Obsessed with Healthy Food? It Could be Orthorexia

Mar 15, 2024
Obsessed with Healthy Food? It Could be Orthorexia
Did you know there’s a type of eating disorder that revolves around being too rigid with your food intake and obsessed with healthy eating? It’s called orthorexia, and it could be causing you severe stress.

Most people commend you for making an effort to eat healthy. They may even prompt you to do so in both helpful and unhelpful ways. But did you know an obsession with healthy food can actually be a kind of eating disorder? 

It’s called orthorexia, and it’s one of the many conditions we treat at Black Onyx. At our integrated psychiatry center, we can help you with this issue and start to uncover what may be lying beneath it.

Peter Pham, PMHNP-BC, and Diana Bush, PMHNP-BC understand eating disorders as well as the comorbidities that are associated with them. If you think you might have orthorexia, we want to help you recover and start to take care of yourself again. 

Orthorexia 101: What it is and why it occurs 

Orthorexia nervosa is a condition similar to its better known cousin, anorexia nervosa, but it has its own effects and issues. The name for this condition means “correct appetite” and was coined in 1997 by Steven Bratman. People with orthorexia are focused on exactly that. 

Unlike anorexia, which causes people to eat very little or not at all, orthorexia becomes an obsession with eating the right foods. This may mean you:

  • Stick to a very strict diet
  • Only eat at the certain times, even if you’re hungry
  • Fixate on the amount of food you eat 
  • Leave whole food groups out of your diet
  • Have feelings of anxiety when around what you believe are the wrong foods 
  • Have feelings of depression, anxiety, or severe self-admonishment if you break food rules
  • Have a fear of sickness that causes you to create strict rules about food

Some people who develop orthorexia do so because they don’t like their bodies and want to change rapidly. This can also develop from teasing or bullying, as other eating disorders can. But some people develop orthorexia due to a desire for perfectionism more than dissatisfaction with their appearance. 

Co-occurring disorders — such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and others — commonly occur with eating disorders. And while different people have different experiences, one will absolutely increase the likelihood that you might develop the other.  

Recognizing and dealing with orthorexia 

You might get a sense of satisfaction when you eat healthy foods, and you might even have certain rules about eating that you like to follow. This can be normal without any symptoms that suggest orthorexia has taken hold. 

But if you notice that your eating habits have become an obsession, that you get very upset every time rules are broken, or that you are only interested in talking about your food intake — and the food others eat — you might have a problem. 

In short, orthorexia occurs when a person’s focus on eating healthy food becomes unhealthy for their day-to-day life. 

If you think you might have orthorexia, we can help. Our center offers psychological evaluations for those who think they might be dealing with a mental health issue (like an eating disorder) and require a diagnosis. 

We can also help you determine if any other comorbid mental disorders could be affecting your orthorexia. 

We provide a number of treatment options, such as psychotherapy, weight management that allows you to learn truly healthy eating habits, and more. With our help, you’ll be able to start seeing food in a healthier way — one that allows for flexibility, enjoyment, and ease.  

You can eat healthy without orthorexia 

In fact, those with orthorexia often experience less healthy eating habits simply because they aren’t able to allow themselves the freedom to listen to their body’s needs. We can help you make a change. 

Call today or make an appointment online at your earliest convenience at one of our California offices in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, or South San Francisco.