Eating healthy foods is a great goal and most people handle a diet slip quite easily when they occasionally indulge in a chocolate bar or fries. There really isn’t anything wrong with “cheating” and moderation is the key in any diet. But to some people, eating nutritious foods is an obsession and they actually starve themselves if healthy foods are not available. This is called orthorexia and it is a serious disorder that can actually kill the people who suffer from it.
A person with orthorexia will not consume any food that is not 100% unprocessed, preservative free and organic. Being thin and quantity of food eaten is not the obsession here; it is body health and quality of food that drives orthorexics. Trying to consume only perfectly healthy food is an incredibly difficult goal for someone to achieve without completely growing and harvesting his or her own food. This type of direct field to fork diet is unrealistic especially for those living in an urban area. Orthorexics do not trust the common food sources either, such as supermarkets or gourmet stores, and this paranoia can create a situation where they simply do not eat anything.
As with any eating disorder, orthorexia will eventually engulf the person’s life. These people will ruin their close relationships, not eat in public, and obsess about food 24 hours a day. Malnourishment is a foregone conclusion because “the right food” is not found easily. Orthorexics also feel they have to punish themselves when they do slip from the path of healthy eating. Low self-esteem and poor body image are often the long-term result of this affliction. Orthorexia can easily merge into either bulimia or anorexia as this self-loathing reaches new depths. Eventually, there is no room for any other activities or simple pleasures in life; the whole day is consumed by planning, shopping or harvesting, preparing and ultimately eating food.
Orthorexics obviously mimic bulimia and anorexia behaviours, which are more well-known disorders and in the news more prevalently. As with any eating disorder, orthorexia is extremely difficult to cure and will often remain a lifetime issue because food is required to live; it is the focal point of social situations and is everywhere.
Eating well is supposed to be a joy, your body should feel strong and your mind should be empowered. Healthy eating should never be the road to malnutrition. If your obsession with healthy eating has gone too far or a loved one has crossed the line into self-destructive eating then you should seek assistance from a medical professional.