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Is Eating Too Healthy an Eating Disorder?

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They may not be new disorders, but orthorexia and pregorexia are two eating disorders that I hadn’t heard labeled before. One disorder affects people focused on eating only healthy foods. The other affects pregnant women who gain little or no weight when they are pregnant (pregorexia).

Orthorexia is a controversial diagnosis identified by an obsession with totally avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. Over the years, we become more and more educated about the way the food that we eat is handled and processed. Those who restrict themselves to 100% whole and organic foods could be labeled.

Kristie Rutzel, a Virginia high school student, learned about healthy eating and stopped eating anything processed, said www.time.com. By the time she was in college she was on a strict raw-foods diet, eating uncooked broccoli and cauliflower almost exclusively. This sounds like she has tremendous will power and conviction. The problem was that at age 27 she weighed only 68 lb. and was diagnosed with anemia and osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis because she avoided calcium in her diet. She is labeled orthorexic.

There are lists and lists of foods for us to avoid so that we eat “healthy’. Some frequently publicized foods to avoid include trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup and anything with artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Not surprisingly, women are more prone to diet restrictions than men because of habits like counting calories, carbs, sodium, etc. and micromanaging the purchase and preparation of food.

The organization, Washington-based Eating Disorders Coalition representing more than 35 eating disorder organizations, thinks labeling this condition as an eating disorder is a mistake. The group feels that orthorexia, this fixation on eating only ‘healthy’, should not have a separate classification in the core identification resource for psychiatric illness, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

This breeds discussion among doctors. Is orthorexia an anxiety disorder or an eating disorder?

Is it the label that is important or is it getting the patient the treatment that they need?

Add a Comment4 Comments

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February 16, 2010 - 2:56pm
EmpowHER Guest

I've wondered when the consequences of these new extreme fads would start appearing. We live in a time of extremes. It's all or nothing. You are absolutely right. At RebelWithaFork.com, I teach how to live a balanced healthy lifestyle. And as unpopular as the concept may be, we need animal protein, and you can be too skinny. Besides, you'll die of boredom!

Now I will say, I avoid packaged and processed foods and pop as much as humanly possible. But otherwise, no food group is off limits for this size 2 - 53 year old!

February 13, 2010 - 9:45am
HERWriter Guide

Great post Kellen!

I agree that compulsive exercising can be a real problem. Some people will work out 5-6 hours a day and many have body dysmorphic disorder - which is a fixation on how their body looks, finding fault with every part and not being able to see their image as others see it.

I think eating very healthy foods (that are whole and organic) is a good thing! But I do agree that it can get really out of hand and limit a person, rather than free them due to so many "musts" and must nots" in their lives.

Keeping food journals is a great idea when losing weight. Studies have shown that many of us have no idea of what we're eating and how much and a food journal is the first step to a healthy awareness.

However, healthy people who are so aware of their eating habits and obsess over every crumb may absolutely have a disorder. Knowing the exact times and amounts (I had 10 organic raspberries at 9.45am) is the same kind of obsession that anorexics and bulimics have, and can interfere with daily life.

It can also mean they are bored without much going on in their lives so that they fill their time with endless lists of foods (also keeping a long list of "never eat" foods) because it's filling a lonely void.

There is also the notion of feeling the need to "educate" everyone else by pushing their diets and lists on people - as sometimes people really feel it's their mission to change all our eating and exercise habits. There are good and bad aspects to that mindset.

A healthy diet and exercise regime is good for all of us. It's when we overdo food and under exercise that problems occur. Similarly, it's when we restrict so many good foods (because we read somewhere that...) and are so conscious of our diet (including what kind of portion we ate, what time we ate it and exactly how many hours we exercised) that we don't realize how much we limit ourselves from life, as well as alienate ourselves from others. A happy balance can be maintained. Some need therapy to achieve this or just time to step back and lessen their obsession with food, exercise and self image.

We were out with a big group of friends for dinner last night and I normally eat healthily and I exercise regularly. But last night I opted for a side of home-made mac and cheese with herbed breadcrumbs and a side of home-made mashed potatoes and a walnut and roasted pear salad. Mmmmm! Healthy? Aside from the salad - not so much! But nice to relax and have fun and to heck with calories for that night! Today - back to normal. Moderation is sweet!

February 13, 2010 - 6:35am
EmpowHER Guest

Orthorexia can be a devastating, serious condition... I am pleased to see there is increasing awareness about this subject!

If you or someone you love are struggling with Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa, an Over-exercising disorder, Orthorexia, Diabulimia, Compulsive Overeating, or another type of eating disorder that is negatively affecting your life and your health, please reach out.

There is hope...



Please read my blog "Orthorexia" (and other eating disorder related blogs):


February 13, 2010 - 12:39am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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