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Eating Liberally: Unhealthy Food Obsessions?

Eating Liberally: Unhealthy Food Obsessions?

Every now and then, Kerry Trueman (“KAT”) poses a question, usually about something challenging. Her challenge today: Let’s Ask Marion: Is it Possible to Have an Unhealthy Obsession With Healthy Eating?

(With a click of her mouse, EatingLiberally’s kat, aka Kerry Trueman, corners Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition and author of What to Eat, Food Politics, and Feed Your Pet Right):

KAT: As one of our most influential advocates for healthier food choices, you must be pleased to see that more and more Americans are rethinking the way we eat and demanding better options. But is it possible to take a concern for healthy eating to an unhealthy extreme?

I have a friend whose son has become so fixated on what foods he thinks he should or should not be eating that he could be a textbook case of “orthorexia nervosa,” a supposed eating disorder characterized by an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Do you think this is a real disorder, and if so, how does one address it?

Dr. Nestle: “Orthorexia nervosa”? I’m not convinced it deserves inclusion in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) but let’s leave that to the shrinks. One thing is for sure. If you think people have it, you need to deal with them in the same way porcupines make love–very carefully.

Nothing is more intimate than food. It goes inside our bodies. Nothing could be more personal than food choices. Unless what people eat is doing them serious harm, I would not dream of commenting.

When people are chronically hungry, all they want is food, any food, and right now. But we live in an age in which food is so abundant and so easily accessed that it’s hard for those of us who are pretty well off to remember what hunger feels like.

For us, food is no longer about relieving hunger and getting basic nourishment. For many people, it isn’t even about traditional culture or, heaven help us, pleasure. Food is just there for the eating.

For some people, this means food is the enemy. If they do not vanquish food, food will vanquish them.

Vanquishing means being in control. Healthy diets may be about variety, balance, and moderation, but food fighters—or “orthorectics” if you prefer—are not comfortable with moderation or balance. If saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels, don’t eat any fat at all. Whether high fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar or not, avoid it at all costs and never feed it to kids. Carbohydrates, trans fats, and color additives are bad for you when eaten in excess? Never touch them.

This may sound extreme but I can’t think of anything wrong with not eating these things. And I know lots of people who feel better when they don’t eat junk food and are actively controlling what goes into their bodies.

If your health food-obsessed friends are adults and their diets are reasonably varied, balanced, and moderate, they are probably doing just fine and don’t need an intervention. If they aren’t, and you think their dietary obsessions are harmful and causing them to lose too much weight, you can try an approach along the lines of “I love you and I want you to be healthy” and see if you can get them some professional help.

And if they are imposing extremely unvaried, unbalanced, and immoderate diets on children, you will want to get them some help right away.

Short of that, eating healthfully seems like a good thing to do and I have a hard time thinking of it as obsessive. What if eating healthfully were considered normal? As it should be, no?


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.


Yes, There's Such a Thing As Eating *Too* Healthy

Going vegan, eating organic, or simply cutting sugar can all be healthy lifestyle choices. But if doing so gives you anxiety about hanging out with friends (what if there&rsquos nothing I can eat?!) or makes you fear certain foods, it can actually be quite dangerous. Yep, being too healthy can actually be unhealthy.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating a &ldquopure&rdquo diet, which can mean avoiding foods with unhealthy fats, added sugar or salt, genetic modifications, artificial colors, or flavors and preservatives. And it&rsquos becoming increasingly common&mdashin part due to the way #cleaneating is glorified on Instagram.

When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

While it&rsquos smart to care about what goes into your body, it can become a problem if the restrictions start taking over your life. &ldquoIf a behavior is so disruptive that it interferes with work and personal relationships, it could be a sign of a psychological disorder,&rdquo says clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto. &ldquoSocial life is a huge factor in health because it&rsquos a buffer for stress.&rdquo

Extreme orthorexics will often turn down social invitations, fearing that &ldquohealthy&rdquo food won&rsquot be available. Or&mdashif they opt to risk it&mdashwill refuse to touch even a morsel of &ldquoimpure&rdquo food (anything processed, refined, or unhealthy), despite hunger pangs.

Some may even spend tons of time shopping for specific groceries and preparing meals, or hide their habits from friends and family to avoid criticism. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Koven NS, Abry AW. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 2015, Feb.11():1176-6328.

Though they sound similar, orthorexia is markedly different from anorexia: The goal is not necessarily to lose weight but instead to attain &ldquoperfect&rdquo physical health.

Someone who&rsquos anorexic might avoid healthy fats found in oils and nuts like the plague because they&rsquore afraid of the calories, while an orthorexic person is more likely to acknowledge fat&rsquos health benefits and carefully portion out their organic almonds and expeller-pressed oils. They wouldn&rsquot fear weight gain so much as eating an imperfect diet.

Depending on the extremity of the diet, some health-food addicts can fall prey to chronic hunger and rapid weight loss as they blacklist &ldquounhealthy&rdquo foods. Others don&rsquot lose any weight at all because they eat enough ultra-healthy foods to sustain themselves. So don&rsquot discount someone&rsquos disorder just because they&rsquore not stick thin.

Why It Matters

Orthorexia isn&rsquot currently recognized as an official medical condition in the DSM-5, the statistical manual of mental disorders. And the term itself has only been around since the late 90s, so there&rsquos not a ton of research on it.

Since orthorexia has less to do with poor body image or self-esteem, and more to do with a fear of illness and bad health, some classify it as a form of OCD, where a person satisfies unreasonable obsessions (like, say, eating a completely pure diet) with ritualistic behavior (meticulous calorie counting and nutrient tracking, refusal to eat certain foods, etc.). Obsessional and Eating Disorder-related Intrusive Thoughts: Differences and Similarities Within and Between Individuals Vulnerable to OCD or to EDs. Belloch A, Roncero M, Perpiñá C. European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association, 2016, Jun.24(6):1099-0968. [Eating disorders (ED) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD): common factors]. Bertrand A, Bélanger C, O&rsquoConnor K. Sante mentale au Quebec, 2011, Dec.36(1):0383-6320.

In this case, someone with orthorexia might undergo cognitive behavioral therapy to address the unhealthy rituals attached to their grocery shopping, food prep, and eating habits.

Some psychologists think a combination of CBT and mindfulness (which increases the awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable sensations) can train orthorexic patients to overcome anxiety related to their health.

Others think orthorexia should be treated like any other eating disorder and involve physicians and dietitians&mdashand sometimes even the use of drugs that help to control mood by inhibiting serotonin receptors.

Because it&rsquos not an accepted medical term, there&rsquos no definitive classification, diagnosis, or treatment for orthorexia. But before you start diagnosing every health-fanatic friend, know there&rsquos a fine line between health-conscious and health-obsessed. The term orthorexic does not apply to people with medical conditions that absolutely forbid certain food groups, such as those with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or food allergies.

The distinguishing factor seems to be whether the behavior interferes with other obligations (especially social life). If your fear of unhealthy food is keeping you from grabbing a drink after work or taking a rest day, consider talking to a professional about those feelings.

One easy way to ward off unhealthy feelings is to take a break from social media&mdashespecially Instagram. A recent study found that heavy Instagram users, especially those who follow a lot of health-related accounts, are way more likely to have orthorexic tendencies than people who stay away from aspirational food accounts. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Eating and weight disorders : EWD, 2017, Mar.22(2):1590-1262.

This doesn&rsquot mean you should unfollow all your favorite food blogs maybe just turn off post notifications, so you&rsquore not seeing their ultra-healthy pics all day every day. Another idea? Create a separate Instagram account where you follow your go-to foodies. That way, you can just check it when you&rsquore looking for recipe inspo or product reviews.

The Takeaway

The most important question to ask yourself is: Am I happy? A health-conscious person cares about their body, but a health-obsessed person freaks out over it. Your diet and exercise shouldn&rsquot give you anxiety.

While some foods are healthier than others, there&rsquos no food that&rsquos going to kill you if you eat it once or even a few times.

Living a healthy life shouldn&rsquot require you to turn down people and experiences that make you happy. Even for the sake of &ldquoperfect&rdquo health, exclusively talking to your organic, homegrown tomato plant is not sufficient social interaction. Cutting down on junk food is great, but moderation is key to achieving both physical and mental health.