Orthorexia – The Food and Diet Obsession“A maniacal obsession with food.” This is a vivid definition, but it is the chosen selection in one of the few research studies done on orthorexia, an eating disorder that hasn’t made it into the formal medical diagnoses listed in the DSMV-V. Much like the previously no-formal-diagnoses orphan binge eating disorder (BED), orthorexia is popping up all over the eating disorder professional communities’ radar, and concern with these warning blips is on the rise. Diagnosis or no diagnosis, orthorexia isn’t going away, and professional treatment is needed.
How to Recognize Orthorexia at Ten PacesOrthorexia isn’t about calories, so you won’t see a person weighing, measuring or squaring off with food on this front. Unlike anorexia, the calories aren’t the focal issue. The obsession with food in orthorexia is about the purity of the food. The definition of purity, or acceptability, is very person dependent, but often people with orthorexia start out with a deep desire to eat the healthiest foods possible. Raw. Organic. Think Whole Foods, micromanaged to the extreme. Okay, so many of us take care to choose organic veggies, or shop locally where we can go scope out what the farmer is up to at his dairy or tomato patch. In orthorexia, this concern and focus is obsessive and makes eating a psychological and physiological battle. Examining labels, pondering possibilities. Whittling down the list of acceptable foods to just a few items. Not the amount of food, that isn’t the issue—back to the calories, they aren’t of particular note with most orthorexics. But with such a restrictive and microscopically viewed diet, losing weight and lacking in essential nutrition is present. Ironic, when the original intent was to eat People who struggle with orthorexia often share some common attributes, such as:
- Feeling they must “eat right” in order to “be good”
- Spend several hours a day planning meals, meticulously considering foods
- Self-esteem and the eating “correctly” are closely intertwined
- Evaluating new diets, science and trends, but generally choosing only those that meet with a personal palette of acceptable food items
- Unable to enjoy eating with others, or taking part in food celebrations with friends and family
- An obsessive-compulsive way of eating that causes phobias about eating unpure or unhealthy food