Are You Struggling With Orthorexia?

We all know of what Anorexia Nervosa is but have you ever heard of Orthorexia Nervosa? You may never have. I sure had no idea what it was until I was researching eating disorder recovery websites during my own anorexia and eating disorder challenges. When I was being interviewed on my first day at the eating disorder clinic, I was told that I did have orthorexia – and that it was in the process of becoming something that these clinics would pay more attention to. Also, it was mentioned that it is becoming a definition of an eating disorder, much like anorexia or bulimia.

I AM NO DOCTOR, but in the simplest terms, Orthorexia is when healthy eating becomes a disorder. Your daily routine is suddenly focused on your rules of food. Of course choosing healthy options is important for your body and wellness, but taking it too far is when a line needs to be drawn. Orthorexia involves the habits of checking packaged food, asking waiters at restaurant 101 question on how each part of the food is prepared, avoiding carbohydrates, such as bread products, and letting go of food you once loved and now claim you ‘don’t’. Even examples like taking a bite of a chocolate bar would create a spiral of anxiety to you. Sure you should check nutrition labels, but it is the constant obsession that classifies Orthorexia to be a disorder.

An obsession like this eventually becomes a burden. You slowly start to back out of parties, dinner events, and taking mini trips with your friends to a fair or a day at the beach. Eventually, people get tired of asking you to come out because you either say no, make an excuse you already ate or a friend just wants to be around someone who last minute will go for ice cream or a drink at the bar. This is a time when you need to ask yourself and realize, what has this diet taken from me?

DO YOU HAVE ORTHOREXIA?

  • Do you find yourself disgusted when seeing others eat the way they do?

  • Is there a large, clear fear of eating something not in your diet?

  • Does your day revolve around the food you eat?

  • Have you lessened the importance of company to compensate for food?

  • Is there a sensation of control you get while sticking to your eating habits?

  • Eliminated specific foods and created a rule on foods I can eat?

ORTHOREXIA vs. ANOREXIA

Orthorexia can lead to anorexia. To the extent that the individual has completely eliminated any food they consider ‘processed’ or not labelled as ‘clean’ – causing them to loose weight. And, sometimes when these individuals loose weight they refuse or fear gaining it back. This can also create a nutrition deficit, leading to dizziness, a slowed heart rate, loss of period and the inability to remain focused on work, school or even family life.

MY EXPERIENCE

I can honestly say that I suffered from Orthorexia the second time my eating disorder habits started back up, which is a reason as to why I became anorexic. I feared eating bread, pasta, potatoes, canned soups, sauces (mayonnaise, ketchup, pre-made salad dressings) and sweets like ice cream and milk chocolate. But thanks to my amazing parents, therapists and doctors (I really didn’t want to see), friends and focusing on my mental health, I have now found my way back to living and communicating a balanced lifestyle.