Orthorexia: Truth behind eating disorder disguised as 'clean eating'

Web Desk
This image shows an individual holding a spoonful of salad. — Pexels
This image shows an individual holding a spoonful of salad. — Pexels

In today's world, wellness trends dominate social media and organic grocery stores line every corner, making it easy for people to fall into the trap of believing that "healthy" equals happiness.

But what people don't realise is that the pursuit of "clean" eating may veer into dangerous territory turning it into an obsession.

Such an obsession is known in the medical world by the term "orthorexia".

This term is derived from the Greek words ortho, meaning "correct", and orexis, meaning "appetite", which describes an obsession with consuming only "correct" or healthy foods.

However, as it is not officially recognised as an eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it is often applauded as a commitment to clean eating.

This disorder, which begins with an innocent commitment to healthy eating, carries serious implications for physical and mental well-being.

Experts have shared this commitment can quickly escalate into the elimination of entire food groups or the avoidance of any food that an individual deems impure, such as those containing artificial additives or pesticides.

"Some elements of it can be very like diet culture in disguise," therapist Jennifer Rollin, founder of The Eating Disorder Centre said. 

"It can also limit one from what one's sort of greater goals and values are," she added.

A young girl looking at a piece of bread. — Pexels
A young girl looking at a piece of bread. — Pexels

Although research on orthorexia remains limited, its prevalence appears intertwined with other eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Experts have also stressed understanding the complexities of orthorexia, deeming them crucial in navigating the fine line between mindful eating and a harmful obsession with purity.

Symptoms of orthorexia

The warning signs that the disorder is progressing into orthorexia, according to Eating Disorders, include:

  • Extreme worry about the foods they choose, especially if their diet doesn't fit their own strict personal criteria of "purity".
  • Social isolation as they distance themselves from people and activities that conflict with their rigid eating plan.
  • Feeling guilty after "slip-ups".
  • Increased self-esteem from consuming “healthy” meals.
  • Anxiety, sadness, and mood swings.