Monday, February 17, 2014

"Healthy" Diet Gone Too Far?

Unprocessed foods. Vegetables. Multi-grains. Pure water. What's wrong with a healthy diet? 

Well, really nothing...until it goes too far. 

When we think of eating disorders, we often think of anorexia and bulimia, disorders motivated by the desire to be thin. However, orthorexia is a bit different. Instead of thoughts like "I want to be skinnier" or "I'm too big to eat," an orthorexic person might think things like "I know better than them" or "They're wasting their bodies."

What does that mean?

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating healthy. But not only that, it becomes overwhelming to the point that it is the most important thing in your mind. People with orthorexia are driven by the "perfect diet," making this eating disorder more of a moralistic goal than a purely physical goal. They might think that because they are pursuing this diet, they are purer than other people. They might also think that others are killing themselves by eating unhealthy things.

Orthorexic people take healthy eating to an unhealthy level, withdrawing themselves from social events involving food. If they don't prepare the good themselves, they may not feel comfortable eating it.

Even though orthorexia isn't primarily driven by the desire to be thin, it usually results in severe weight-loss and malnutrition. 

Trying to eat healthy or going on a diet does not mean that a person has orthorexia. However, here are some signs that you or a friend might have orthorexia (see more details at
  • Avoiding preservatives, artificial flavors, genetically modified foods, fat, sugar, salt, dairy products, or any ingredients that seem unhealthy
  • Obsessing over the connection between unhealthy foods and medical conditions (i.e. cancer, asthma, digestive problems)
  • Severely limiting the number of foods that are acceptable to eat 
  • Extreme concern over how food is prepared (i.e. if it's washed enough, if utensils are clean)
  • Feeling guilty after eating "non-approved" foods
  • Feeling a sense of pride/superiority from eating "healthy"
  • Consistently planning out meals beforehand
  • Feeling uncomfortable with eating out or eating food prepared by someone else
  • Mood swings, depression, anxiety
Remember that it's okay to eat healthy and it's okay to eat not-so-healthy things too!

If you want to talk about eating disorders or anything else that's on your mind, call Teen Link at (866) 833-6546. You can call any day from 6-10pm to talk to another teen anonymously about what's going on.

Have a delicious day!