When healthy eating has gone too far. What is orthorexia, and is there treatment?

  • 2 Minutes Read
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Did you know treatment is available for a condition linked to uber-extreme healthy eating called orthorexia? Do you or someone you know avoid ingredients and entire food groups in hopes of achieving an anticipated health benefit? Do you feel guilty after eating a portion of food on your "bad" list? If your quest to eat healthily has gone too far, read on. You may be struggling with an eating pattern called orthorexia.

Orthorexia treatment

Finding success with orthorexia treatment begins with understanding

A healthy diet is essential for managing your weight, preventing disease, and feeling your best. However, what happens when the desire to eat healthy goes overboard?

Obsessively restricting your eating can disrupt your well being, social life, and may lead to mental and physical health concerns. Orthorexia is an eating pattern first described in the late '90s by Dr. Steve Bratman. The National Eating Disorders Association defines it as "an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating."

Symptoms of orthorexia from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

Talk with your doctor or mental health provider if you experience these symptoms.

The medical community recognizes orthorexia, although there are no formal criteria for diagnosing the condition. Doctors say additional research is needed before it can be classified as an official eating disorder.

Orthorexia is different from other eating disorders

Bulimia: The most common type of eating disorder involving binging and purging, bulimia includes a strong body image component. To learn more about binge eating, click here.

Anorexia: Involves chronic body image dissatisfaction and severe food restriction to lose weight. Individuals who struggle with anorexia use food to control their weight and body image, focusing mostly on the amount they eat.

Orthorexia: An eating pattern involving extreme measures to eat only clean or pure foods. Individuals who struggle with orthorexia are generally not focused on achieving a certain weight or body image, but instead, focus on how food impacts perceived health.

Orthorexia treatment

Treatment for orthorexia follows a similar plan as anorexia. Components of a treatment plan address the following:

A note to MyNetDiary users

Tracking food and exercise can be valuable for users wanting to improve their health. Unfortunately, however, it can reinforce or trigger unhealthy behaviors for those with or at risk for eating disorders. Your health and well-being are our primary concerns. Please discontinue using the app if you struggle with an eating disorder and consult a qualified eating disorders health professional for help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with orthorexia, please seek support. Professional help is needed to develop and support your orthorexia treatment plan. Through guidance and counseling, you can look forward to a still healthy and less rigid eating pattern. Ultimately, you'll work towards eating a variety of foods that you feel good about eating at home and in public.

Related content

Learn more about orthorexia from the National Eating Disorders Association
Do no harm! MyNetDiary supports healthy eating behaviors

Eating Disorders->Orthorexia
Jan 7, 2022

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