What Is Orthorexia? – Video with Emily Rosen

These days, it’s just about impossible to turn on your computer, TV, or cell phone without hearing about another new discovery in healthy eating. Either there’s a new superfood that you need to incorporate into your diet, or a certain ingredient or chemical is being added to the “bad list.” Keeping up with the latest trends in nutrition can start to seem like a full time job! And for those who deal with orthorexia, clean eating becomes just that: a 24/7 obsession. At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, we believe that everyone has access to an inherent body wisdom that can lead you to the diet that’s healthiest for you. But when fear of deviating from a “perfect” diet starts to strip the joy from your meals, it might be time to change your approach. Tune in to this fascinating new video from #IPEtv where Emily Rosen, Director of the Institute, explains what orthorexia is and how you can break free!

In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!

Here is a transcript of this week’s video:

Hi, I’m Emily Rosen, Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Today we’re going to talk about What is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia actually means “fixation on righteous eating.” People who have orthorexia don’t necessarily count calories, nor are they driven by thinness, although they can have those elements. But they do channel perfectionism into eating according to a health standard that is rigid and pure, such as a perfect paleo diet, or only organic and unprocessed foods, etc. It’s about food quality and adherence to “clean” eating.

There’s nothing wrong with healthy eating or wanting to give oneself good quality food, and many people who like to eat healthy may identify with the above habits. However, for those who suffer from orthorexia, the disorder begins to affect their social and psychological functioning.

Orthorexia can feel like a strict religion.

There’s a lot of guilt if piety is not achieved at every meal and snack. Following the rules feels very soothing, but there could be an obstacle at the next meal that causes anxiety. For some, orthorexia can feel very aligned with someone’s sense of ideal self, but their loved ones are ready to give ultimatums because it’s affecting their social lives. The person with orthorexia may, more and more, choose to stay home to avoid prohibited foods and conflicts with loved ones. It becomes very isolating.

When we restrict ourselves to the detriment of pleasure or free will, we can often rebel with binge sessions on foods outside the rules. When this happens, people with orthorexia may feel extremely guilty or shameful and want to make up for this moment of “weakness” by exercising more, restricting, or beating themselves up endlessly. There
can often be a phase of repentance after breaking the rules.

People may feel discomfort or pain in their guts from eating foods they consider bad for them. But it’s difficult to parse out whether the stomach clenching is because the food is no good for them, or their anxiety about the food tightens their stomach.

And, when we feed our bodies according to rules without listening to our body’s cravings, we can rob our bodies of essential nutrients and health.

So here’s the simple cure for orthorexia:

Relax, be human, let go of perfectionism, do your best, agree that you’ll never ever have the exact ideal diet or body, and join the rest of the human family by being beautifully imperfect.

I hope this was helpful.

To learn more about us please go to psychologyofeating.com.

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating offers the most innovative and inspiring professional trainings, public programs, conferences, online events and lots more in the exciting fields of Dynamic Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition! In our premier professional offering – the Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training – you can grow a new career and help your clients in a powerful way with food, body and health. You’ll learn cutting edge skills and have the confidence to work with the most compelling eating challenges of our times: weight, body image, overeating, binge eating, digestion, fatigue, immunity, mood and much more. If you’re focused on your own eating and health, the Institute offers a great selection of one-of-a-kind opportunities to take a big leap forward in your relationship with food. We’re proud to be international leaders in online and live educational events designed to create the breakthroughs you want most. Our public programs are powerful, results oriented, and embrace all of who we are as eaters – body, mind, heart and soul.

Please email us at info@psychologyofeating.com if you have specific questions and we will be sure to get back to you.

Again that is psychologyofeating.com.

This is Emily Rosen, Chief Operating Officer for the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Thanks so much for your time and interest!
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  • Megan

    I normally love all your videos. This one was pretty difficult for me for a few reasons. One, it really seems like the entire concept of diagnosing someone for being vigilant about what they eat is a handout to those who are destroying our food supply without a second thought. Second, there are many reasons why one would be hyperaware of what goes into their bodies – social justice and activism, for example, which wasn’t addressed in this video. I really think MORE of us need to be vigilant about our food – so much is so wrong with it, we are getting sicker because of it and I think it’s very dangerous to say that people should “relax” about it Stateless corporations are profiting from poisoning us and it really disturbs me that the corruption is so deep that this diagnosis of orthorexia – which is piled on top of even more “illnesses” with each passing year (that are only “diseases” because of who we’ve ceded power to) – is simply accepted without a fight. This really feels like the blame-the-victim approach most of the psychiatric field has taken: like, there is a lot to be upset about in the world, heartbreaking, terrifying and maddening things happen every day – depression, anxiety and other “disorders” may actually be appropriate responses to the burdens many of us have to bear. I think being anxious about eating is totally appropriate given the shape our food system is in and it’s horrifying to me that such concern would be a – readily accepted! – “diagnosis.” I understand the binging cycle, the weight of guilt and the feeling of wanting to punish oneself for not “following the rules” but I really wish there had been a lot more nuance about how to respond to a food system in crisis – to which anxiety, anger and hyper-vigilance are healthy responses. Finally, these “tips” – “just relax” and especially “try to join the rest of the human family by being beautifully imperfect” were rather pathologizing. People who struggle with not wanting to be poisoned by what is supposed to nourish them are already human, not somehow outside of it like these closing lines suggest.

    • Thank you Megan for opening a conversation about this and sharing your feedback. I agree that in today’s world of genetically modified food it is super important to be aware of what food goes into your body, but being vigilant about what you eat is not the same as Orthorexia. What I am talking about here is when a particular way of eating is so strict or rigid, it causes anxiety, guilt and shame. This is inherently stressful, and will have an effect on digestion, assimilation and calorie burning capacity. If a person is so fearful about where their food has come from, to the point where they feel anxious every time they eat or it has an effect on their social life, the best thing they can do is relax and let go of perfectionism. It doesn’t matter if the food is the healthiest produce on the planet, if it is eaten in a stress response, the body won’t be assimilating those amazing nutrients. And of course, we are all human, but relaxing around food allows us to really tune it to what works for us 🙂 So, I think we are actually on the same page here as this information was not intended at all to “blame the victim.” Thanks for being part of our community! Warmly, Emily

About The Author
Emily Rosen

Emily Rosen is the Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, where she oversees business development strategies, student affairs, marketing and public relations in addition to her role as Senior Teacher. With an extensive and varied background in nutritional science, counseling, natural foods, the culinary arts, conscious sex education, mind body practices, business management and marketing, Emily brings a unique skill-set to her role at the Institute. She has also been a long-term director and administrator for Weight Loss Camps and Programs serving teens and adults and has held the position of Executive Chef at various retreat centers. Her passion for health and transformation has provided her the opportunity to teach, counsel, manage, and be at the forefront of the new wave of professionals who are changing the way we understand the science and psychology of eating and sexuality. Emily is also co -founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.