National Eating Disorders Week is in full effect and we felt it was important to talk a little more about a lesser known eating disorder, orthorexia nervosa.
What Is Orthorexia Nervosa?
Orthorexia is defined as a disorder where an individual displays an obsession with the consumption of what they believe to be “clean” and “safe” foods. The sufferer becomes so adamant about eating “right” that they take their “healthy” eating habits can make their lives unmanageable and out of control. The eating disorder can start to form itself when the sufferer begins cutting out specific foods, like red meats, carbohydrates, foods with sugar, and so on.
Recently Jordan Younger, a popular blogger formerly known as The Blonde Vegan and now as The Balanced Blonde, has emerged in news articles where her own personal struggle with orthorexia was revealed. The 23-year-old girl had good intentions for her lifestyle, but somewhere along the line, she found herself controlled by her food choices. Younger claimed that each day was consumed with thoughts on specific foods. Her sickness progressed when she felt overwhelmed to abide by certain restrictions and “rules” when it came to what to eat and why. With horrific side effects of bad skin, weakness, and fatigue, Younger ultimately turned to a nutritionist and took a look at what she was doing to her body. She has explained why she no longer follows a vegan lifestyle and instead, emphasizes the importance of listening to the body in order to know when to fulfill proper nourishment.
It should be clarified that veganism, or any other specific food lifestyle choices and diets, do not cause orthorexia or any other eating disorder. It is the individual’s perception of their food choices that may develop an eating disorder. For example, if an individual is binging on specific foods, they subconsciously develop a relationship with the food when they experience a loss of control in excessively eating it and feeling an immediate gratification of relief. This unhealthy behavior can become a disruptive habit that turns into binge eating disorder, or, if they purge the food they binged on after feeling an overwhelming amount of guilt and loss of control, bulimia nervosa.
What Is The Difference Between Other Eating Disorders?
Unlike anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, orthorexia remains an unofficial eating disorder to this day. Many professionals have argued over whether it should instead be considered a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder due to the nature of obsession focal on food not being significant enough to be considered life-threatening as most are mild cases. This is greatly argued because the severity of orthorexia has been proven to drop some of the sufferer’s weight to extremely low numbers. Against both of these posing statements, weight loss or gain has little to do with an eating disorder and does not determine whether a person has one or not. An eating disorder is defined in the dictionary as an “obsessive attitude to food” and “an emotional disorder that manifests itself in an irrational craving for, or avoidance of, food.” Based on this definition, orthorexia can absolutely fall accurately in the category of eating disorders due to the sufferer concentrating solely on specific foods and the benefits they can provide them.
Eating disorders, including orthorexia, can be life-threatening and need to be taken seriously. Since food is not something you can abstain from, eating disorders can seem as though they are hard to recover from, but freedom from an eating disorder is possible.
If you or a loved one needs help because of an eating disorder, please click here: Eating Disorders Anonymous.