Orthorexia is an Eating Disorder You May Not Have Heard Of

Orthorexia is an eating disorder – or form of disordered eating – that you may not have heard about, but apparently is becoming a real problem among people who think that they are engaged in healthy eating.  Orthorexia is characterized by a hyper-vigilance about the quality of foods and the ingredients contained within, not necessarily focusing on weight-loss/avoiding weight gain.

According to a recent article that appeared on ParentDish.com, when parents become overly concerned with the consumption of sugars, trans fats and other ingredients that have been deemed unhealthy in the efforts to avoid disease and illnesses, they can be setting their kids up for habits and attitudes towards foods and eating that can cause them to suffer from myriad eating disorders.  Bulimia and anorexia are on the rise in the United States and many experts feel this is because we have a generation of parents have passed unhealthy attitudes towards foods and eating on to their children.

According to Dr. Steven Bratman, author of the book “Health Food Junkies,” orthorexia starts, “as a desire to overcome chronic illness, lose weight and improve general health or to correct bad habits of diet.”  The National Eating Disorders Association says orthorexics get fixated on the quality of food and wind up severely restricting the kinds and total calories of food.  Just like with other eating disorders, this obsession consumes orthorexics and dominates their thoughts and lives.

There is some disagreement in the eating disorder community over whether orthorexia is an eating disorder or a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Frankly this is a chicken and egg argument, in that many extreme behaviors associated with diet and exercise has OCD elements.  And really, does it matter?  If a person is so obsessed with food and “eating healthy” that they become unhealthy, they need to be helped, not put in a category.

Orthorexia is an illustration of how people have totally lost the ability to eat intuitively, something that our species has done for thousands of years.  Over a little more than a generation’s time, millions of people no longer know how to properly feed themselves and cannot eat unless they follow a plan.  The multi-billion dollar diet industry has sold the public a bill of goods; you need to lose weight to be healthy and you don’t know how to eat so follow our method.  Instead of helping, the diet industry has ruined people, even those who don’t need to lose weight.

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