You have read countless articles on what to eat and what not to eat and you pride yourself in being someone who takes good care of yourself. You have the strict resolve to eat healthy food and rarely ever slip off the health plateau. Raw fruits, Boiled veggies and Salads are your best friends. But did you know that your extreme awareness (read obsession) about eating healthy can lead to an eating disorder?
Orthorexia (used as a parallel with other eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa) is a fixation on eating only healthy or pure foods, or what an individual perceives as healthy or pure. Nutritionists and doctors have seen an increase in number of people who seem to have an obsession about eating only those food items which they feel are healthy for them.
Aarti Shah, a 26 year old is one such person. Being health conscious, Aarti decided to restrict the intake of salt and sugar in her diet. "My mom's got diabetes and my dad suffers from high blood pressure. Over time as I read up and realised that I could too suffer from the same ailments. Hence, I decided to restrict my diet of sugar and salt. It wasn't even difficult as my parents followed the same routine. In spite of optimizing my diet, I fell seriously ill last year. I used to feel exhausted and drained all the time even though I wasn't doing anything strenuous. Through body check up I was surprised to learn that told I had some imbalance of sodium and potassium in my body. Basically the lack of essential minerals like sodium and glucose made me feel lethargic. It was then that I realised that one needs to have things in moderation and not completely cut out things from your diet without proper consultation from a doctor."
Practising gynaecologist, Dr. Darshna Thakker, has often come across people who are obsessed on eating right and in turn end up harming themselves. "The problem is with so much awareness, there are number of people who get too obsessed on what they are eating but then in their effort to eat healthy and pure food they tend to miss out on a balanced diet. Also each body's requirements are different at different age groups. Everything needs to be done in a balance."
Even though Orthorexia is not yet an officially recognised eating disorder, there are signs that one can note of suffering from it.
- Being overly concerned with your eating habits.
- Feeling the guilt of deviating from strict diet guidelines.
- Having critical thoughts about others who do not adhere to rigorous diets.
- Distancing from friends or family members who do not share similar views about food.
- Avoiding eating food bought or prepared by others.
- Worsening depression, mood swings or anxiety regarding food matters and habits.
"Eating healthy is always a good choice, but not at the cost of health and that includes psychological health. Nutritional deficiency can make one irritable and depressed. So make sure you choose right and be wise," adds Dr. Darshna.