Orthorexia

Although not recognized in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

(DSM), Orthorexia is a well known disorder and it's prevalence

is on the rise. People suffering from Orthorexia often have the

following symptoms,

1. Obsession with eating "healthy"

2. Compulsive checking of food labels and ingredients

3. Fixation on quality of food

4. Inflexible eating patterns

5. Avoiding several food groups 

6. Excessive exercise

These symptoms in themselves are not unhealthy but when taken to an extreme, can lead to 

  • Nutritional deficiencies 

    • Although due to high overall prevalence, these deficiencies can be present in anyone, people with Orthorexia are at risk for the following most common nutritional deficiencies

      • Vitamin D

      • Vitamin B

      • Iron

      • Zinc

      • Magnesium

      • Omega 3 fatty acids

      • Amino acids

  • Feelings of distress

    • Over-focus on healthy eating can consume a lot of metal and physical energy and can even be quite costly. This can lead to distress.​

  • Anxiety 

    • Not being able to control obsessive thoughts about healthy eating and wanting t​o meet that next unrealistic "goal" on health trajectory and then not being able to meet that goal can lead to anxiety.. 

  • Social isolation

    • People with Orthorexia are at a high risk for social isolation. Feelings of being misfit, unrelatable and lonely can become overwhelming. ​

  • Judgmental behavior 

    • Although most often sub-consciously, Orthorexia can lead to development of feelings of judgment. People fall into a thought pattern of "If I can discipline myself and eat "right", why can't this or that person do it"​

  • Poor quality of life

    • All above symptoms and consequences of Orthorexic behavior can lead to a less than optimal quality of life which is exactly the opposite of what people with Orthorexia are trying to achieve.

 

Considering the following when you or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of Orthorexia

1. Acknowledge that healthy lifestyle is beneficial for everyone as long as it does not lead to unhealthy consequences as outlined above.

2. Seek professional help. 

Your primary care doctor, mental health professionals, health coaches, lifestyle coaches, therapists and many others in the field can be of tremendous help.  

3. Plan on striking a balance and practice "Moderation" even when it comes to healthy living.

Moderation instead of deprivation

4. People with Orthorexia are usually highly motivated. They take pride in data driven action plans and are results oriented. Following an action plan which shows the "next" level of a healthy lifestyle and does not come with the unhealthy consequences of Orthorexia, can be successful. This involves

  • Outlining a results oriented and data driven plan.

  • Ensuring that the plan is all about and by the person with Orthorexia. A desire to remain in control and fear of loss of control underlies many eating disorders including Orthorexia and any action plan which undermines this phenomenon and aims at taking away this control is a set up for failure. 

  • Monitoring daily or weekly progress.

  • Monitoring bio-markers such as lab tests, weight, physical fitness etc. 

  • Identifying signs of success and celebrating it.

  • Recognizing achievements such as social contentedness and better relationships which come along as Orthorexic behavior is gradually removed.

  • Identifying triggers which might have lead to Orthorexic behavior. Often these are stressful events in life, problems with relationships, health crisis etc. 

  • Devising a plan to not fall back into the Orthorexic behavior if any triggers arise.

5. Remember that most chronic conditions such as Orthorexia develop over time and it does take a long time to resolve them. 

6. When recovering from Orthorexia, be careful and do not move in the opposite direction of becoming very unhealthy.  

7. Enjoy life since

"You Live Only Once"

YOLO

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