Suffer From Healthy Eating Disorder? (Orthorexia)

By Joanna 22/07/2014 In
Nutritional Tips

Is there such thing as a Healthy Eating Disorder? Watch this video through as I’ll sharing more about it and to give you a short quiz to check whether do you have a “Healthy Eating disorder”.

Some of you might have come across the term “Orthorexia Nervosa”, coined by Doctor Steven Bratman in 1997, which is used to describe those with a “healthy eating disorder”.

To break it down, “Ortho” means straight, true or correct, “Orexia” means eating or appetite, and of course “nervosa” means obsession or fixation. So, it’s meant to describe those people who are “obsessed” with making healthy food choices.

Although this condition is not clinically recognized, we are hearing the term “Orthorexia” more frequently nowadays and there have been several “health food junkies” who came forward to share their own experience as an Orthorexic.

Well the question is, isn’t it good to make healthy food choices most of the time? I mean I do it as well, and I have been encouraging all of you to make healthier food choices daily. So what separates an orthorexic from let’s say a strict vegan, raw vegan, paleo, fruitarian, or just most of us who aim to eat healthy every day?

Well the fine line is that an orthorexic doesn’t just aim to eat healthy, but it is their extreme ‘obsession’ with eating only ‘their right food’ that may impact their mental, emotion and social well-being, which in return becomes ‘unhealthy’.

Dr. Bratman explained that orthorexia is much like bulimia, anorexia or binge eating, but instead of an obsession with thinness and quantity of food consumed, the obsession is with the quality of food.

So for instance, an orthorexic’s time is constantly spent on planning, prepping, and thinking about their ‘special food’. This can become uncompromised rules and elaborate preparation rituals such as precise cutting of vegetables in macrobiotics.

Because their ‘special foods’ are often not easily available in restaurants, they may start to become more socially isolated just to adhere to their ‘ideal diet’.

Their emotional well-being is determined by their ability to eat food within a self-imposed eating plan. And so there can be a lot of anxiety, fear and guilt in order to stick to that.

When they do stick by their ‘ideal diet’, orthorexics engage in self praise and feel superior, but if they relapse, they are quick to self-punish and may even lay out stricter rules for themselves. So there’s a constant emotional and mental battle between guilt and pride within them.

If you have orthorexic friends, they often become an advocate in trying to convert you or others to their ‘healthier’ lifestyle. Some may only stick to their own kind and avoid those who do not share their beliefs. And this can impact a person’s relationship with their family and friends too.

So Dr. Bratman developed a quiz that can help identify if someone may indeed have an obsession with healthy eating.

If you answer “yes” to 2 or more questions you may have a bit of an issue. If you answer more than 4 “yeses”, it means you probably are obsessing over your healthy diet too much. If you answer “yes” to all of the questions, you have an issue that is impacting your life in a negative way.

The Orthorexia Quiz

1) Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about food?
The time measurement includes cooking, shopping, reading about your diet, discussing (or evangelizing) it with friends, and joining Internet chat groups on the subject.
If you spend more than 4 hours, give yourself two points.

2) Do you plan tomorrow's food today?
Orthorexics tend to dwell on upcoming menus. If you get a thrill from planning a healthy menu not just tomorrow but the day after tomorrow, apparently something is wrong with your focus.

3) Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
It’s one thing to love to eat, but for an orthrexic it isn’t the food itself; it’s the idea of the food. You can pump yourself up with so much pride that you don’t even taste the food.

4) Have you found that as the quality of your diet has increased, the quality of your life has correspondingly diminished?
The problem with orthorexia is that healthy food doesn’t feed your soul. If you spend too much energy on what you put into your mouth, pretty soon the meaning of healthy food will drain out of the rest of your life.

5) Do you keep getting stricter with yourself?
Like other addictions, orthorexia tends to escalate and demand increasing caution as time pass.

6) Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the food you believe is right?
Will you turn down an invitation to eat at a friend’s house because the food there isn’t healthy enough for you? Are you constantly thinking about healthy food, even when spending time with your loved ones.

7) Do you feel an increased sense of self-esteem when you are eating healthy food? Do you look down on others who don’t?

8) Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
Your sense of self-esteem is so linked to what you eat and eating anything else feels like a sin. So if you relapse, you will attempt to regain self-respect by recommit to stricter rules.

9) Does your diet socially isolate you?
Most restaurants don’t serve the right foods, and even when they do, you won’t trust that it’s been prepared correctly. A common strategy is to bring your own food in separate containers or you may choose to decline the invitation and dine in your own home.

10) When eating the way you are supposed to, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control?
So, this is just Dr. Bratman’s way of putting it in context. You may agree or disagree with the questions and explanations.

I answered yes to question 2 and 10. Question 2, just because I like to at least have an idea of what I intend to eat 1 or 2 days ahead, instead of just putting anything down my mouth especially on a busy day. Question 10, don’t we all feel good and in control, when we do eat well? Maybe I do have a slight issue according to this quiz? What about you? How many ‘Yeses’ do you have? Do let me know in the comments below.

To conclude, I think this quiz is a good guideline to find a balance between ‘healthy eating’, yet to be conscious for it not to take over your life. I’ve always encouraged you to stay active and eat healthy, but I’ve also emphasized that there’s so much more to life besides keeping fit. Practice moderation and find a balance in eating food that’s not only good for your body but for your soul too. If you like your desserts or sweets, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with treating yourself in moderation, because it’s good for your soul.

I personally feel as food & health information are so easily assessable via the internet and social media nowadays, more and more people are seeking an identity in their diet, for instance “I am a fruitarian” or “I am a Raw Vegan”. There is nothing wrong with that, but it should not take over our lives.

I try not to put any labels on myself, as I don’t find the need to. I believe in moderation. So eat food that’s good for your body and soul, food that makes you feel good and most importantly you have to enjoy life! All the best!

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