Healthy eating is a good thing right? And it leads to good health! But sometimes healthy eating and exercise can become a fear based intense obsession. And this is called Orthorexia.
Orthorexia is when a person becomes so obsessed with every detail of what they eat and their activity, and their regimen becomes so rigid that they have a decreased quality of life in following it. If this sounds like something you or a loved one are experiencing, Rago & Associates can help.
In orthorexia a person may become disconnected from others, lose a great deal of body fat and experience hormonal changes, may become depressed and will probably be very increasingly obsessive. Athletes may be particularly prone to orthorexia as they may be trained to only listen to coaching advice and what their head tells them to do with activity and eating. But the sad part of this is that they learn to listen to their head but not their body. Our bodies guide us to know what our needs are. We get “in the mood” for certain foods sometimes as a way to show us how to meet nutritional deficiencies we may be on the way to having. Like all types of obsessive/compulsive disorders the person is not usually very open to changes. It is like being in a closed-loop system where information is only taken in when it agrees with the philosophy they already have.
The irony of orthorexia is how healthy a person intends on being with this lifestyle. For this lifestyle to turn to such low energy rigidity is unfair because the original idea was to get as healthy as possible. But orthorexia consists of rigid ideas needed for health including excessive exercise and making sure every single eating choice is extremely low fat and low carb. Being able to accomplish this can lead to a false sense of confidence which ultimately backfires because the lifestyle leads to diminished health and energy and lack of joy due to everything becoming so strict and regimented.
It is hard to imagine that a good thing can go so badly but that is what happens with orthorexia. Orthorexia borders on anorexia because there are rigid rules involved and if they are not followed the person may be obsessed with what they ate. Studies show that hungry people become obsessed with food because eating is essential for survival.
Treatment of orthorexia requires receiving advice both about nutrition and exercise and also on emotions and relationships. A person with orthorexia might find themselves not as close with others, and spending a great percentage of their time thinking about what to eat/ what to not eat, and managing a strong drive to exercise. Talking with the team and making plans to go step by step to create the best quality of life and life balance are the ways that we can work together to overcome orthorexia. It will be developing a new philosophy of eating that continues to be very healthy but is not rigid. Treatment will help develop more joy and peace and connection with others. Taking care of ones body and health will continue but in a more flexible way. Also, there may be underlying issues of unhappiness, relationship concerns, self-confidence, anxiety, depression or trauma that orthorexia can block out of awareness. Treatment will be opening up what is driving this lack of balance and willingness to be so harsh with ones self.