When you think of healthy eating, it probably conjures up ideas of balanced diets, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, limited processed foods, and beneficial lifestyle choices, like choosing to eat organic foods, avoid chemical food additives and support sustainable agriculture, whenever possible

Orthorexia nervosa, a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating” however, is an eating disorder characterized by having an unsafe obsession with healthy food. An obsession with healthy dieting and consuming only “pure foods” or “clean eating” becomes deeply rooted in the individual’s way of thinking to the point that it interferes with their daily life.

People with orthorexia primarily think about ideal health, physical purity, enhanced fitness, and avoiding disease. In contrast, patients with anorexia consciously focus on weight and restrict foods primarily based on calories.

 While many “healthy” diets were touted as alternatives to medications, there are significant costs to this approach:

  • Compulsive adherence to an eating plan: What was originally a choice becomes a compulsion and the individual can no longer choose to relax their own rules.
  • Eating only healthy foods. People with symptoms of this condition restrict foods perceived as unhealthy and embrace certain “superfoods” perceived as providing special health benefits according to their belief system about what constitutes healthy food.
  • Feelings of shame and guilt: A person’s self-esteem becomes very closely tied to their adherence to their selected diet. Consequently, any deviation from the diet typically causes extreme feelings of guilt and shame.
  • Negative impact on normal functioning: Eventually, the person’s restrictive eating starts to negatively impact both their health and social and occupational functioning; eating the right foods becomes increasingly important and squeezes out other pursuits.

Self-Test for Orthorexia Nervosa

If you recognize signs or symptoms of  orthorexia nervosa in yourself, consider the following questions:

  1. Do you ever wish you could stop thinking so much about food and spend more time thinking about your loved ones?
  2. Are you constantly questioning food and considering how foods are unhealthy for you?
  3. Do you feel guilt or shame when you stray from your perfect diet?
  4. Does it seem physically impossible to eat a meal prepared by someone other than yourself?
  5. Do you feel “in control” when you stick to your planned, healthy, pure diet?
  6. Do you look down on others who eat less healthfully than you?
  7. Showing an “unusual interest” in what others are eating
  8. Inability to eat any food that isn’t designated “pure”
  9. Obsessively following “healthy lifestyle” bloggers or social media figures
  10. Obsessions about checking the ingredients

If you answered yes to several or all of these questions, speak with a doctor about your concerns. You can start with your primary care physician or mental health care provider, if you have one, who can then refer you to a specialist, if necessary.https://www.psycom.net/eating-disorders

Lets compare Orthorexia to anorexia:


  • Focus on health

  • Does not hide their behavior

  • Typically do not skip meals

  • May resist treatments not perceived as healthy


  • Focus on weight loss

  • Shame, guilt, and attempts to hide their behavior

  • Skips meals and avoids eating

  • May resist treatments for fear of gaining weight

How can you cope with othrorexia?

  • Join a support group: Look online for support groups specifically for people who have symptoms of orthorexia. It can be helpful to connect with people who have had similar experiences. You can also find advice and tips on how to deal with the symptoms of the condition.
  • Set limits: If you find that working out, planning meals, or shopping for healthy foods are eating up most of your time, set a limit on how much time you can devote to such habits each day. Sticking to your limits can be difficult at first, but you may find that you are able to improve with time and practice.
  • Start slow: Orthorexia often involves very restrictive eating patterns, so work on very slowly breaking out of these habits. Try to incorporate new foods into your diet. Trying new recipes or restaurants can be a fun way to incorporate different nutritious foods into your eating plan.
  • Talk to a dietitian: It can be helpful to talk to someone with specific training to help you create a stick to a healthy eating plan. Talk about your past eating habits, come up with a nutritious plan that is less restrictive, and make regular appointments to keep track of your progress.

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