What is the orthorexia nervosa, the obsession for a healthy diet?

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The aspiration to eat healthily is a good thing. A obsession with healthy eating that takes over your whole life is not.

That obsession is nicknamed orthorexia nervosa. It is not characterized by the limitation of food, like its cousin-like anorexia of similar name, but rather by fixation on the source of food – what is made and how it is prepared.

Basically, the orthorexia is an obsession for eat "clean" carried to dangerous extremes. The risk of malnutrition increases and can also be expensive, time-consuming and makes it difficult – if not impossible – to socialize.

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"When taken to the extreme, an obsession with clean eating can be a sign that the person is struggling to manage their mental health," said Jennifer Mills, associate professor in the Department of Psychology of the # 39; University of Toronto, senior author of a new study of orthorexia, in a statement.

Mills and colleagues conducted a first review of the scientific literature to discover the psychological and social risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing orthorexia.

The study is published in the journal Appetite.

"We found that those who demonstrated perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, had a past history of depression or other eating disorders, and those who ate frequently were at an increased risk of developing orthorexia," the first writer said Sarah McComb, a student Master's in Mills' laboratory.

The ways of eating linked to an increased risk of orthorexia included vegetarianism and veganism (in particular lacto-vegetarianism – which allows dairy products but not meat or eggs), only by eating according to a strict feeding program and spending large amounts of time in the preparing meals.

Both men and women have been shown to be equally likely to suffer from orthorexia, a finding that surprised researchers.

"Traditionally, we think of eating disorders as diseases that primarily affect women," McComb told Coach. "I think this information is important for mental health service providers and for doctors to be aware of, so that men's orthopedic behavior doesn't go unnoticed."

The orthorexia is not yet formally defined as an eating disorder distinct from the anorexia or the recently recognized one avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder. McComb believes it will change as more patients come forward with orthorexia and further research on the condition will be conducted.

"There is still a lot of debate about how orthorexia is related to anorexia," he said. "Orthorexia is distinct from anorexia" orthorexia precedes anorexia? Or orthorexia develops after anorexia treatment, as a socially acceptable way to to maintain control over eating habits and weight? "

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The orthorexia study is in tune with McComb's continuing research on Instagram's impact on body image.

"I would be interested in knowing how the social media culture that constantly encourages and nurtures a healthy diet is related and reinforces the ortho-toxic behavior," he said.

"The pages of food cleaning are so popular on Instagram, and I wonder if this contributes to the normalization of a healthy and healthy diet, and encourages and praises the orthodontic behavior".

Signs of orthorexia

Orthosis can be difficult to identify – it is not always easy to tell whether to lower a slice of birthday cake in the office or to refuse dinner with a friend is made with genuinely healthy intentions compared to the darker ones.

"Healthy eating certainly exists in a continuum," McComb said, suggesting that you ask yourself these questions to identify whether your healthy eating has become an unhealthy obsession:

  • Am I spending several hours a day thinking about how I will prepare my next meal, or future meals, to the point where my thoughts feel distressing or intrusive? Am I spending several hours a day buying, planning and preparing meals?
  • Am I cutting whole classes of food?
  • Do my food choices lead me to inadvertently lose large amounts of weight?
  • Do I find myself avoiding eating in restaurants or avoiding eating with others because I'm afraid I won't be able to follow my diet or control the types of food I will eat?
  • Did my eating habits cause conflict or distance between me and my family and friends?
  • Am I feeling an extreme sense of guilt, shame, anxiety or exaggerated fear of illness when I move away from my diet?

"If you find yourself answering" yes "to many of these questions, it may be time to contact your doctor or mental health professional to discuss your eating habits," McComb said.

READ NEXT: You don't have to be skinny to have an eating disorder

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