The eating disorder spectrum is far-reaching. Most of the general public understand what anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder are. However, there are other eating disorders that affect men and women, too. One of those less common disorders is orthorexia.
What is orthorexia?
Orthorexia is a condition where “healthy eating” goes too far and becomes a preoccupation, explains Dana Harron, PsyD, clinical psychologist at Monarch Wellness and Psychotherapy. “This is not simple ‘clean eating’. Food preferences often become so rigid that the sufferer is not able to enjoy every day social interactions, such as going out to a restaurant.”
I understand this preoccupation first-hand. After I began to recover from anorexia, I easily slipped into orthorexia without realizing it. And apparently, according to Harron, orthorexia and anorexia are quite similar.
“Someone with anorexia is focused on calories and fat and fears weight gain,” says Harron, “but somebody with orthorexia is focused on other aspects of food, such as preservatives, pesticides, or allergic potential.”
Harron explains that people following all kinds of diets can be orthorexic when there is not enough flexibility in eating. “Even eating organic can be taken too far if it prevents you from functioning in other parts of life,” she says.
Similar to what Harron describes, I, too, feared going out to restaurants. I also was obsessed with foods’ contents, and feared that I wasn’t eating healthy enough. I basically switched one control-based eating disorder for another.
Why orthorexia is dangerous
Ironically, orthorexia, even though it’s focused on healthy food, often has negative health effects for the sufferer. “They