When healthy eating becomes unhealthy

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Are you obsessing over food portions? Do you avoid eating because you feel you’re fat If this sounds like you then you might be an orthorexic.

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Orthorexia is not classified as an eating disorder, but is recognised internationally as a fixation on righteous eating, focusing only on healthy food. Orthorexics have an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. They become fixated on food quality and purity and are consumed with what and how much to eat.

Psychiatrist Christopher Zabo warned against compulsive behaviour takes its toll on emotional wellbeing. “The pursuit to health could lead to the development of pathology. Fact is, when you aspire to something that is unrealistic, your ways of attempting to achieve perfection may set you up for problems, such as eating disorders.”

Not everyone who is following a healthy eating plan is orthorexic, which is why Dr Steven Bratman has done a study and compiled a test on how you can see if really your healthy eating is becoming unhealthy:

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.

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