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When Healthy Eating Becomes A “Disorder”: 10 Ways To Diagnose Orthorexia

When Healthy Eating Becomes A “Disorder”: 10 Ways To Diagnose Orthorexia

As a recovering anorexic and bulimic, I catch myself constantly being overly cautious about what I eat and what I don’t. There are certain foods that still have the power to send me into an unconscious binge, while even certain amounts of other foods create an obsession to “fast” and eat healthier “from now on.”

According to an article written by Karin Kratina, Ph.D. of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa), orthorexia by definition is “to be fixated on healthy eating.” Such an intense focus on anything indicates an unhealthy relationship with the object, and can throw every aspect of one’s life out of balance. One very strong indication of orthorexia is eating only certain foods that have been labeled healthy either by society’s standards or the standards of the people themselves. While there are many positive reasons behind eating “better” and more mindfully, orthorexics don’t allow themselves to eat any foods — healthy or otherwise — that aren’t on their “approved” list.

While orthorexia hasn’t yet been technically classified an eating disorder and diagnosing it can only be done by healthcare professionals, here are 10 characteristics people with orthorexia exhibit.

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1. They obsessively read food labels.

People with orthorexia will constantly be checking package labels for ingredients in foods they allow themselves to eat…or don’t. If canola oil, for example is something they won’t allow themselves to eat, any product with that specific type of oil — organic, raw or otherwise — will stay on the grocery store shelf.

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    2.  They lack focus and joy.

    Healthy eating becomes so much a priority for the orthorexic they often lose their zest for life and focus solely on food. Happiness is generally short-lived and usually comes only as a result of finding a new food or restaurant they can enjoy based on their food choices. Life literally revolves around nutrition for the orthorexic.

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    3. They become “unhealthy.”

    Because the people experiencing orthorexia are so limited in their food choices, they often miss out on the vitamins and nutrients necessary to sustain the health they are striving to achieve. Sleep is often affected when this happens, and along with sleep deprivation comes the body’s inability to properly recover or restore its much need physical and mental equilibrium.

    4.  They isolate themselves.

    Being in public, especially in situations where food will be served, tends to is often a struggle for people fixated on healthy eating. Most of the time orthorexics will become less and less social simply because the stress of having to hide their food issues or make excuses for “not being hungry” is exhausting and overwhelming. It is much easier and safer for a person with these tendencies to become homebodies in controlled environments.

    5.  They agonize over eating out.

    Finding a restaurant that serves foods on their “healthy” list is another major stressor for orthorexics. They will find two or three specific places which will modify or already have on the menu the ingredients they will allow themselves to eat. Many times orthorexics will be  for their “picky,” “diva” or “complicated” ordering, which makes the experience even more traumatic for the person suffering from the food disorder.

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      6.  They criticize other’s food choices. 

      Orthorexics will many times make themselves feel better about their “perfect” eating habits by criticizing other people’s less healthy choices. When they see someone eating food from off limit establishments such as fast food restaurants or ice cream shops, orthorexics tend to point out every detail that’s wrong with what the other person is eating. The way the food is cooked, the nutrition facts and the ingredients of each menu item are scrutinized and then explained in detail as to why they’re incredibly unhealthy choices.

      7.  They glorify their “healthy” lifestyle.

      People living with orthorexic tendencies will more often than not try to gain attention and acknowledgment for their adaptation to and perfecting of a “healthy” lifestyle. They feel as if because they are diligent with their healthy food choices which excludes everything deemed detrimental to a person’s optimal functioning, they are entitled to exalt the way they’re living.

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      8.  They exercise excessively.

      Exercising also becomes a fixation for people suffering from orthorexia. In order to maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible, food regulation is accompanied by the desire to “work off” anything extra they may have eaten that wasn’t in their meal plan. Looking the part of a healthy lifestyle, in the mind of orthorexics, by being physically attractive and “in-shape” is another indicator speaking to the mindset of the person striving to be the epitome of perfect health.

      9.  They thrive on perfectionism.  

      Ultimately the issues behind orthorexics’ thoughts and habits run them directly into the wall of perfectionism. These issues usually stem from the need to control every aspect of their own lives; however, since external influences are constantly varying, the perfectionist will do whatever is necessary to make flawless their food intake and exercise regimens.

      10. They run out of good foods.

      Inevitably orthorexics become so restrictive with even their “acceptable” healthy foods that they’re left with only a few choices and even more health problems, as suggested by Sarah Horne Grose in her article for The Cut (http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/07/10-ways-to-spot-an-orthorexic.html). This puts into motion the excruciating cycle becoming more healthy and more perfect, which spirals into less nutrition with more exercise and eventually leads to an even less joyful existence.

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        While each one of these symptoms of orthorexic may seem devastating and insurmountable, please know without any doubt there is help and healing available to everyone suffering from any form of eating disorder. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to a trusted friend, co-worker, classmate, teacher or even life coach or other professional for support and guidance. Life was not meant to be lived or problems solved alone, so asking for help in learning new habits and life skills is by far the greatest sign of strength and health possible. It’s never too late to start writing the next chapter of the greatest story ever told!

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        Last Updated on March 13, 2019

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

        You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

        Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

        1. Work on the small tasks.

        When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

        Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

        2. Take a break from your work desk.

        Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

        Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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        3. Upgrade yourself

        Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

        The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

        4. Talk to a friend.

        Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

        Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

        5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

        If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

        Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

        Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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        6. Paint a vision to work towards.

        If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

        Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

        Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

        7. Read a book (or blog).

        The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

        Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

        Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

        8. Have a quick nap.

        If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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        9. Remember why you are doing this.

        Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

        What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

        10. Find some competition.

        Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

        Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

        11. Go exercise.

        Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

        Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

        As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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        Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

        12. Take a good break.

        Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

        Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

        Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

        Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

        More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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