Eating Disorders

Orthorexia- When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

Do you eat healthy? Great! Do whatever works for you and makes you feel good. Bamboo Nutrition in Columbia, MO is one place to look if you feel your healthy eating may becoming an unhealthy obsession.

Orethorexia is a termed coined by Steven Bratman. What began as an individual wanting to eat healthy for their own reasons (i.e. energy, longevity, activity, etc.) turned into an obsession. This obsession with healthy eating caused social anxiety, withdraw, irritability, poor sleep, and much more. The thought of food consumed this person’s thoughts all day and night. At this point, this individual may have orthorexia.

Steven Bratman’s definition of Orthorexia states: “Orthorexia is an emotionally disturbed, self-punishing relationship with food that involves a progressively shrinking universe of foods deemed acceptable. A gradual constriction of many other dimensions of life occurs so that thinking about healthy food can becomes the central theme of almost every moment of the day, the sword and shield against every kind of anxiety, and the primary source of self-esteem, value and meaning. This may result in social isolation, psychological disturbance and even, possibly, physical harm. “

In other words, When healthy eating becomes unhealthy.

Don’t get me wrong, just because a person eats healthy and likes to eat organic or follow the latest trends in the food industry does not mean they have orthorexia.

Steven Bratman’s self-test is a good place to start:

The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test*

If you are a healthy-diet enthusiast, and you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may be developing orthorexia nervosa:

(1) I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.

(2) When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods.

(3) My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.

(4) Sometimes I would like to relax my self-imposed “good food” rules for a special occasion, such as a wedding or a meal with family or friends, but I find that I cannot. (Note: If you have a medical condition in which it is unsafe for you to make ANY exception to your diet, then this item does not apply.)

(5) Over time, I have steadily eliminated more foods and expanded my list of food rules in an attempt to maintain or enhance health benefits; sometimes, I may take an existing food theory and add to it with beliefs of my own.

(6) Following my theory of healthy eating has caused me to lose more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, loss of menstruation or skin problems.

*There are many self-tests on the internet to use in determining if you may have orthorexia or be on the verge of developing orthorexia, however, this is the only self-test that Steven Bratman approves.

Why Self Care?

You may be thinking, “I don’t need self-care. That’s for people who need therapists and yoga.” Mmmmm….. Not quite.

Self care is something us mental health professionals preach and preach because surely enough, we all could use some TLC.

What does self-care look like?

  • A bath or shower

  • Curling up with your fur baby, or real baby!

  • A nap

  • Doing something that makes you feel beautiful such as buying new makeup, getting a haircut, getting your nails done

  • Finding a place in nature and being by yourself

  • Going for a walk or to a work out

  • Baking

So many forms of self-care! But really, it comes down to doing what re-energizes YOU.

Self care is for all of us. It’s for when our battery needs recharged. When we’ve had a bad day. When our motivation is low.

Bottom line. Self care means taking care of yourself. And we all need it.

Don’t keep pouring from your cup without refilling it. In order to be the best version of yourself and serve those around you, you must take care of yourself too. It is not selfish, it is only giving back to yourself so you can continue to brighten those around you.

What’s your self care?

How to Offer Support to a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

This is such a common question from parents or loved ones who are trying to support someone with an eating disorder.

No one ever said providing support comes naturally.

What prevents someone from offering good support?

  1. Fear

You may feel fear that if you say the wrong thing or trigger them, they will self-harm, hate you, run away, whatever it may be. Yes, those things could happen, but do you know what else can happen? The eating disorder can win. The eating disorder can cause them to withdraw from their loved ones, starve themselves, force them to act upon thoughts that their authentic self does not want to do. Do not let fear stand in the way of supporting your child or loved one.

2. Guilt

There is no one to blame for the development of an eating disorder. Eating disorders can develop due to many things, one strongly being genetics. An easy analogy for this is- the genetics loads the gun, the environment pulls the trigger. Environment is something that is very difficult to control. This is not your fault, it is not anyones fault.

3. Pain

It is definitely painful watching someone you love treat their body in a harmful way. Eating disorders effect the individual mentally and physically. It takes a team of multi-disciplinary professionals to treat it, and one of the multi-disciplinary professionals is you. Family and friends play one of the largest roles in their loved one’s eating disorder treatment.

4. Misunderstanding

As mentioned before, no one asks for this illness to fall upon them. If you’re struggling supporting a loved one with an eating disorder because you simply do not understand, educate yourself. There are great resources at nationaleatingdisorders.org

After you conquer the barriers preventing you from providing good support… what do you do?

  1. Be present with them at meals and snacks, help distract them by talking about light topics that are unrelated to food.

  2. Make sure they have accessibility to food and beverages.

  3. Text or write them uplifting notes.

  4. Make sure they make it to their appointments with their treatment team.

  5. Be their rock- consistent and strong

  6. Do not talk about your own issues with food. Keep topics of diets, calories, weight, your eating struggles taboo.

  7. Ask them how they are doing around meal times, or in general.

  8. Empower them to tell their treatment team about behaviors they are acting upon.

Those are just a few ways you can support someone with an eating disorder. The other most important thing to do is to support other supporters. Do not knock each other down because you are all a part of a team and will succeed through positive affirmations from one another.

I would love to hear your stories in how you support your loved one! Post in the comments below, or send me an email at isabelle@bamboonutritionrd.com