Orthorexia, the insane obsession with “healthy eating”

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Sometimes, the interest in following a healthy diet becomes an obsession that can cause a psychological disorder that produces social isolation, to which doctors have given a name: the orthorexia,

According to Dr. Iria Rodríguez, a specialist in Endocrinology and Nutrition at the HM Modelo Hospital in Coruña, “sometimes this obsession begins with a diet that arises to address some type of pathology that requires a certain nutritional management and others simply for the desire to have a healthier diet.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive fixation on food that the affected person considers healthy, with recurrent and persistent concern about food, which is also “accompanied by a rigidity and inflexibility in the diet that ends up leading to deterioration at a psychological level, generating anxiety or stress, and that can affect social behavior, avoiding, for example, eat out”.

In addition, the strict restriction of certain foods can trigger other endocrine diseases such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, menstrual disturbances, osteoporosis and even malnutrition and underweight.

Symptoms of orthorexia

The criteria followed by a person with orthorexia can be very different, although, as the expert explains, “they are always very rigid self-imposed rules for alleged health reasons, but which are often wrong”,

  • Sometimes the obsession focuses only on the quality of the food or the way it is grown or manufactured.
  • On other occasions, the restriction is made on food groups due to the mistaken conviction that they contain toxic substances or because they think they are not healthy.

How to prevent orthorexia

To prevent orthorexia it is essential offer the population nutritional education from reliable sources, avoiding less rigorous information that today is disseminated through the social networks.

In the words of the expert: “the Mediterranean diet includes all the foods necessary to cover our needs for micro and macronutrients and helps prevent cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and even some types of cancer. “But if we occasionally skip it, it will not significantly affect our health. There is no need to obsess or have feelings of guilt or anxiety.”

Treatment of orthorexia

Orthorexia is addressed jointly by a team made up of psychiatrists and psychologists and dietitians-nutritionists with psychological and pharmacological treatment.

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