Orthorexia: The “Healthy” Eating Disorder


Can healthy eating go too far? Orthorexia is a form of disordered eating involving an obsessive interest in the quality, healthfulness and wholesomeness of food. Typically orthorexia starts with a focus on choosing healthy or unprocessed “clean” foods. But this interest in eating well develops into a collection of food rules that ultimately become overwhelming.

​From simply trying to eat healthy, persons with orthorexia become preoccupied with finding only
the healthiest foods. They may avoid social situations and family events because they are worried that they will be pressured to eat “forbidden” foods. Their sense of self-esteem may be related to their ability to follow the food rules, and they may experience anxiety and shame if they are not able to.

The roots of orthorexia are likely genetic, as with other eating disorders, making some individuals more susceptible.  There is not a lot of solid research on orthorexia and how it overlaps with anorexia and compulsive exercise. If you suspect that someone you know is at risk you can ask:

  • Do you spend most of your free time thinking about food rules?
  • Have you had to avoid meals with friends and family because of your food rules?
  • Are other people commenting about your food rules?

Help for orthorexia and other forms of disordered eating is available from therapists, medical professionals, and/or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. The last week of February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  For more information, visit the National Eating Disorders Association site.

​© 2017 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

3 thoughts on “Orthorexia: The “Healthy” Eating Disorder”

  1. Terrance T. Cuomo

    This post is very easy to read and understand without leaving any details out. Great work! Thanks for sharing this valuable and helpful article.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate it that you shared with us such informative post, great tips and very easy to understand.

  3. Compulsive Overeating Treatment

    Very nice article, exactly what I needed. Very useful post I really appreciate thanks for sharing such a nice post. Thanks

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