When Healthy Eating is No Longer Healthy…

A new type of eating disorder is emerging where people are becoming obsessed with eating to improve their health. 

As an Eating Psychology Coach, I deal with a range of eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, over-eating and body image concerns. But most of my clients recently haven’t even realized what their eating problem was exactly. Some initially come to see me because they want to eat healthier, or lose more weight, or cease binging on certain foods. In actual fact, they have something called ‘Orthorexia’. The word comes from the Greek word “orthos” meaning right and correct, and “orexis” meaning appetite. The term was coined by Steven Bratman, MD in 1996. He began to use it with his patients who were overly health-obsessed. You can read more by Dr. Steve Bratman at http://www.orthorexia.com/ and take his test to find out if you suffer with this.

One client came to me for adrenal burnout, gut dysbiosis and disordered eating. She had a green juice for breakfast, a green smoothie for lunch, and a green salad and a green smoothie for dinner, while doing two bikram yoga sessions every day! That’s an extreme example, but this new wave of nutritional obsession is taking healthy eating to extremes.  

An orthorexics behaviour is similar to those who suffer from anorexia or bulimia nervosa, except that anorexics and bulimics are concerned with the quantity of food consumed whereas orthorexics are concerned with the quality.

We are so obsessed with nutrition, it is hard to distinguish between people who are orthorexic and people who are just health conscious. Common behaviours include the following:

  • Elimination of entire food groups in attempt for a “clean” or “perfect” diet, including vast amounts of “superfoods”.
  • Severe anxiety regarding how food is bought and prepared.
  • Avoidance of social events involving food for fear of being unable to comply with their strict diet.
  • Thinking critically of others who do not follow strict diets.
  • Spending extreme amounts of thought, time and money in meal planning and food choices.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame when unable to adhere to diet standards.
  • Feeling fulfilled or virtuous from eating “healthy” while losing interest in other activities once enjoyed.

These extreme behaviours go beyond attempts to live healthily or lifestyle changes as they can negatively influence a person physically, emotionally, and mentally.  As orthorexia progresses and develops, it can truly mimic damaging effects seen in Anorexia and Bulimia, such as malnutrition from dietary restrictions, social isolation, emotional instability and can even lead to death.

So how do we get the right balance between eating healthily and healthy eating obsession? Balance is the key. Eating healthily should have a positive effect on health without reducing the enjoyment of life, affecting relationships with others, or becoming all encompassing. Essentially, food shouldn’t be the most important focus of your life.

As Bratman says: “Rather than eat my sprouts or kale alone, it would be better for me to share a pizza with some friends.”

I’m the Nourishment Coach, sharing my stories, helping those with body image concerns, food and eating issues and helping others find self-nourishment without food.

Susannah McAlwey

Sensitive. Sanguine. Sincere.

I miraculously healed myself from a 25 year chronic combined anorexic/ bulimic/ binge eating disorder, despite numerous medical professionals telling me I would “never” recover!

My 25 years of hell was beyond a nightmare with infinite hospitalisations, almost dying from a potassium deficiency, lying to everyone I loved, feeling constant shame and guilt, not being truly connected to anyone, feeling misunderstood by everyone, avoiding any social situation around food, being unable to keep a job or relationship, despising myself every minute of every day, and not living the life I was meant to live – in supposedly some of the best years of my life.

I can tell you infinite stories of my addiction, as well as my road to recovery. I can tell you how I cured myself 100% with no lingering symptoms, and I can help you do the same!

I call myself “The Nourishment Coach” because I believe eating disorders, disordered eating, body image concerns and obsessions with food and weight stem from issues well beyond food and eating. I believe they can be cured by true self nourishment.