What is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia is an eating disorder that is characterised by symptoms of obsessive behaviour towards food, often in pursuit of “health” or a “healthy” diet.

People living with orthorexia may be extremely selective and restrictive with their food and food types. They may categorise food as “good” or “bad” and attempt to eat only “pure” foods whilst following a seemingly “perfect” diet.

Common symptoms

There is no ‘one way’ to have orthorexia, but there are common behavioural patterns and emotional and cognitive characteristics that help in diagnosing the illness.

Overall, a concern and awareness of the nutritional quality of food is taken to the extreme, to the detriment of their psychological and physiological selves and often leading to isolation as people endeavour to keep up with their rules and routines with food.

Young people sitting

Do these feel familiar?

A preoccupation and obsession with eating so-called “healthy” foods – possibly spending hours a day planning meals

Regimented eating and/or lack of intuitive eating. Feeling unable to eat foods that aren’t deemed “healthy” or “pure”

Guilt and shame associated with eating foods that don’t fall into these categories

Prioritising “healthy” eating over family time, social lives and/or their career. Possibly not attending social events or meals that don’t have healthy food options

Basing self-worth around their diet and the pursuit of health

Body image concerns may/may not be present

An unusual interest in what others are eating and an obsessive following of food blogs or social media profiles

Smiling woman

You are not alone. There are people who understand and who can help.

Despite how it may seem, orthorexia is much more than simply a concern for or awareness of the quality and content of food.

Rather, often at the root is emotional distress that is being coped with through food and a pursuit of health.

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