Orthorexia: Genuine Desire to Unhealthy Obsession


Imagine waking up in the morning and sipping black tea as you go through the morning paper, followed by a green smoothie and a gluten-free sandwich topped with avocado. Sounds peachy and awesome, doesn’t it? There is nothing wrong with eating healthy and being at zen but when it becomes an obsession and reaches a point that you won’t take anything less than that gold standard of healthy eating, it becomes a disorder. Clinically, Orthorexia is classified as an unhealthy obsession over clean eating.

Why do we eat what we eat?

We love what we eat. The choices of our food are loosely based on society, geography, culture, and biological factors like taste, appeal, age, etc. For eg. Jains generally omit certain food groups in their diet. The food scene of India is as diverse as the nation is. In this setting imagine introducing a diet or a diet plan that fits all. Sounds crazy right?

But we are bombarded with a new diet plan daily. There is keto diet, Paleo Diet, Low Carb diet, High Carb diet and many more to choose from. Countless researches about how one food group is healthy and bad, other is as good as gold appears on the supplement of all major newspapers daily. Eg. Coffee is bad one day, the next day caffeine cures cancer. Fats are good next day fats are bad.

Algorithm Rabbit hole

We should “Stop taking Nutritional advice from Social Media “. I think the cause of Orthorexia is the perception of self-image or the lack of it in some cases. People go through the enormous length to have a poster-worthy body, which is, eventually, for the likes that they get.

Once you follow a vegan or poster body diet marketer, the algorithm bombards you with similar content and you go into a ‘rabbit hole’. This is followed by an instant motivation to turn your life around and feelings of becoming the ‘best version’ of yourself start popping into your head. The worst thing about AI and Machine Learning algorithms is that it doesn’t know when to stop.  

Flirting with Diet Plans

I have been on this path for quite some time. It all started with me going to the gym as a motivation to start the day early and have a tight physique. A Diet plan from the gym nutritionist followed and I started tracking my daily intake using an app called My fitness pal. Days followed, I was constantly not hitting goals , then the fat intake was high. So the next day I skipped a meal or two to compensate for the day before. I didn’t feel guilty about skipping meals until I fainted in the middle of the day and was hospitalised for a day.

Did I learn a lesson? No, a few years later I came across intermittent fasting, no drastic effects this time but I was constantly hungry and cranky and considered un-approachable in all cases. Diet plans if not regulated can easily go into an obsession and in-turn Orthorexia.

Orthorexia to Contention

  1. “You are not what you eat” – Unknown. Rather than focusing on how you look, focus on how you feel. A simple shift in focus will change the perception of food and body image.
  2. The main issue of Orthorexians is acceptance.
  3. Clean your social feed, anything that feeds negativity or too much of anything unfollow or unsubscribe. Do a digital detox if the urge is too strong.
  4. Medical treatment may work intermittently
  5. A more holistic approach towards confidence and a “You are enough” mindset along with a  support system is highly needed for Orthorexians to be content and satisfied again.

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