Orthorexia – The Food and Diet ObsessionSome people in their quest to eat a healthy diet develop an obsessive focus on food. This unhealthy relationship with healthy foods is referred to as orthorexia nervosa: from the Greek orthos, meaning “correct or right” and orexia, meaning “appetite.” It is commonly described as "the health food eating disorder." People with orthorexia nervosa have an extreme, perfectionistic focus on eating healthy food. Planning, purchasing, thinking about and preparing food occupy an excessive proportion of their daily lives. Overall quality of life suffers, as there is insufficient energy left for many other important activities, such as maintaining healthy social relationships. The diet frequently becomes increasingly strict over time. In the end, this tendency may lead to dangerous malnutrition. This is a tragic and unintended consequence of what began as a search for improved health.
The Similarities and Differences Between Orthorexia and Other Eating DisordersWhile those who struggle with anorexia and bulimia are obsessed with counting calories and weight loss, those with orthorexia focus on the quality and perceived purity of what they eat.
- Foods are ranked from "bad" to "good" based on how healthy they are felt to be.
- The "best" foods seem to possess the power to cleanse and purify and prevent health problems.
- "Bad foods" are perceived as dangerous, even if consumed very occasionally or in small amounts.
- Inability to obtain chosen foods causes anxiety and stress.
- Over time, more and more foods are eliminated from the diet in the quest for greater perfection.
Other aspects of orthorexia are similar to anorexia and bulimia
- Feelings of guilt are often felt when straying away from the chosen diet.
- The person feels in control only when eating chosen foods.
- Self-esteem depends to a large extent on how closely the diet has been adhered to.