Orthorexia: the unhealthy, healthy obsession


There’s no doubt that the health and wellness industry has been booming these past few years.

People are becoming more mindful, and thus more educated. Slowly but surely, society is finally catching on to the fact that miracle pills are actually not so miraculous, and only through mindful eating and exercise can one really start to live a balanced and “full”filled life.

Henry Thoreau said, “our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify, simplify.” And this couldn’t be more true when it comes to your health and wellness; If a food label has ingredients you can’t pronounce, set it back down. And when it comes to exercise- yep, keep it simple. Five times a week for 45 minutes to an hour will do your body a world of good. What kind of exercise? In today’s day and age there is no excuse to research and find something that works for you. Whether in a studio, park or at home.

But, like with everything, there is always a fork in the road; one way leading to a balanced approach; the other, a radical one. All too often people become obsessed with new habits, and these habits slowly turn into compulsions, which brings me to orthorexia; an unhealthy obsession with healthy foods.

image from http://www.refinery29.com/jordan-younger-vegan-orthorexia#.y9ewby:BzLb
image from http://www.refinery29.com/jordan-younger-vegan-orthorexia#.y9ewby:BzLb

A fairly new phenomenon, there have only been two case studies on orthorexia carried out. And whilst not considered a medical diagnosis, orthorexia is very much alive and well. In this day and age, I come across so many people, especially females, with obsessive food behaviours.

When good intentions become restrictions, one’s quality of life begins to suffer. Many begin to worry about meeting friends for dinner, what to order, how people will judge your habits, the list goes on. Instead of looking forward to dinner and drinks with friends and family, you begin to feel consumed by the food that you will have to face.

Sound familiar? This obsessive thought pattern parallels the behaviours of those suffering with anorexia or bulimia.

The fixation to eat no longer is about your health, it becomes all about control.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 07.47.40
image by http://www.seven-health.com/2015/07/orthorexia-when-healthy-eating-goes-too-far/

And I have to say, I have also dealt with these behaviours in the past, which is why I found it such an interesting topic.

I used to have a tumultuous relationship with food, but I have slowly and surely have overcome it. Roughly three years ago, I began caring more about the food on my plate. Monitoring food portions and their nutritional value started out as a challenge and slowly became an obsession. The more I read and researched food, the more I would simultaneously love and hate it. I began to loathe when friends would ask me to dinner, and I spent way too much time looking up restaurants with healthy options. This was all about control; I didn’t want to fall back into unhealthy eating, because I felt that if I ate even one “unhealthy”meal, I would fall off the healthy food wagon.

It took quite a while for me to find peace with my food. While I still monitor the food on my plate, I am no longer obsessed. I love meeting friends and family for dinner and have realised that balance, like with everything, is key. Life, and certainly food, are meant to be enjoyed, whether it’s a dairy and sugar free brownie or one filled with tons of milk, sugar and wheat. Enjoy every morsel and train yourself to know when enough is enough.

Researched sites and further reading:






2 comments on “Orthorexia: the unhealthy, healthy obsession”

  1. I had a problem with orthorexia for two years, and it was such a curse when I was out with friends and family because they would always think I was difficult, fussy, and overly picky. It was isolating and not a very nice time in my life. I even brought my own food to birthday parties!

    Today I’m much happier and love cooking for myself with healthy ingredients: black bean brownies, quinoa casseroles, veggie stir-fries, chickpea blondies… the list goes on. I love food!

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