One of the hardest things I’ve ever been through in my life was orthorexia, an eating disorder I never knew existed until I had developed signs of orthorexia. Orthorexia is an eating disorder not designed around restricting calories or losing weight. Instead, it’s about eliminating all foods that aren’t “clean foods,” which is how most of us think we should probably eat anyway. With the huge health obsession in our country today, it is a fine line between what makes a person orthorexic and what makes them a healthy eater. I am a healthy eater, but I was once a victim of orthorexia. To show you the signs, and the differences, I’d like to share with you the signs of orthorexia, so you can know if you have this disorder, or if you know someone who might. I’ve also included sources at the end for help and for more information.
1 Fear of Food
One of the main signs of orthorexia is fearing foods that aren’t perfectly clean. It isn’t about choosing to eat clean foods, such as non-processed, allergen-free, etc., but it’s about literally fearing food that isn’t perfect, completely clean or easily digested.
2 It Starts Small
Orthorexia starts very small. It might start by just eating foods that aren’t processed, which is a great way to live, or might start with just going gluten-free. This doesn’t mean that all people who eat this way are orthorexic. It just means that the disorder starts small with cutting out one certain thing, whether medical based or not.
3 It Progresses Fast
For me, my orthorexia progressed fast once it got started. Once I went vegetarian, it was raw, then all organic, then local foods. I got really obsessive, and started juicing all my food. In the meantime, I was a wreck, and so far from the picture of health, even I didn’t realize it at first.
4 It Comes in Stages
A person with orthorexia may not eat all raw, all organic, etc. It can be something as simple as being afraid to eat anything canned, non-organic or that’s not allergen free. It’s not choosing those options, but being afraid to eat anything that isn’t approved. All people who have orthorexia are different, and all choose a different “path” of safeness.
5 It is Hard to Beat
Orthorexia is hard to beat because for one, it isn’t about calories, so it’s not a matter of gaining weight. It’s about fighting the mindset behind food and perfection. Trust me, that’s a hard thing to overcome, and one that takes daily practice.
6 Obsession with Perfection
One of the main signs of orthorexia is that the affected person is a perfectionist. They tend to strive to be the best at everything, including their diet as a result of orthorexia.
7 Menu Specific
Most people who are orthorexic will be so incredibly specific when ordering from a menu that it can be a little over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the girl who asks for no dressing, no oil or butter and no bread, but I used to go as far as asking if the vegetables were organic, where the meat came from and if any of the food was allergenic. If a person you know orders this way, or is incredibly specific, they may have orthorexia. I’m all about ordering foods this way if you have a health reason to, and like I said, I eat very healthy when ordering out. Yet, it’s fearing that everything you eat might not be perfect that is the sign of orthorexia.
For more on my story, and how I live now, you can visit my blog, The Soulful Spoon. Also, I’ve included the website for the National Association of Eating Disorders for more resources or help if you think you have orthorexia. Have you ever dealt with orthorexia, or do you know someone who has?
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