In an era where many health-seekers are restricting their food choices to eliminate problematic foods, adhere to particular standards, or achieve personal goals, we’ve seen the emergence of a new eating-disorder diagnosis: orthorexia — a condition characterized by food choices so limited that it results in serious health problems. Here we explore the challenge of orthorexia, and what we see as the solution.

This week, we’re talking about Orthorexia — an eating disorder in which a person becomes so obsessed with what they think of as “healthy” eating that they over-limit their diet and become unhealthy as a result.

Dedicated healthy eaters sometimes write off orthorexia as nonsense, seeing the diagnosis as just another way of marginalizing the sensible choices made by many not to consume certain types of foods they are sensitive to, or simply don’t want to eat.

But as we share here, orthorexia is a real thing — definitely not your garden-variety picky eating — and for some, it can become life threatening.

So we talk about what orthorexia is, the rigid thoughts and beliefs that can predispose people to suffering from it, and how you can steer clear of its grip.

We share some of our personal experiences and professional insights about this condition, and as always, we offer you some experiments to help you reconsider the attitudes you hold about food, and the healthy-eating decisions you choose to make in your own life.

“Orthorexia” Episode Highlights

  • The National Eating Disorder Association’s list of orthorexia’s warning signs and symptoms
  • Why some restrictive eating approaches don’t fall into the category of obsessive healthy eating — and some do
  • Orthorexia as another anxiety-producing neurosis that needs to be approached with compassion
  • Getting clear about the real reasons you choose to eat the way you do — the first step in resisting unhealthy defaults
  • The value of what Pilar calls “Amplified Awareness” — the first Core Competency of Healthy Deviance
  • How scarcity mentality can lead to compulsive food thoughts and actions
  • Applying the “orthorexic” label carefully, and understanding when it’s being used to undermine healthy eating choices
  • How food and diet obsessions may be keeping you from giving the world your best gifts

Create an open space for dialogue about food by choosing one of these experiments:

1) Ask a close friend of family member what impression they have of your eating habits.

2) With an open mind, ask someone you know who restricts their diet what their motivations are.

Take Food Renegade’s “Am I an Orthorexic?” quiz. If your results trouble you, give some careful thought to how your food choices affect you — are they improving your life, or creating anxiety?

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