When we hear "eating disorder," we think of anorexia, bulimia or over-eating. However, new research points toward a new eating disorder.
Although eating healthy is good, this new research suggests that there's such a thing as eating too healthy.
What's considered healthy can go on and on: Organic, raw, pure, unprocessed, unfiltered, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. The world of "healthy" eating can become a bit much to navigate, but can also become an eating disorder if taken to extremes.
As wellness culture has taken off, a new eating disorder has been on the radar. The term orthorexia was started by Steven Bratman, then an alternative medicine practitioner, in a1997 article after he noticed that some of his clients, "had reduced the dimensionality of their human lives by assigning excessive meaning and power to what they put in their mouths." People with orthorexia seem to have become obsessive and elitist about the foods they do and do not consume.
However, it's not an official disorder. In an article about orthorexia, author Rosie Sparks of Quartz Media stated, "...orthorexia is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5), largely because there is no singular diagnostic criteria that clinicians agree on. Worse, the condition is often conflated with mere healthy eating."
There have already been studies showing the effects of social media on mental health, and it turns out social media also increases instances of orthorexia, particularly with Instagram use.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, "Our results suggest that the healthy eating community on Instagram has a high prevalence of orthorexia symptoms, with higher Instagram use being linked to increased symptoms. These findings highlight the implications social media can have on psychological wellbeing..."
With social media's presence, it's easy to hyper-focus on eating, weight loss, exercise, diet programs, etc. and try to find a way to look just like those we are idolizing. Combine an eating disorder with the unhealthiness of social media use and we have a pretty dangerous situation that's easily overlooked.
The problem with orthorexia is that from the outside, it appears healthy. (Eating good foods is good, right?) However, biochemist and nutritionist, Pixie Turner -- who used to have orthorexia -- says, "Wellness really is just a socially acceptable eating disorder." The wellness culture consists of people who are yoga instructors to nutritionists. Their Instagram accounts are swollen with followers, full of people going about health and wellness in the extreme. Wellness culture promotes eating in extreme ways that may not necessarily be healthy.
If you're struggling with this type of eating disorder, consider talking with a doctor about it. You may want to unfollow or unsubscribe from Instagram or other social media accounts that promote this unsafe lifestyle.
What may be healthy for one person may not be healthy for everyone else. You need to find what is good for you. How do you feel on a day-to-day basis? Are you tired? Ornery? Lacking energy? Always hungry? Or do the foods you eat leave you feeling unsatisfied? Your "wellness" lifestyle may actually be making you feel unwell.
Make sure you speak to a health care provider or nutritionist to help you find what is best for you. For some, it may be necessary to speak to a therapist to help you overcome or deal with tendencies toward eating disorders.