Is it possible to eat too healthy?


Food and wellness have been the forefront of hot topics over the last decade. Terms like "clean eating" and "lifestyle changes" are being tossed around in every day conversation. People are becoming more and more interested in the nutrition content of foods, as well as quality. This is positive thing, right?

Not always.

Did you know it’s possible for “healthy” eating to be taken too far? Yes, someone can actually develop negative health effects from being overly concerned with food they are putting in their bodies. Now, there is a difference between enjoying nutritious foods and being obsessed with quality and nutritional value of foods-so when does it become damaging?

Orthorexia, a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman, is when someone has an excessive preoccupation with healthy food. This manifests as compulsive behaviors and obsessive thoughts about dietary restrictions that an individual believes will promote optimum health.

You may be thinking why is this problematic? Often times, people suffering from orthorexia have demonized *so* many foods that they develop nutritional deficiencies or in more extreme cases: malnutrition. Not only is this harmful physiologically, but these thoughts and behaviors isolate people socially and psychologically. They are spending so much time thinking about food and how they can eat “perfectly” instead of living a fulfilling life.

Here are common signs of orthorexia:

  • Obsession with healthful eating with destructive thoughts and behaviors if one “breaks the rules”
  • Dietary restrictions that keep building over time that lead people to limit food variety
  • Sense of superiority dependent on following food rituals or “healthy eating behaviors”

What’s so detrimental is this behavior often goes under the radar or worse: is praised due to our societies’ heightened focus on “wellness”. Orthorexia is not an official eating disorder, but can be just as harmful. Someone can still be suffering and shouldn’t have to wait until the development of a full blown eating disorder to receive help.

I wrote this post to bring awareness to this issue. If you or a loved one may be suffering, please reach out for help. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat an eating disorder.