Orthorexia: When healthy eating turns dangerous

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week goes through March 1. If you or someone you know has a problem, visit http://nedawareness.org. Credit: Stockbyte
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week goes through March 1. If you or someone you know has a problem, visit http://nedawareness.org.
Credit: Stockbyte

It may sound hard to believe, but people are becoming sick by being too vigilant about eating healthy food. Dubbed orthorexia, this eating disorder develops when people obsess about avoiding unhealthy “bad” foods, and the condition can lead to malnutrition and, in extreme cases, death.

“We’ve seen an increase in folks who are looking to their food to be ‘right’ or pure,” says Bonnie Brennan, a Colorado-based certified specialist of eating disorders and the Eating Recovery Center’s clinical director of adult partial hospitalization program. “They see food as good or bad, and they also want to be perceived as eating healthily and somehow perfect,” she emphasizes. “But restricting foods can lead to a lack of protein or vitamins, and people can become sick.”

Similar to anorexia and bulimia nervosa, orthorexia is usually rooted in underlying emotional or psychological pain, or trauma such as rape or bullying. It mostly affects the same personality type, too.

“Generally, these are sensitive, caretaking types — people-pleasers who lose sight of themselves,” says Brennan. “We see underlying depression and anxiety. Events happen in life that trigger them into limiting what they eat. They stop recognizing the difference between healthy eating and unhealthy obsessiveness about what they eat.”

The condition can then spiral outwards. “They can focus on what other people eat and critique it as good or bad, too,” Brennan says. “They become obsessive about nutrition in general. I often say my patients know more about nutrition than our nutritionists.”

Media bombardment of what to eat and what not, doesn’t help. “Eating disorders are a casualty of the war on obesity,” she adds. “Food is continually deemed bad or good. At the center, we challenge patients by exposing them to foods that they are convinced will poison them and make them sick. We try to build psychological flexibility and normality.”

 

Know the signs

Treating orthorexia means teaching patients to have a healthy attitude toward eating healthy food. But what should you look for if you suspect you or someone you know might be suffering?

“If a person’s diet is stopping them from engaging in family meals, or they won’t break from their routine, or can’t take a road trip because the foods they eat might not be available, then there’s a problem,” says Brennan. “They have extreme anxiety and guilt if they stray from the foods they deem good. They experience increasing social isolation and drop out, or put their life on hold.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.