When Eating Healthy Turns to an Eating Disorder – Signs of Orthorexia

All of us desire to eat clean, to detoxify our body and be healthier versions of ourselves. But, sometimes we become so fixated on eating healthy that it starts to take a toll on our overall health. Your healthy eating habits will not end completely, and rightly so, but you need to figure out if clean eating is actually becoming detrimental to your health or not.

Billboards, newspapers, and advertisements scream at us to eat healthily. This is important because eating healthy helps our bodies function better. But, imagine this ‘healthy’ habit turning into an ‘unhealthy’ obsession. If you have stubborn and strict eating habits then you are likely to develop an eating disorder. Orthorexia is an eating disorder that translates to ‘an obsession with healthy eating’. This disorder was coined Steven Bratman, an American physician in 1997 but is not officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

However, people need to be aware of it as can slowly turn to anorexia nervosa. Many victims of this disorder are at a healthy weight and therefore, they do not recognize that they have Orthorexia till they start facing the symptoms (Brittle bones, dental decay, dry skin, inconsistency in weight, etc.) of anorexia nervosa. Therefore, we are going to mention signs of Orthorexia that you need to look out for if you are a massive health geek. You will also need medical help to overcome it, so talk to the doctors at Health at Hand to ensure if you have this disorder or not.


Eating foods that are ‘pure’ in their dictionary

People with orthorexia obsess about eating foods that are pure. They are gravely anxious about the food they consume, and therefore restrict their everyday diet to their personal assumption of things that are pure or impure. There is a set pattern where they tend to avoid salt, sugar, wheat, gluten, yeast, dairy products and more. Anything that has slightly come in touch with pesticides or herbicides is eradicated from their diet plan.


You might be going through a myriad of emotional reactions

Your body is reacting, and so are your emotions. Some of these emotions involve you constantly thinking and being anxious about the consumption of food. You might also feel satisfied with eating pure and healthy food. Moreover, this disorder comes with judgmental thoughts about people who do not eat healthily. There are times when you are depressed and have mood swings- all in relation to food. It also leads to you being anxious around ‘unhealthy’ and ‘forbidden’ foods.


Throwing away entire food groups

Yes, this is how strict this diet gets. People with orthorexia tend to eliminate entire food groups. Some of the common groups they get rid of include carbohydrates, sugar, dairy products, meat, drinks, etc. This is extremely harmful because your body can get malnourished if it doesn’t get nutrients from these important food groups. And, it can also cause weight loss and extreme tiredness.


Messed up eating patterns

All types of bodies can go through this disorder; it doesn’t matter whether you are underweight or overweight. All that matters is if you are extremely inflexible about your eating patterns. This means that things that are considered as ‘unhealthy’ will be avoided by that person. And this is shown by the fact that if you take away all the food that is deemed as pure by the person, then they will go hungry instead of bending their pattern a bit and eating other food.


Orthorexia is not classified as an eating disorder but it still has the same significance as other disorders. Do not try to ignore it just because it isn’t officially mentioned by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Instead, if you are showing any of the symptoms talked about above then seek professional help. There are no clinical treatments made specifically for orthorexia but one can take therapy from experts to help widen the range of foods they can eat and also overcome the anxiety they face from seeing foods they think are unhealthy. Eating healthy means eating things that are right for your body, so instead of eating your health away, try to eat healthily.

Dr Ruhil Badiani

Family Medicine Consultant

If you have any questions or concerns about your health, or if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder,  ask your Health at Hand doctor for advice through our app that can be easily downloaded from the App Store.  Click here for more information.