If you’re familiar with a healthy lifestyle, then you surely know that diet is a large part of that (along with exercise). Reducing portion sizes, cutting out fat, sugar, and salt, and reducing red meat and dairy intake for other sources of protein are all part of the package. Depending on where you stand, you may also be looking to cut down on carbs too. Eating healthy is, well, healthy, but believe it or not, there is such a thing as overdoing it. Too much of anything, even a good thing, turns into bad news. Have you heard of orthorexia?
Orthorexia refers to an extream focus on dieting and ‘healthy’ eating. This leads them to limit their food consumption so that it adheres to a strict, short list of viable foods. Oftentimes, this means the complete elimination of sugars, salts, and fats, which are indeed problematic in excess but are needed in some small amounts (and the right varieties) by the body. Furthermore, those who suffer from orthorexia may restrict their diet in other ways, such as avoiding animal products, or anything deemed artificial or ‘unnatural’ (think food dyes). These dietary changes may come with a change in mindset, too.
Health Consciousness, Taken Too Far
Truth be told, everyone should be worried about their health, and therefore eating according to their caloric needs and getting their RDA intake appropriately. However, an obsession with healthy eating can lead to a detrimental state of mind about nutrition, and illness. On a basic level, this may simply lead such people to avoid social gatherings due to potential awkwardness come mealtime. In extreme cases, orthorexics may come to associate every health problem with a nutritional cause. While nutrition can certainly influence the odds of developing disease, the fact remains: not every illness comes as a result of unhealthy eating.
Orthorexia vs Anorexia
Chances are, this may be your first time hearing about orthorexia, but you’ve probably heard of anorexia. At a glance, the two conditions may seem similar. After all, orthorexics, depending on how far they go may end up losing unhealthy amounts of weight due to food avoidance, and they may mimic the behaviors of those with other eating disorders. However, weight loss is a potential outcome of orthorexia, not the main goal. People suffering from orthorexia are obsessed with the idea of perfect health and pursue that in a manner that is actually unhealthy. Similar symptoms, different causes, different outcomes.
If something fits into the diet of someone suffering from orthorexia, they will likely eat it; they will just be careful about how much they eat, what they eat with it, how it is prepared, and so on. Again, the problem is a hyperfocus on being healthy and eating healthy food. An anorexic individual would likely avoid eating altogether. For this reason, to some degree, mild levels of orthorexia are more healthy than other eating disorders, and a person may maintain their weight, or lose less than they would if they were anorexic instead. They still may become malnourished, however.