Orthorexia Nervosa …something I have always been aware of. When you decide to change your lifestyle to becoming healthier and fit it’s hard to not fall into these traps of clean eating and super strict regimes. I use to think that meal planning was the only way to go – and I’m not saying it isn’t.. Everyone is different and what works for me might not work for you, but being in constant fear of eating food that isn’t completely healthy isn’t the way to live.
If you’re feeling frustrated and guilty when you can’t follow you daily diet, if you feel isolated from your friends and social life because of your strict eating program, or if you worry more about the quality of the ingredients inside your food over the overall pleasure that you get from your meal… you might want to read this.
You may be denying it to yourself and giving excuses, saying hey! I’m just being health conscious, but if the above really represent you it may be time to make a change. Questions like the ones above serve as a diagnostic criteria for the prevalence of Orthorexia Nervosa (ON).
What is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia includes the pathological obsession for organically pure food, free of pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and artificial substances. In addition, orthorexics follow strict nutritional rules and may be vegetarians, frugivores (fruit eaters), or crudivores (raw food eaters). They almost never eat away from home and they tend to stay away from friends and family during the time of their meals.
Usually people that develop this behavior of orthorexia start off with the usual goals.. Improving their health, treating a disease (e.g., low their cholesterol levels), or just to lose some weight. Though nothing extreme – that’s what’s so scary about orthorexia. The disorder doesn’t include the common problematic and well known characteristics of anorexia like the desire to be thin (it might be camouflaged through an ideal image of being fit), no distortion of the body image, no vomiting or use of laxatives.
Nevertheless, in a mental level orthorexia and anorexia are equally catastrophic, as in both cases the diet provides an identity for the individual, they also exhibit a denial of the body signs of fatigue and weakness, and finally they fail to communicate their feelings and conflicts with a tendency to reject them.
Four early indicators of Orthorexia Nervosa
So how can we identify orthorexia? Sports Physiologist Manos Tsagarakis tells us that the literature has identified four early indicators that may predict the occurrence of the disorder.
- Become in tuned with your body’s warning signs. Orthorexia forms an interpretation and perception disorder of the body stimuli, in which the individual simply does not accept all the feelings of fatigue, weakness, persistent hunger, and absence of the hedonistic properties of food.
- The obsessive-compulsive component. Strict dieting and food rituals (such as the rumination of food) are common symptoms of Orthorexia and they promote malnutrition.
- Vegetarianism. Extreme displays of vegetarianism especially throughout the adolescent years, in which the individual does not exhibit fear or anxiety in regards to the progressive increase of the diet and weight, may be a masked form of orthorexia.
- Perfectionist personality traits. Do you always set more and more demanding goals for you to achieve? How often do you get credit for what you have accomplished? Perfectionism is all about demanding yourself to attain unrealistic goals, and orthorexia is a perfectionistic display around food when you lose the “happy” component of that activity.