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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Can You Be Too Concerned About Healthy Eating?

When it borders on obsession, healthy eating can go too far.

empty plate

Photo: Sarah G (flickr)

Orthorexics may restrict their food to be "perfect" eaters or avoid eating at social events, like parties.

Making positive lifestyle changes is considered a good thing. But what happens when you become too concerned about the foods you are consuming?

Orthorexia is where healthy eating borders on obsession. Although not an official mental disorder, the term was coined in 1997 by alternative medicine specialist Steven Bratman.

Signs of orthorexia include:

  • Strict rules of what can or can’t be eaten
  • Excessive time spent worrying or planning meals
  • Social isolation
  • Trying to be a “perfect” eater

Orthorexics are concerned with the quality of food, even restricting food dyes. Symptoms are similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“It’s not the calories. It’s not about weight loss. It’s all about how they feel as a virtuous person, as a perfect person. ‘I’m a better person if I restrict,’” nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom says.

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Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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