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What is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia is an extreme fixation over the quality and purity of food – including the exclusive consumption of food perceived by individual as “healthy” – leading to an inadequate balance of food intake, malnutrition and severe emotional distress.

Unlike those desiring to “eat healthy,” individuals with orthorexia often entirely eliminate certain food groups, or opt to abstain from eating in situations where the only food options are deemed “unhealthy.” Foods such as processed foods, sugar, meat, dairy, carbohydrates and gluten are commonly avoided at all costs.

While the individual might view these rigid eating patterns as promoting their overall health, these obsessions over food quality can be extremely harmful. Beyond causing negative self-esteem and body image, failure to adhere to their strict eating habits result in increased anxiety, distress and social isolation.

Orthorexia is also referred to as “clean eating” or “healthy eating,” with individuals in search of the “perfect diet.”

Symptoms of Orthorexia

  • High inflexibility of eating patterns
  • Fixation on food quality and purity
  • Guilt or self-punishment when straying from a “clean” or “healthy” diet
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Low self-esteem, body image, social isolation
  • Depression and high levels of anxiety, especially within the context of food

Warning Signs of Orthorexia

  • Obsession with organic/pure/raw foods
  • The person does not have the symptom of a distorted body image.
  • Avoidance of foods (gluten, dairy) without documented allergies
  • Increased concern about the relationship between food (processed foods or GMOs) and health consequences
  • A desire to lose weight or be “thin”
  • Frequent and/or severe “body cleanses”

While orthorexia is not officially recognized by DSM-V as an eating disorder, it is a condition that requires medical consultation/medical help. Walden offers treatment for patients of all ages and genders, which includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Family-Based Treatment (FBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), family-based education, nutrition counseling, meal coaching and more.