An expert has warned young South Africans against following the “healthy” eating habits of celebrities since it may lead to orthorexia.
Orthorexia is described as an obsession with a healthy lifestyle and eating habits – often driven by celebrities’ “healthy” lifestyles and the diets they follow.
Medical experts warn that orthorexia is becoming increasingly common among young men and women worldwide as a result of their obsessions with their bodies.
Dr Patrick Maine, a psychiatrist at the Oasis clinic in Plettenberg Bay, estimates that approximately 10% of South Africans suffer from orthorexia.
“Many patients with anorexia-related problems developed them from orthorexia. As with anorexia, the patient often has very low self-esteem and is obsessed with their looks.
“What sets it apart from anorexia, where the patient would rather avoid all food, an orthorexia sufferer will avoid certain food groups,” Maine explains.
An orthorexia sufferer will, for example, avoid carbohydrates, protein, sugar, fat, wheat or even dairy products. This usually goes hand-in-hand with tough exercise regimes to stay fit.
“It is necessary to eat from these food groups in order to stay healthy.
“Many orthorexia sufferers believe that they’re allergic to the foods they refuse to eat.”
This eating disorder can be hidden easily and sufferers often only get help once it becomes life-threatening.
“People across the world are told which foods are good for their health on a daily basis. One day certain foods are healthy and the next day the very same ones are suddenly bad for you. On top of this, celebrities spread their slimming secrets and this encourages their fans to follow the same diets.”
Some of the most famous diets are the blood group diet, the grapefruit diet and the cabbage soup diet, all of them favourites with international stars.
Lucy Jones of the British Association of Dieticians says the misconception exists that if you avoid certain “bad” food groups you will be healthier.
“Young people should rather learn to follow healthy eating habits than those of celebrities.”