ARE YOU EATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ORTHOREXIA?

 

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.  

We live in such a diet-saturated culture, that we don’t even see disordered thoughts when they are literally in in huge black print in front of us.  What is so disheartening is how often I’ve seen it on Instagram.

Big bloggers aren’t just people with a diy website- they have following & influence.  My friend, you may not realize it, but you are eating under the influence.  These influencers are why you have more avocados and sweet potatoes on your grocery list.  They are why you choke down kombucha (let’s be honest- that stuff is vile) for the probiotics.  They are why you make smoothies.  They are why you feel you should “detox“.  Having people influence you isn’t a bad thing- I’d go as far to say it’s fundamental for personal growth. But, you have to watch who you let influence you.  Because healthy eating is a good thing, we aren’t as on guard in this area.  But when you are following someone who is has taken healthy eating too far, it’s hard for you to adopt just their eating practices without adopting the thoughts that are married to them.  And this is why you see a body dysmorphic-fueled phrase like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and you pin it to your pinterest boards for inspiration when alarm bells should be going off.

Having an interest in health and nutrition is great.  For pity’s sake, I have devoted my career to it.  I obviously think it is important.  But, there comes a point when it’s no longer simply geeking out and it becomes a fixation- an unhealthy one.  And you don’t have to induce vomiting or over-exercise to have a problem. If your time and attention is dominated by healthy eating, you beat yourself up over breaking your diet, and/or you withdraw so you can maintain your diet you could actually have an eating disorder.  While you may be calling it clean eating/paleo/vegan/raw, the professionals call it orthorexia nervosa.  This is what I referred to in an earlier post when I said that the nutrition blogging world freaked me out.  I saw orthorexia everywhere.

Stephen Bratman, MD, MPH, the pioneer of orthorexia says, “Here is the central point: Enthusiasm for healthy eating doesn’t become “orthorexia” until a tipping point is reached and enthusiasm transforms into obsession.”

Answering the following six questions could let you know if you are at risk of developing orthorexia nervosa:

(1) I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.

(2) When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods.

(3) My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.

(4) Sometimes I would like to relax my self-imposed “good food” rules for a special occasion, such as a wedding or a meal with family or friends, but I find that I cannot. (Note: If you have a medical condition in which it is unsafe for you to make ANY exception to your diet, then this item does not apply.)

(5) Over time, I have steadily eliminated more foods and expanded my list of food rules in an attempt to maintain or enhance health benefits; sometimes, I may take an existing food theory and add to it with beliefs of my own.

(6) Following my theory of healthy eating has caused me to lose more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, loss of menstruation or skin problems.

This is an unofficial test Dr. Bratman uses (his longer validated questionnaire is also available), but if you answer yes to any of those questions, you need to talk to your doctor immediately. Eating disorders are not to be messed around with.  They grow and destroy when ignored.

 

References & Further Reading

www.orthorexia.com //  https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa // Ramacciotti CE, Perrone P, et al.  Orthorexia nervosa in the general population: a preliminary screening using a self-administered questionnaire (ORTO-15).  Eat Weight Disord. 2011 Jun;16(2):e127-30. // Janas-Kozik M, Zejda J, Stochel M, et al.  Orthorexia–a new diagnosis?  Psychiatr Pol. 2012 May-Jun;46(3):441-50. //  Haman L, Barker-Ruchti N, et al.  Orthorexia nervosa: An integrative literature review of a lifestyle syndrome.  Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2015 Aug 14;10:26799. doi: 10.3402/qhw.v10.26799.
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