Orthorexia- A Comprehensive Guide

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Ritika Sharma

13 articles

Saturday, 26-Nov-2022

10 Min Read

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Orthorexia- A Comprehensive Guide

It is imperative to follow a healthy lifestyle where a person has any health goal, whether muscle gain, maintaining health and fitness or weight loss goal. Still, an obsession with the same can become fatal. It is widely known as orthorexia. 

Orthorexia results in a fixed eating habit which can adversely affect a person's health. It makes a person eat in a particular manner, which is why it is a type of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). This eating pattern indicates that the person is suffering from orthorexia. 

Let us dive more into the symptoms and causes of orthorexia.

Table Of Contents

1. What Is Orthorexia?

2. Symptoms Of The Orthorexia

3. Cause Of Orthorexia

4. Commonly Avoided Foods By Orthorexia People

5. Signs Of Orthorexia

6. Dietitian’s Recommendation

7. The Final Say

8. FAQs

What Is Orthorexia?

An extreme preoccupation with eating healthfully characterises Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) or Orthorexia. This obsession takes a toll on the health of the person.

Orthorexia Nervosa is thought to have certain perceptual aspects of anorexia nervosa, OCD, and other mental diseases. Although the incidence of orthorexia may be greater among healthcare professionals and performers, data from a small 2017 survey of college students shows it is less than 1% overall.

Contrary to this, other studies conducted on European students have revealed that 17% of the population may be at risk for orthorexia.

Symptoms Of Orthorexia

As per the studies conducted by NIH (National Institute of Health) following are the symptoms of Orthorexia: 

1. Anxiety About Eating Food Cooked By Others Or Eating Out

A person suffering from Orthorexia dislikes eating food prepared by others. This is because of the constant fear that the food would lack the required amount of nutrients.

2. Worrying About Food Quality

There is a sense of anxiety regarding the quality of food prepared by others. A person with orthorexia often is sceptical about the freshness, quality and preparation of food.

3. A Sense Of Being Undernourished

Weight loss may result from malnutrition, which can be brought on by cutting down on healthy meals and failing to take in enough calories.

4. Fear Of Sickness

There is a fear of sickness when a person constantly thinks about eating food others prepare.

5. Carrying Pre-Prepared Food

A person with orthorexia always carries food prepared by themselves to events to avoid food prepared by others.

6. The Critical View Eating Habits Of Others

These people are always critical of the eating habits of others. They keenly observe what, how and when others eat and try to make sense of their eating habits.

7. Anxious About Changing Diet Regime

Whenever a person tries to change their diet, there may be a sense of anxiety. It results from the fear of the effects and adaptation of the new diet.

8. Obsessive Attitude Towards Ingredients

People with orthorexia have an obsessive attitude towards food ingredients. They try to figure out every component of the dish and analyse their effects keenly. 

9. Eliminating A Wide Variety Of Food

Excluding whole food categories with no reasonable justification. The reason might be health effects or religious, cultural, or ethical perspectives (e.g., gluten, sugar, all carbs, all fats, animal products).

10. Food Is A Cure

These people are obsessed with curing diseases by eating healthy or clean food. They believe a healthy diet can cure and prevent every disease. 

11. Reviewing Menus

These people have an abnormal preoccupation with the food presented at gatherings. They are critical of the variety of food items. 

Other Signs Of Orthorexia

A person suffering from Orthorexia shows a lot of signs. These signs alert them to overlook their habits and avoid orthorexia:

1. Thinking about overeating to the point that it starts disrupting a person’s sleep, concentration, or learning.

2. Spending over two or three hours each day seeking, obtaining, and cooking particular food.

3. Enduring emotions of regret after eating limited foods.

4. Thinking poorly of those who do not eat clean.

5. Interpersonal issues because of a growing reliance on food for fulfilment and satisfaction.

6. Identifying one's sense of value and ability to stick to dietary restrictions.

7. Conduct regular cleansing or fasts for detoxification.

8. Avoid eating out or attending social events because of the food. Suffer from malnutrition and weight loss; attribute health problems to poor diet.

9. The conviction that one's value depends on how strictly one follows dietary restrictions.

Causes Of Orthorexia

Even if the initial motivation for dieting is health-related, a person may get obsessed with it. Over time, well-meaning efforts to improve one's health via dietary choices might turn into a disorder known as orthorexia. Here are a few causes listed for orthorexia:

  • Mood disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • An imbalance in brain chemicals
  • Troubled relationships
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Altered body image
  • Being a picky eater
  • Impulsive behaviour

Commonly Avoided Foods In Orthorexia 

People suffering from orthorexia avoid many food items. Some of them are listed below:

  • High carb foods
  • Foods containing artificial colours, flavour, or preservatives
  • Any processed or unhealthy foods
  • Food that anyone other than themselves has prepared
  • Meat and other animal products
  • All refined sugar
  • Nonorganic foods

Dietitian’s Recommendation

Because of the adverse effects of orthorexia on a person's physical health, those who suffer from it often avoid eating out and are hyper-vigilant about the preparation and presentation of the food they consume.

Therefore, as a nutritionist, I recommend maintaining a healthy mental state via regular meditation and other activities. Also, strive to keep your mood fluctuations, which may be detrimental to your health, under control.

- Dietitian Akshata Gandevikar 

The Final Say

Weight loss, mood swings, nutritional inadequacy, and other health difficulties are all symptoms of orthorexia, an eating disorder characterised by an obsessive dread of consuming contaminated or unclean food at all times. If left untreated, it might lead to mental health issues.


1. Can orthorexia be cured?

There is no recognised therapy for orthorexia. However, the National Eating Disorders Association reports that mental health practitioners frequently approach it similarly to anorexia or bulimia (OCD).

2. How does orthorexia affect the body?

Failure to effectively treat orthorexia may have long-lasting, harmful effects.

3. How is orthorexia different from Anorexia?

Unlike anorexia, which is primarily concerned with weight loss, orthorexia is only concerned with consuming healthy food.

4. When was orthorexia discovered?

The word orthorexia was discovered in the 1990s by Steve Bartman.


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