Orthorexia is a term that many will not be familiar with. It is not a commonly known eating disorder because it is a relatively new condition. A clear definition of orthorexia is that it is an eating disorder that involves an intense obsession with healthy eating.
Orthorexia sufferers will actively avoid any foods which they believe to be harmful or unhealthy. While it is true that the huge rise in obesity has encouraged some individuals to follow a healthier diet, this condition has led certain individuals to go to extremes. The entire focus of orthorexia is the quality of food and how healthy it is. It is not a weight-specific eating disorder but rather those suffering from orthorexia are preoccupied with how healthy their food is.
There are many signs and symptoms which possibly indicate that someone is suffering from orthorexia including:
- Constantly checking lists of ingredients and nutrition labels on foods
- Obsessively following social media influencers who promote and post healthy eating/healthy living content
- Entirely limiting food intake to items deemed to be healthy
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a healthy diet, those suffering from orthorexia completely eliminate certain food groups. They become so obsessed with their diets that the quest for healthy eating takes over their lives.
Unfortunately there are a number of health consequences linked to orthorexia because of the restricted diet as follows:
- Taking in fewer calories than the body needs to survive has a serious effect on the heart
- The lack of calories and body fuel causes the body to start breaking down muscle in order to survive
- The heart is the most important muscle in the body and heart failure is a common symptom of such severe eating disorders
- The digestive system can be affected by conditions such as pancreatitis and bowel problems
- Other health consequences of under-eating include kidney failure, anemia and skin and hair problems
Currently there is no specialist treatment for orthorexia. However, many experts in the field of eating disorders treat it the same way as they treat OCD or anorexia, which highlights just how serious this condition really is.