Orthorexia: Obsessive Healthy Eating Now Considered a Disorder

Kim Conte
7

 

spinachCan healthy eating ever get out of control? I'm risking the urge to make a self-deprecating "I wish this would happen to me" comment as I contemplate the cupcake (my second today!) here on my desk. But I shouldn't joke: Obsessive healthy eating, known as orthorexia nervosa, is, in fact, a real disorder.

And, just like the more commonly talked about eating disordersanorexia and bulimia—it absolutely needs to be taken very seriously.

A couple weeks ago, I met a guy who told me that he's strictly followed a vegan and gluten-free diet for the last five years. Not only that, he said that he can only eat organic food; his stomach is sensitive to commercially produced foods. I was buying all of it—heck, I was even impressed with his discipline. That is, until he told me he couldn't even eat commerically produced bananas. What?

Now, I can certainly understand this from an environmental perspective: The pesticides used to grow bananas are harmful to the environment and banana growers. But from a food safety perspective? You don't eat the peel!

Initially, I thought this guy was simply pretentious; but after reading this Time article, I'm wondering if he is perhaps orthorexic!

According to the article, orthorexia is an "obsession with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy." The woman profiled in the article first cut out processed foods; restricted herself to whole foods, then organic foods; and finally embarked on a vegan raw food diet. The problem? She had anemia and osteopenia and weighed only 68 pounds.

So, yes, it would seem that healthy eating can get out of control. How do you know how much is too much? According to the article, when it becomes an obsession and results in malnutrition.

And, yes, I'm hating myself for the cupcake joke...

Do you know anyone who you think might have orthorexia? Are you overly fixated on eating healthy?

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