Dietary lifestyles and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, genders, body weights, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, most people with an eating disorder first started experiencing symptoms at an early age, in their adolescent or teen years. In fact, many people with an eating disorder can have a “normal” body weight. For those living with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, the idea that there are no inherently good or bad foods is not something that is fully understood. While the exact cause of eating disorders like binge eating disorder and anorexia nervosa has yet to be identified, research shows that individuals who have an obsession with diet and exercise often have a combination of biological, genetic, behavioral, social and psychological factors that may raise their risks.

Dietary Lifestyles and Eating Disorders

Dieting is something that is accepted in most modern societies and the obsession with healthy eating is a new craze that has been sweeping the nation. While understanding the benefits of a balanced diet is important, in many cases, dieting can lead to disordered thoughts and behaviors towards food. In fact, instances of veganism and eating disorders or vegetarianism and eating disorders are increasing as people become more obsessed and restrictive with their diets. Additionally, “yo-yo” dieting can have lasting effects on adolescents and research shows that many young people are overly concerned about their weight.

Dieting at an Early Age

  • 42 percent of girls aged 6 to 10 say they want to be thinner
  • 95 percent of diets fail and in most cases, those that lose weight will put it back on
  • Up to 66 percent of teen girls have attempted dieting in the past
  • More than half of all teen girls and a third of teen boys use unhealthy weight control techniques (fasting, purging, laxative use)

What Is Orthorexia?

The most common orthorexia definition used by health professionals is an obsession with “healthful” or proper eating. While an interest in a balanced diet is not something most health professionals would be concerned about when an individual uses this information to form a negative association with certain foods they can develop an eating disorder. Individuals with orthorexia often display signs or symptoms that are similar to other anxiety disorders that frequently co-occur with common eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Orthorexia Symptoms

For many eating disorder patients, what began as a keen interest in eating a more balanced diet, for example going vegan or eating paleo, can easily shift into an unhealthy obsession with food. Orthorexia is the perfect example of what can begin as an honest interest in proper nutrition, quickly becoming an obsession with food and caloric intake. Some common behavioral changes or symptoms of orthorexia include:

  • An increasing avoidance of certain foods due to allergies
  • An increase in the use of supplements, probiotics or herbal remedies
  • The drastic reduction in the number of acceptable food choices available (individual may limit themselves to 10-20 food choices)
  • Irrational concern over how food is prepared, especially washing and sterilization techniques

People with orthorexia may quickly find that their food obsessions begin to restrict everyday activities, leaving them feeling isolated or resulting in increased anxiety.

Orthorexia Treatment

Whether a patient is dealing with intermittent fasting and eating disorders or they have noticed a link between their paleo diet and binge eating, early intervention is ideal for the recovery process. While a specific clinical orthorexia treatment has yet to be developed, many eating disorder experts approach the disorder in the same way they would anorexia nervosa and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Effective treatment for orthorexia and the obsession with maintaining a “healthy” diet typically involves psychotherapy to help patients increase the variety of foods they eat and limit their anxiety towards certain food groups.

Contact Oliver-Pyatt Centers Today

Orthorexia recovery is possible when patients have access to treatment that puts a higher focus on medical and psychiatric care. At Oliver-Pyatt Centers, we provide our patients with access to compassionate and talented staff, luxurious facilities and the tools they need to process co-occurring disorders. For more information on the eating disorder treatment options we offer, contact the team at Oliver-Pyatt Centers today.