Saturday, September 14, 2013

When Eating Healthy Becomes Unhealthy

Filling your grocery cart with organic vegetables and whole grains is a smart way to personally combat the nation’s obesity epidemic. Yet for some people, a dedication to eating “right” can cross a line into a disorder called orthorexia.

Unlike anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by consuming too few calories, orthorexia is a preoccupation with the quality of food, rather than the quantity, and the condition can have severe mental and physical repercussions.

The disorder often begins with a real desire to improve health, says Maria Rago, Ph.D., vice president of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). People stop eating white flour or processed foods, and aim for organic produce and whole grains. Such healthy practices should be applauded, but when restrictions become so severe—cutting out fats or salt or food groups—you put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies or other problems.

The physical consequences of orthorexia are real, but what distinguishes the disorder from healthy eating is obsessive and compulsive behavior. “How preoccupied someone is about eating the right thing, that’s the measure of orthorexia,” says Rago. Read the entire article.

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