What is orthorexia?

Orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an unhealthy obsession with eating only “pure” or “clean” foods. The term “orthorexia” comes from the Greek words “ortho,” meaning straight or correct, and “orexis,” meaning appetite. Individuals with orthorexia have an extreme fixation on the quality and purity of their food, often avoiding certain foods they deem unhealthy or impure.

Symptoms of Orthorexia

The person who experiencing orthorexia must pass through different symptoms. Let’s check out a few common orthorexia symptoms here. 

  • Food rules and anxiety symptoms:
    People enduring orthorexia are highly obsessive and focused on food quality. High worry about the food source could lead you to anxiety. 
  • Invariable eating patterns:
    Individuals with orthorexia are not flexible with their food consumption. Bad or unhealthy food will be avoided by these people and they choose to eat nothing. 
  • Purity-based diet symptoms:
    The person affected by orthorexia avoids going out to eat. They worry about food cleanliness, whether it is bad or good for health. Outside food prepared by others won’t meet their standards. Also, they have less interest in what others are eating. 
  • Weight loss:
    You may not get nourishment once you limit the food varieties you eat. In these cases, you could reduce weight fully. Additionally, an unhealthy fixation on the diet will result in malnutrition. 
  • Conceal yourself in food research:
    You spend many hours thinking about planning meals and food. Surfing the web for more ingredient information and product label scanning are other orthorexia symptoms visible in individuals. 
  • Decline to eat a wide range of foods:
    It’s quite common to avoid a few
    food items because you never like them. But people who experience orthorexia decide to drop most food categories from their diet. For example, you may stop eating foods that are unhealthy such as grains, and items with sugar, gluten, or other preservatives. All these are primary orthorexia symptoms viewable in people. 

What are the five warning signs of orthorexia?

Here are five common warning signs associated with orthorexia:

  1. Obsessive focus on food quality and purity: People with orthorexia become excessively preoccupied with the quality, purity, and sourcing of their food. They may spend a significant amount of time researching, reading labels, and seeking out specific brands or organic options. Their thoughts and conversations often revolve around food and its nutritional content.
  2. Strict dietary restrictions and rules: Individuals with orthorexia establish rigid rules and restrictions around what they can eat. They may eliminate entire food groups, demonize certain foods as “unhealthy” or “impure,” and create a long list of forbidden foods based on their self-imposed guidelines. These rules often become increasingly strict over time.
  3. Emotional distress when deviating from dietary rules: Deviating from their strict dietary rules can cause intense emotional distress for those with orthorexia. They may experience guilt, anxiety, or feelings of failure when they eat foods they consider “impure” or “unhealthy.” Breaking their rules can lead to self-criticism and a need to compensate through further food restrictions or excessive exercise.
  4. Social isolation and impaired daily functioning: Orthorexia can lead to social isolation as individuals prioritize their dietary practices over social engagements. They may decline invitations to restaurants or social gatherings where they can’t strictly adhere to their food rules. This isolation can strain relationships and impact their overall well-being. Additionally, their extreme focus on food and meal preparation may disrupt their ability to engage in other activities or fulfill responsibilities.
  5. Physical consequences: Orthorexia can have physical consequences due to inadequate nutrition and restricted food choices. Individuals may experience weight loss, malnutrition, fatigue, weakened immune function, hormonal imbalances, and digestive problems. Despite these physical symptoms, they often persist in their restrictive eating patterns due to their obsession with “clean” eating.

It’s important to note that these warning signs are not exhaustive, and each person’s experience with orthorexia may vary. If you suspect you or someone you know may be struggling with orthorexia,