Orthorexia, The Newest Eating Disorder: What It Is + How to Treat It
I recently was going through Instagram stories, when I suddenly came across the word 'Orthorexia', as well as a blog post by fellow wellness enthusiast and cofounder of LEAF TV Geri Hirsch. So, you may be completely unaware of the fact that this is a disorder, and to be honest, it caught me off guard too.
I thought, "What? There's a new eating disorder and I haven't heard about it?" You'd think it might be on the news, right? To be fair, ABC News did do a segment on it, although it is still widely unknown, which is why I wanted to talk about it with you today.
What is it?
Orthorexia is a disease that hides so well behind ordinary life, it is nearly impossible to notice. Recognized by the National Eating Disorders Association, orthorexia occurs when people take the phrase 'healthy eating' to an extreme. They can't live their lives normally because they are too obsessed with eating pure, healthy foods.
They can't let themselves "cheat" and they are constantly thinking about meal planning, as well as eating the purest foods. In other words, it's complete torture and a self-imposed shaming relationship with food.
But because it looks so innocent ("I'm just trying to eat healthier"), and yet is so sinister, it often goes unnoticed.
How Does It Work?
I think that this is such a sinister disease because it often hides under our society's values of what we should eat in a day. People look healthy on the outside, but in reality they are constantly ruminating over negative thoughts about themselves as well as food.
We've all known someone who has gone on a diet, and who 'can't eat this' or says 'this will make me fat'. I think that this mindset is really at the root of it. When we restrict our bodies, we restrict our life.
It's different if you have a disease preventing you from eating certain foods, but when it is taken to an extreme it becomes a problem.
I am an advocate for a healthy lifestyle, although I do not condone hating yourself, your body, or your food. I've known people who constantly throw negative thoughts at themselves and are always on a diet, and it just isn't the way to live your life. Live a healthy life because you love yourself, not so that you can love yourself.
Sadly, there is no official treatment for this disorder. Doctors won't even diagnose it, likely because it blends in so well with the idea of 'healthy eating'. But that doesn't mean you can't do something about it.
There is usually an emotional issue behind this disorder, and often it is something you are trying to avoid. I recommend getting a therapist, and researching the disorder if you think you have it. Here is a self-assessment if you think you might have it.
The thinking behind it is the most important thing. If you feel horrible when you eat something healthy, that's a problem, and it has nothing to do with the food. It has everything to do with self-imposed rules that are keeping you back from the life you want.
You need to sort these out, find support (dm me here if you need someone to talk to about this, I'm not a long-term solution but I'll definitely try to help), and learn ways to let go and relax and love yourself.
Before I say this, I want you to recognize that I am not a doctor and I am only saying this out of opinion. I think that this could be a solution to the thinking behind orthorexia, although I have not experienced it so I am not saying this is a solution, it is an idea.
For me, I have found that intuitive eating allows me to stay connected to myself and love myself when I eat. It is a method in which you listen to your body, and you get to know what you desire to eat, then eat it.
To you, especially if you're orthorexic, this might sound like madness. You think your body will only crave sugar and you want to make sure you stay healthy. Well, that isn't true. It goes back to the question, "Why are you craving sugar?"
It could be emotional, in which case you deal with the problem instead of eating sugar. But what if you find out that you actually really do want sugar? Well then friend, you eat it.
Can you see how that immediately reconnects you with yourself, promotes self-care and promotes a healthy lifestyle? It is also not restrictive, and very freeing for anyone who has tried to diet or who is using restriction in their life.
I'm an intuitive eater and it has truly felt so good to be able to love myself enough and listen to myself enough to be able to give myself what I actually desire, and listen and heal the rest. It restores your relationship with food, and it frees you to be able to really enjoy your food because you know that it is really what you want instead of what you 'should' be eating.
Just a thought. I know that orthorexia isn't that simple, but I think that if you're looking to break that mindset it is a step in the right direction.
That's it for now! I hope that you learned something from this article, and that you'll be enabled to get treatment if you recognized yourself in these words! I meant what I said about dm, so definitely hit me up if you think you might have a problem, I'd love to help!
An eating disorder is a challenge, and I know that although intuitive eating might be a good practice, it is likely not enough. So I wanted to share the website Orthorexia with you, because it is made by someone who has actually gone through it and as much as I would love to help you, because he's gone through it he's much better to talk about it than I would be.
Remember that you are strong, and you are capable of living your best life. It might take time to process this, and it might be challenging, but you will make it through. You are stronger than you know.
Have a great Saturday and I'll see you next week!