The skinny on Orthorexia—When healthy eating goes too far

By on June 11, 2010

by Kelsey Bishop
Kaneland Krier Reporter

Eating disorders affect up to 24 million individuals in America, and 70 million worldwide. There are many different types of eating disorders, and another has been added to the list: Orthorexia Nervosa. Although it hasn’t been officially classified as an eating disorder yet, many doctors feel that it explains an important and growing health epidemic.

Orthorexia is an obsession with only eating “healthy” foods. The obsession can go to such an extreme that those with orthorexia stop eating all foods that aren’t in the food pyramid.

“Basically, they take everything out of their diet that isn’t healthy. They eat only things in the food pyramid, and then go to taking out all processed foods and go all organic,” health teacher Cindy Miller said.

There are many different kinds of eating disorders. Some disorders occur because the person is obsessed with the sense of control they feel they have over their body. Other disorders result from an effort to cope with emotions or gain a sense of comfort.

Anorexia athletica and anorexia nervosa both occur because the afflicted person seeks control over their lives and bodies. Binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa occur because the person seeks to regulate their feelings and achieve an emotional satisfaction after purging.

According to the National Eating Disorder Info Centre, people with Orthorexia experience the same emotions as those with other eating disorders. Losing or maintaining weight is their goal, and they feel successful if they reach that goal. It leads to obsessive focus on food and body image.

There are many warning signs for those suffering with an eating disorder. According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, these signs include spending more than three hours a day thinking about foods that are healthy, or planning the next day’s menu. They may also heavily limit the quality and quantity of the food they eat.

Those with orthorexia experience feelings of guilt or self-loathing if they stray way from their strict diets, but when they are following the diet, they may feel in total control.

“It can be treated by a nutritionist to get the nutrients that they lost back into their bodies, and they’re going to need some good counseling,” Miller said. “It’s a lifelong complication, and it can be deadly.”

One Comment

  1. RM

    June 13, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    Too bad more of us don’t suffer from this malady. Most of us have muchorexia.