5 Signs Your 'Healthy Eating' Has Become an Eating Disorder

face on a plate

Too much of a good thing applies to just about everything, from retail therapy to binge-watching Girls. (A little bit of Marnie goes a looong way.) Sorry to break the news to you, but clean eating's no different. You've likely heard of anorexia and bulimia, but here's a relatively new eating disorder that's likely passed under your radar: orthorexia.


Although it's still not officially recognized in the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (aka the "Bible" of mental health disorders), ED experts insist orthorexia is a real -- and potentially dangerous -- trend.

"Orthorexia often starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but takes a turn to a fixation on food quality and purity," explains Dr. Neeru Bakshi, MD, FAPA, medical director of Eating Recovery Center in Bellevue, Washington. "People with orthorexia become consumed with what and how much to eat. This develops into a rigid eating style with a fixation on eating well."


If this description's setting off a little alarm in the back of your head, check out the most common signs of this "healthy" ED:

1. #Foodgoals to the nth degree. People who have orthorexia attempt to avoid a litany of foods, says Dr. Bakshi, including artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives; pesticides and GMOs; fats; sugars and salt; animal or dairy products; and any other ingredients perceived to be unhealthy.

2. Hypersensitivity about how food makes you feel. This type of ED can trigger an obsessive concern in people over how their food choices affect their health, especially when it comes to issues like asthma, digestive problems, mood, anxiety, or allergies.

3. Self-diagnosis of a food allergy. It's common for people with orthorexia to avoid certain foods because they think they're allergic to them.

More from CafeMom: How My Daughter's 'Picky Eating' Was Finally Diagnosed as an Eating Disorder

4. Always looking for ways to stay healthy. Look in an orthorexic's cabinet and you're likely to find oodles of supplements, herbal remedies, or probiotics.

5. Germophobia. How it plays out in this ED is being overly concerned -- maybe even irrational -- over how food's prepared, especially when it comes to cleaning food or sterilizing utensils.

There are plenty of reasons why orthorexia takes root, Dr. Bakshi says. These include a fear of poor health, compulsion to have complete control, trying to escape your fears, a desire to be thin, low self-esteem, a search for spirituality through food, and even using food to create an identity.

Like other EDs, orthorexia is complex -- and potentially dangerous, depending on the extremes to which it's taken.

People with orthorexia often think of themselves as being better than others who don't eat the same way, and punish themselves for "slip ups."

"Eventually, food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health often suffers," Dr. Bakshi says. Some orthorexics eat fewer than 10 types of foods.

Take a moment to be honest about your eating patterns, suggests Dr. Bakshi. "Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality? Are you constantly looking for ways that foods are unhealthy for you?"

If you've put yourself on a "nutritional pedestal," so to speak, your healthy habits may have gone too far.

Think you may have orthorexia? Call a treatment facility like Eating Recovery Center to get a free evaluation. You may need a trained therapist, dietitian, or doctor -- or all three -- to help figure out what's causing your ED and plan steps to deal with it.


For additional info about Eating Recovery Center, call 877-789-5758, email info@eatingrecoverycenter.com or visit www.eatingrecoverycenter.com to speak to a clinician.

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