfectly healthy lifestyle.
Some of the possible long-term consequences of Orthorexia include:
Due to the restrictive diet, people with Orthorexia may not be getting enough nutrients to maintain their health.
People with Orthorexia may become fixated on their diet and develop an unhealthy obsession with food.
Poor Body Image
Orthorexia can lead to an unhealthy focus on body size and shape, as well as a feeling of guilt and shame related to food choices.
Attempting to maintain a healthy lifestyle can become extremely stressful, leading to anxiety and depression.
People with Orthorexia may become so focused on their diet that they begin to avoid social situations where food is served.
In conclusion, orthorexia can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health. It is therefore important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of orthorexia and to reach out for help if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or displaying any of these symptoms.
With the right support, it is possible to overcome an orthorexic mindset and restore a healthy and balanced relationship with food.