When does eating healthy become orthorexia?
Orthorexia can show up differently depending on the person. For Younger, the physical symptoms stemmed from vitamin deficiencies: her period stopped for several months and she sustained an injury while exercising, which had never happened before. More than that, she was “obsessing” over food.
The National Eating Disorder Association suggests asking yourself questions such as, “Do you feel in control when you stick to the ‘correct’ diet? Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?” Younger suggests that when food starts to affect your life in a negative way, you might be showing signs of disordered thinking.
“If your passion for health turns into an obsession that hinders your social life and takes up more than 50% of your mind space, you know you’re developing an issue,” she says. “And if you have fears of your body becoming ‘impure’ due to foods that aren’t good for you, you may have a form of orthorexia.”
How do you treat orthorexia?
The “cold turkey” method might not work for someone with an eating disorder, even one that’s not classified in the DSM. Because of this, Martin warns that treatment can be “challenging.” At his eating disorder clinic, he first makes sure the patient is medically stable. Then he provides education and skill-based intervention to the individual and their family.
Younger’s recovery is going well, she says. She saw an eating disorder nutritionist and therapist, and in the early stages of recovery she followed a meal plan. “[It] restored my blood sugar levels, since my hormones had gotten all out of whack from my restrictive habits,” she says. “It took me about a year to level out and start feeling ‘normal’ again around food, and also for my body to balance itself back out.” She rebranded her blog (from “The Vegan Blonde” to “The Balanced Blonde”) and published a memoir, Breaking Vegan, about her experience.