By: Nikki Nies
Too much of a good thing really does exist. For example, taking multiple showers a day can be deemed as a great assurance to stay clean, yet the extra exposure of hot water to skin can cause dry skin or lackluster shine. The same concept can be used in regards to healthy eating–orthorexia nervosa.
While there are multiple campaigns and advocates for healthy eating, which is great, however, some people have already adapted healthier lifestyles, but not so healthily. Many orthorexics may start out with the initial intention to “just eat healthier” and slowly evolves into a fixation on everything pure and healthy. The word orthorexia literally means ortho–straight or proper and orexia–appetite. A disorder that emerged in the 1990’s, critics state that with the emergence of organic and healthy eating, there’s a growing trend of orthorexics.
Many orthorexics limits foods that contain preservatives, additives–artificial colors and flavors, pesticides, processed–white flour, added sugar, genetic modification and/or unhealthy fat, sugar and salt. In addition, many orthorexics may only eat foods that they consider “clean”–being washed multiple times, with minimal handling to reduce risk of bacteria exposure. Dining out may be out of the question as preparation is out of their sight and/or hands. Like anorexics, food restriction is a tell tale sign. The quality of food, not quantity of food is restricted, like in anorexia.
Now, being mindful of the said food traits is great. Yet, even whole grain bread, which is rich in fiber is not allowed since it’s been processed in some way. Health professionals WANT people to be more aware of how products are made and how the food is produced, but problems can arise when an obsession with what’s being consumed provides limitations in selection.
For example, orthorexics may be limiting their inclusion in daily activities, isolating themselves to limit exposure to other people’s seemingly “outrageous” eating habits. Additional signs of orthorexia may include the elimination of entire food groups (i.e. dairy) or displaying anxiety in regards to the amount or type of food they’re eating.
Studies have shown that although orthorexia may not be as main stream of a word as anorexia or bulimia, there’s a handful of people that wrestle with this disorder. Like other types of disorders, such as night eating syndrome, emetophobia–fear of vomiting and muscle dysmorphia–obsession with muscle building, orthorexia remains controversial.
There may be a correlation between the number of orthorexics and those with an initial interest healthy eating–dietitians, medical assistants, students in medical field, fitness trainers and/or those in performing arts (i.e. ballet, opera singers). If you or a loved one may be displaying some extreme health limitations, medical professional help is available.