November 23, 2011

When Eating Too Healthy Becomes Unhealthy

It is always said that the most important thing a person must do is eat healthy. People believe this will help them to stay healthy and keep their weight down. However, at what point does wanting to eat healthy become too much? Orthorexia, which is not an official medical disorder, is defined as a person who is obsessed with eating healthily. This is unlike anorexia and bulimia because people with orthorexia obsess about the quality of their food rather than the quantity. They do not worry about the amount of food they eat or the weight they lose, they only focus on eating food that is healthy and perfect.

There are various reasons why people seem to have this desire to ensure their food is perfect and pure. It can be due to different underlying factors such as: low self esteem, being a perfectionist, or having a need to control something in their lives. This disorder is similar to OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) although their obsession is directed towards food.

For people with orthorexia, this need to ensure they are pure and clean by eating healthy becomes an obstacle in life. It prevents them from living their lives.  What was meant to help them be healthy, begins to do the opposite. The constant desire to be a healthy eater becomes mentally stressful for the person.  The restrictions they put on their diets can lead to nutritional deficiencies. A person with orthorexia can spend hours obsessing over food labels to ensure the food they are about to eat meets their expectations. They worry about what foods may contain and then start cutting things out of their diet. After a while they start cutting out things that may still be healthy, such as cheese, just because they are worried about pesticides or fat. It continues to get worse when they start avoiding foods with added salt, sugar, artificial coloring, or flavoring. They may even stop going to restaurants because they have not prepared the meal themselves. This begins to interfere in the lives of the orhtorexic person and what was once a healthy life choice begins to seem unhealthy.

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