Have you ever heard of “Orthorexia”? “Orthorexia Nervousa” affects a small number of people who become obsessed with the "perfect diet.” These individuals fixate on eating foods that make them feel pure and healthy — to the extent that they avoid foods with any artificial colors/flavors/preservatives, pesticides/genetic modification and unhealthy fat, sugar or added salt.Experts believe, including Dr. Steven Bratman, the doctor who first described and named this disorder after his own experiences, there is a distinct difference between eating healthily and being Orthorexic. Orthorexics find themselves being unable to take part in everyday activities – like eating outside of their own home because they cannot be sure that the “proper” food techniques or ingredients were used. They isolate themselves and often become intolerant of other people's views about food and health.
Is Orthorexia an eating disorder? According to the Mayo Clinic, no. Although, many health professionals believe it should be classified as a mental health disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia since it involves a compulsion to follow rigid, food guidelines that affect self-esteem.How do I know if I have Orthorexia? NEDA Feeding People (The National Eating Disorder Association) suggests that you ask yourself these questions to determine if you may have an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. Their Web site states, “The more questions you respond “yes” to, the more likely you are dealing with Orthorexia.”
- Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
- Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
- Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else – one single meal – and not try to control what is served?
- Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
- Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
- Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
- Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
- Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat?
Is there treatment for Orthorexia? According to Ashely Hensaw and Tom Iarocci, MD, of SymptonFind.com, the answer is yes. They suggest:
- Nutrition consultations: Those with this disorder often see a nutritionist who can help them find foods that give them a balanced, healthy diet. The key here is helping the individual to see that their food choices are providing inadequate nutrition and to assist them in finding healthy, wholesome foods which give them a more well-rounded diet.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Going to therapy can be extremely useful for someone with Orthorexia because it addresses the underlying mental causes of the disorder. A therapist can help identify and deal with these issues while also offering solutions and support for the individual.
- Medication: In some cases, the obsessive-compulsive behaviors often associated with Orthorexia can be successfully treated with certain prescription medications.
- Medical attention: Those who are suffering physically due to the extremely limited diet they have been following may need medical help for their condition. Those with Orthorexia may need to undergo physical examinations to evaluate their health at the time of diagnosis.
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