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Orthorexia Nervosa: When Healthy Eating Becomes an Obsession

It takes a lot of energy, time and willpower to eat for your health these days, especially if you are on a Healthy Breast journey. In fact, this journey may seem all-consuming in the initial months after diagnosis or after making a strong commitment to be on a cancer prevention path.

When the focus on nutrition in particular becomes an obsession long after the “health crisis” is over, however, this is called Orthorexia Nervosa and may be cause for concern. Unfortunately, I have seen more and more women become so obsessed with their food, that it becomes a serious cause for anxiety. They develop a tremendous amount of guilt and concern for “cheating” and enjoying a few occasional comfort foods.

Is It a Concern with Eating Healthy…or is It an Obsession?

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If you feel that you may be suffering from Orthorexia, know that help is out there.

In the beginning of any healing journey, I actually think that it is normal, and even expected, to shift your focus to new ways of eating and being. After all, most of us not only have to unlearn the bad habits we developed in our younger years, we are also taking in a lot of new knowledge about what it takes to eat, and live, for health.

Every year that you gain in strength and empowerment, however, you should also be going deeper into your own “gut level” wisdom regarding the needs of your unique body, mind and spirit. As new habits replace old ones, you may even find that the health concerns that once consumed you do not do so as much anymore.

You may also make way again for the things that bring you joy. This could be spending time with your children or grandchildren, working on a hobby, being in nature or helping others in some way.

I have worked with thousands of individuals over the years and I have seen this process again and again. As people gain in health, their priorities shift and “what is really important” naturally comes to the forefront.

Orthorexia Nervosa In a Nutshell 
On the flip side, I have also witnessed when an individual can’t stop thinking about their health concerns to the point where it causes them stress.

“Orthorexia Nervosa,” meaning “fixation on righteous eating,” is the label health professionals use when an individual obsesses about healing eating.

According to NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association:

“Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with ‘slip-ups…’  Every day is a chance to eat right, be ‘good,’ rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.”

Ironically, if Orthorexia continues unchecked, food choices can become so restrictive and anxiety around eating can become so intense that health can suffer even more.

An Increasing Number Are Effected
The term Orthorexia was originally coined by integrative M.D. Dr. Steven Bratman in the mid-nineties, as an attempt to help some of his patients whom he noticed were become “overly health-obsessed.” Eventually he realized that what he was witnessing actually fell within the definitions used to describe most eating problems.

Orthorexia is currently not an “officially recognized” clinical diagnosis but as health challenges grow worldwide and more individuals turn to natural healing as a much-needed alternative to conventional treatments, an increasing number of individuals are also beginning to struggle with this mental health issue as well.

Enjoying the “Fruits of your Labor” is Natural Too!
If have been consistent on your healing path for a while, you have probably developed a healthy

When healthy eating and living becomes a habit, you have the energy and time to do the things that you love! 

rhythm to your diet and your life. You have learned what you can and cannot eat to stay vibrant and energetic. You know which supplements and mind/body modalities you respond to the best.

And as stated earlier, you are probably discovering that you think are feeling less stressed about what you eat as you transform your life in all aspects. This is because healthy eating and healthy living is becoming second nature for you. When this happens, then you know that all the time and energy you put into your process in the beginning has paid off!

On the other hand, if you feel that you may have the beginnings of the largely-unrecognized condition, Orthorexia Nervosa, know that help is out there.

Dr. Bratman provides a short self-test that can be found on his website HERE. You can also access eating disorder support groups and treatment options on the NEDA website or through organizations and counselors in your area.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you get the help that you need so that you can enjoy all the blessings that true health can bring!

March 23, 2017

© 2017 Dr. Veronique Desaulniers – All Rights Reserved

Submitted to for publication to Kettle Moraine Publications by the author, Dr. Veronique Desaulniers, better known as Dr. V, is the founder of The 7 Essentials System ™, a step-by-step guide that teaches you exactly how to prevent and heal Breast Cancer Naturally. To get your F.R.E.E. 7 day mini e-course, and to receive her weekly action steps and inspiring articles on the power of Natural Medicine, visit http://breastcancerconqueror.com/.