Othorexia Nervosa: An Unhealthy Focus On Healthful Eating

The term ‘Othorexia Nervosa’ comes from three sources of phraseology:
-Ortho (Greek)…straight, correct, true
-‘orexia’…appetite
-Nervosa…obsession, fixation

Othorexia is now beoming much more common among the eating disordered patients seen by professionals. Some of the main differences seen between ‘healthy eating’ and those who suffer from othorexia are: a failure to maintain proportion, the obsession with food, the nature of the diet vs. one’s attitude toward it, and they are no longer able to drop the issue when appropriate. Some variations of othorexia that are indicative of an eating disorder include, the illusion of safety, covert conformity, food puritanism, creating an identity, fear of social interaction, and the search for a spiritual quality in the kitchen.
Diagnostic eating disorders have both secretive and quantitative factors involved, whereas othorexia nervosa may differ with it’s boastful and qualitative factors.
It has been noted in research that certain segments of society may be more prone to the development of othorexia nervosa. These may include those who are influenced by the media, whose emphasis may be as much on health as it is on weight loss, children, who are susceptible through parental controls, athletes, with their rigorous training regimens, bodybuilders, and males in general. There is also seen a high number of people suffering from othorexia who are survivors of a major medical illness, such a cancer or diabetes.
Treatment for someone suffering from othorexia nervosa may be similar to that for someone with anorexia nervosa, but with certain special considerations. One of these involves the consideration of the strong spiritual component that is seen with othorexia, and the attempt to ‘convert’ others to this alternative way of eating (proselytizing).

Taken from a presentation at the 2009 NEDA Conference, prepared by Amanda Mellowspring, MS,RD,LD amellowspring@cedarspringsaustin.com

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