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Orthorexia

Orthorexia Nervosa is a mental health condition where a person has an obsessive fixation with the quality rather than the quantity of food intake to an extreme degree. While Orthorexia is not formally recognised as an eating disorder in the DSM-5,  it remains a serious mental health condition that can cause severe health complications.

 

The progression of Orthorexia often begins with a focus on ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’ eating, advancing to the exclusion of entire food groups such as dairy or grains, and then to the avoidance of foods such as those with artificial additives, foods treated with pesticides, or particular ingredients (e.g. fat, sugar or salt). The meaning of orthorexia can be difficult to distinguish due to society’s emphasis on ‘clean eating’. Another term used to describe orthorexia is orthoanorexia, given the resemblance it has to Anorexia Nervosa.

 

The main symptoms of orthorexia include feelings of guilt or failure when they cannot maintain their ridged dietary standards, fear of disease, mood swings, depression, anxiety, fatigue and emotional instability.

 

In orthorexia treatment, it's crucial to prioritize the healing of one's connection with food and body image. A healthy relationship with food emphasises balance, mindfulness and overall well-being, prioritising nourishment and pleasure. Strategies for fostering a healthy relationship with food encompass enjoying a variety of foods, honouring cravings, being flexible with eating habits, tuning into hunger and fullness cues and avoiding rigid food rules.

 

Orthorexia is an eating disorder which can often go undetected in society due to the pervasive diet culture that surrounds us. However, early detection and appropriate support can facilitate full recovery. Many individuals experiencing Orthorexia symptoms can reclaim a healthy, balanced and joyful relationship with food.

 

Dietitians play a critical role in orthorexia treatment, employing effective approaches such as RAVES and intuitive eating. These approaches aim to cultivate less rigid eating habits and provide education on what constitutes ‘healthy’ eating while safeguarding various dimensions of health, including physical, mental, and social well-being.

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