The focus on supposedly healthy foods can turn into the opposite and lead to orthorexia , an increasingly common problem that threatens health

The imperative of a healthy lifestyle is ubiquitous, from the consumer industry that promotes so-called healthy foods to the individual who, in his desire to be in top shape, reaches for the same, and the number of stores with domestically produced organic products is growing and is on the list of the most desirable. Of course, the importance of a healthy diet is indisputable, but even that can be overdone. Eating foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, or sugar is one of the common medical recommendations. Obsessive keeping track of every milligram is called orthorexia . In 1997, that problem was detected and defined by alternative medicine specialist Steve Bretman, interpreting it as a pathological focus on the consumption of healthy food. He detected this problem in himself, convinced that his preoccupation with healthy food crossed the border of normal, and he wrote down all the changes in his behavior and attitude towards food. His notes are used as a basis for the assessment of orthorexia. This disease is motivated by the desire to make a person healthier, but the real motives are much deeper. Orthorexia is mainly triggered by psychological factors.

The name itself comes from the Greek term orthos (correct) and orexia (appetite). There are various reasons for this problem, most often people turn to a healthy diet because of a health problem, a drop in immunity or to get rid of unhealthy eating habits. That’s how it all starts, so that thinking about a healthy menu becomes obsessive. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, where the consequences are noticeable both on a physical and psychological level, those who suffer from orthorexia only have a problem with stress.

People with this disorder perceive food as a tool that makes them healthy, but also physically and mentally fulfilled . Namely, the more unusual and restrictive the diet, the better the person feels, and if this condition persists, a disorder occurs. The extreme care about food goes so far that people with orthorexia order food exclusively from organic farming, with the fact that they must eat fruits and vegetables within fifteen minutes of harvesting, of course, that example is drastic and can be found in rich countries. It is clear that this is an exaggeration, because the goal of life is not to concentrate only on a narrow range of foods that represent healthy food. People who suffer from orthorexia do not eat anything sweet or fatty, as well as foods whose caloric value they do not know.

However, the key to a healthy diet and a healthy life lies in one word – moderation. The body needs fats, carbohydrates, proteins, but also other micronutrients that are absolutely not available in the world of healthy food. Orthorexia can lead to weight loss, even malnutrition, that is, endanger the general state of the body. Research shows that the problem arises because in the beginning there is only a desire to eat healthier.  – People determine for themselves what is healthy and what is not, and over time these own rules become more and more strict and more and more foods are removed from the menu, declaring them unhealthy – says Frederika Bartels from the University of Düsseldorf, who deals with the behavior of people suffering from orthorexia . She points out that the focus on healthy eating becomes the burden around which everything revolves. Research into this problem has also located the psychological profile of people who suffer from orthorexia. We are talking about people who have a great need for control in all aspects of their lives, inflexible, strict, very normative, which leads to anxiety. Orthorexia is mainly triggered by psychological factors such as increasing self-confidence, a sense of control, fear of illness and insecurity. At the same time, they consider all others who eat unhealthy food to be inferior to themselves and less valuable.  

The essence of the story is not that healthy food is bad, but that it is not varied, because by choosing healthy food or only a segment of healthy food, we deprive ourselves of all the other food that we need for the proper functioning of the body. This is how we indirectly endanger our health. Moderation is the key to everything.

Balance and moderation – the key to a healthy diet

A person suffering from orthorexia is obsessed with following a self-imposed diet and makes great efforts to resist temptation. If it happens to deviate from the prescribed regimen, the person condemns himself and often tightens dietary restrictions afterwards. A nutritionally poor menu for the purpose of healthy eating is not a good option, even when it is based on healthy products. Our body is physiologically built for a varied diet , and the deprivation of certain groups of foods can lead to serious health problems. Do not give up any food group, but find the right relationship between them. If you have difficulties with this, seek the help of a nutritionist, but you must know that moderation is worth its weight in gold and that there is no product that contains all the nutrients the body needs (carbohydrates, fats, proteins…) Cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat… An unbalanced diet on in the long run, it leads to a lack of essential vitamins, minerals, to a decrease in the level of sodium in the blood, platelets, white and red blood cells.

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