Is obsessing over healthy eating an eating disorder? Experts say that the excessive concern with eating only healthy food can turn into an eating disorder called orthorexia. It might seem strange that there is such a thing as “too healthy” but scientists explain that, if taken to extremes, concern with a healthy diet can turn into a full blown eating disorder.
Unlike other eating disorders we have heard so much about, orthorexia is not based on an obsession with body image but rather with the idea of a healthy diet and health itself. It was defined by doctor Steven Bratman back in 1997 as an unhealthy obsession with healthy food.
Dr. Bratman, who invented the term after having diagnosed the very first case, explained that the diet itself is not orthorexia but that an extremely healthy diet could lead to developing the eating disorder. As the person’s diet becomes more extreme and more restrictive, the chances of the disorder setting in grow. Dr. Bratman also explains his theories on orthorexia as well as the reasons why he considers it dangerous to patients, in a book he published back in 2001 called Health Food Junkies.
Nowadays, more and more people are following healthy eating trends on social media. The healthy eating movement has become mainstream with bloggers and youtube personalities involved in the trend and supplying large online audiences with gluten-free diets, juice cleanses and yoga techniques.
One such blogger, Jordan Younger, diagnosed herself with orthorexia last year in June and started to spread awareness to her followers but the popularity of health cleanses, veganism and gluten-free produce had become mainstream by then.
The problem that doctors face when diagnosing and treating eating disorders is that they are complex. They are not only about food and weight but involve a psychological need of control as well on the part of the person suffering from them. The key of preventing and treating eating disorders in a timely manner is identifying the symptoms that they exist in the first place.
But with orthorexia this may be a bit more difficult to do than with other cases of eating disorders, as people suffering from it may appear the picture of health. However, experts say that essential symptoms of any eating disorder can still be seen in cases of patients with orthorexia and can help identify the condition: extreme diets, isolating one’s self from others and depression are signs to look for in this case.
Although orthorexia has been listed as a disease on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website, it is still not officially classified as an eating disorder because there isn’t enough research at the moment to add it to the official diagnostic manual for mental health problems.
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