Orthorexia Nervosa: The Lesser Known Eating Disorder
A wise person once said, “Too much of anything can be bad.”The problem with fitness is that the line between dedication and obsession often gets blurred. But to put it simply, fitness (which includes physical exercise, eating healthy, and mental wellbeing) is supposed to be a part of your lifestyle, a part of your life, but when your whole life starts revolving around it – that’s when you know you’ve crossed into a different territory altogether.
Orthorexia nervosa is an unhealthy obsession with eating ‘right’ or healthy. The word is derived from the Greek word ‘orthos’, meaning ‘right’ or ‘correct’. Most cases of orthorexia start out as an innocent attempt to eat healthy, but end up in a constant fixation with food quality, purity, contents etc. Orthorexia is still a tricky disease to diagnose and treat. But overall, if this obsession is taking a toll on any area of your life, and you find yourself still not stopping, then you must worry.
Here are a few symptoms that you would relate to, if you were an orthorexic:
- You have no social life – God knows what they put in that dish, right? That grilled chicken is looking like a part of Satan’s plan to you. Most social gatherings revolve around food and drinks. You have started excluding entire food groups from your diet, and your friends don’t seem to understand your reasons. You are socially isolated, planning your entire day around food, petrified that people may coax you to stray from your path.
- You cannot judge between right and wrong – Your body might be experiencing severe deficiencies because of restricted intake of a lot of food or food groups, but you are in denial about it, and put it to something else you must’ve eaten, voiding that from your diet as well.
3. Your relationships are suffering – Orthorexia goes unnoticed in the beginning, until it becomes extreme. Your family and friends would begin asking questions, commenting, and ‘intervening’ in your so-called journey to health, which will lead to arguments and fallouts, because you either don’t want to face them, or you don’t want to budge. You will probably lose friends, and may have to continually lie to your family or partner too.
4. You have to lie about food-related issues – You have made everyone believe that you’re dairy and gluten intolerant, vegan, and cannot handle A-B-C foods without any medical consultation, just so no one tries to make you eat foods you don’t want to. You always have reasons to say no to food, and are obsessed with analysing and talking about food constantly.
5. You are neglecting the other aspects of your life – Thinking about, analysing, and planning your every meal is taking up your whole day, and you cannot seem to find time for anything else, choosing to prioritise your ‘health’ over everything else. Unless fitness is your profession, normally there is no way it should be interfering with your career, studies, or life in general. Just like any other addiction, as an orthorexic, you are so taken up by food that you are oblivious to everything else falling apart around you.
6. Do you feel disgusted or guilty; do you reprimand yourself even if you stray from your diet for 1 meal? – You feel the need to be in control of every single thing that you eat, loathing and punishing yourself in case you stray even a little. You may punish yourself in many ways, including starving yourself, or self-harming. Even a single incident of a meal outside of your plan, say at a birthday party, would have you obsessing over it later, and even having an emotional meltdown. That is how much you could hate yourself for something innocuous.
The above signs are not hard and fast, and are only strong indicators that you might be suffering from orthorexia nervosa. The important thing here is to understand that an obsession that takes you to success is good, while something that affects your life or the people in it isn’t. Try and understand the difference, or be open to getting medical help when your friends or family suggest that you do. You are not crazy; you are just ‘overly right’, my friend. And sometimes too much good is bad.