eating disorders

When an Obsession with “Healthy” becomes Harmful

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Though I am in a field that involves counseling people on how to eat healthfully, it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge that it’s possible for healthy eating to become an obsession for some people. I know that I’ve posted about Orthorexia before, but it’s been awhile.

The term “orthorexia” comes from the Greek words “orthos,” meaning straight or proper, and “orexia,” meaning appetite. First described and named by Dr. Steven Bratman, individuals affected by this disorder become fixated on eating foods that make them feel pure and healthy. They may also have an obsession with cleanliness and may avoid eating in restaurants.

This can cut into daily life quite a bit and can affect not only the orthorexic individual but also their friends and family. One of the main things that makes it different from, say, anorexia nervosa, is that the person with the disorder may not be on a quest to get thin but instead, attempting to lead a “healthy” lifestyle that becomes so restrictive it does more harm than good. The effects on the body and mind can be very similar to those of anorexia. It features similar obsessive compulsive behaviors which make it so difficult to overcome on one’s own. Though orthorexia is not currently recognized as a mental disorder, Dr. Bratman and an increasing number of practitioners think it should be. Read the rest of this entry »