We have all heard of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Binge eating – these are the commonly seen eating disorders that can cause extreme weight loss or in the latter case, weight gain.
But there is also another, lesser known eating disorder called Orthorexia Nervosa, that describes people with an obsession for healthy eating. Though this is not recognized by the medical community as such, Orthorexia is regarded as a mental disorder by some.
In extreme cases, the fixation with eating healthy may be so extreme that it can lead to malnutrition and in rare cases, even death.
The disorder stems from an unhealthy relationship with food, which is fueled by society trends, family habits, economic adversity, or even an illness.
Orthorexics can be highly suggestible, and may altogether eliminate certain foods or food groups from their diet, if they hear anything negative about it.
Until recently, Orthorexia did not have a separate classification and was grouped under EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise recognized).
Now however, with increasing numbers of Orthorexia Nervosa sufferers, separate classification and treatment was deemed necessary.
Unlike anorexics, orthorexics are divided equally gender wise; as many men have the disorder as do women. Also orthorexics are not necessarily thin, and could be normal weight or even overweight, since their obsession is principally to do with the quality of food, and not necessarily quantity.
And this is one eating disorder that is more commonly seen among the better educated classes.
The obsession with ‘pure’ foods typically makes orthorexics cut out foods containing salt, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, yeast and so on.
Another bugbear is anything with additives – foods containing preservatives, artificial colors/flavors, any kind of contact with pesticides, or herbicides are also banished from the diet. Some also eschew soy, corn, gluten, wheat, and all dairy products.
Malnourishment, social isolation, stress, anxiety and relationship problems are some common fallouts of this condition.