Orthorexia and Obesophobia: Do You Have a Healthy Obsession?


Many women are afraid of gaining weight. No matter how cute it looks when you were five, things are different when you reach your 20’s and you realize that size six is not the new zero.

However, there are cases when adding a few pounds is unavoidable, especially when you are pregnant, or you have to spend a weekend with your family and saying no to food is really a hard thing to do. Why would you say no to home cooking, right?

obsessionThe good news is you can lose the calories you gained from that weekend and eventually, maintain that body weight you’ve always wanted. Keep in mind that weight loss is a slow process that requires both dietary and lifestyle changes. It can be addicting – an obsession you can’t get over – especially when you see the results are great.

However, there is a thin line between being healthy and having an obsession with weight loss. You may not notice it, but in one way or another, this unhealthy obsession is doing more harm than good to your body. Take a look at these two eating disorders and the potential dangers when your healthy eating starts to become an obsession.

All About Orthorexia

Orthorexia nervosa is a concept, which literally means having a “fixation on righteous eating.” It is an obsession to eat only healthy or pure foods, or at least what you think is healthy or pure.

healthy or pure foodsAt first, you are motivated by health, to maintain weight or to improve your body. Eventually, it will turn into compulsion for complete control, wanting to be thin, improving your self-esteem and even using food in order to create your identity.

Although it is not officially recognized as an eating disorder, orthorexia is similar to anorexia and bulimia, because you obsess about calories and weight.

How Does It Start?

brown riceOrthorexia starts when you decide to eat a healthier diet. Of course, that’s fine, especially when you get rid of sugar, saturated fats and excess salt.

In other words, there is an innocent attempt to eat healthy, until you become over-fixated with purity and food quality.

After a while, you become consumed with what you eat and how much you are getting. In case you give in to temptation, you tend to punish yourself through stricter eating, exercise or even fasting. Then the day will come when your food choices becomes really restrictive.

You get rid of meat because it’s bad and take away dairy, because it’s fattening. You completely say no to processed food or anything that is genetically modified.

Sure, healthy eating is great. However, you need to draw some limitations because fat, for instance, is necessary to absorb all the fat-soluble nutrients and antioxidants that go inside your body. Processed foods, such as brown rice and whole wheat bread are not bad for you, either.

Are There Any Warning Signs?

Yes, so don’t be in denial, especially when someone notices the changes in your eating habits. To make sure you have orthorexia, take time to answer these questions. The more “yes” answers you have, the higher the chances you’re orthorexic. Do you:Feel guilty

  • Feel guilty when you deviate from your diet?
  • Always look for ways where foods are unhealthy to you?
  • Feel in control every time you stick to a “proper and healthy” diet?
  • Often wish you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
  • Wish you could spend less time on food, what you eat and how much is going inside your body?
  • Always wonder how other people can eat anything they want without worrying?
  • Find yourself alone, because you plan most of your time around food?

Do you have more no, than yes replies to the above questions? That’s great. At least you know you are still giving your body the nutrients it needs. Otherwise, you will need professional help. What you are doing to your health and body is not a laughing matter.

Can It Be Treated?

healthy eatingYes, but it will take some time. You are dealing with both nutritional and social issues here, which make it difficult for you to eat intuitively. If you really want to get over orthorexia, you need to do three things:

  • Admit that there’s a problem.
  • Identify the causes of your healthy eating obsession.
  • Be willing to work through your eating issues to transition to normal, healthy eating habits.

In this case, you’ll need a professional specializing in treating eating disorders to help you better understand the problem. At the same time, you need someone who can offer reasonable, timely and appropriate solutions to save your body against further harm.

After some time, your understanding of healthy eating will be different from what you used to think. You will also have a different perception of food and learn how to avoid focusing all your attention and energy into it.

Understanding Obesophobia

weight lossIt is normal to fear gaining weight. But when it comes to the point that this fear has become persistent and abnormal, then you might be suffering from a disorder called obesophobia.

Obesophobia, or “weight phobia” is the abnormal fear of gaining weight, especially in cultures or areas that care a lot about being thin. This rare disease, as characterized by the Office of Rare Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, stems from obsession with weight loss.

Some experts are also suggesting that obesophobia is a precursor before one can be diagnosed with anorexia, another eating disorder.

Symptoms may vary from person to person. You may refuse to eat out with friends or stay away from foods that are known to increase weight. You may feel guilty when you overeat or obsess over weight loss programs, among others.

Aside from this, you may have corrupt mental images of weight gain that produce the inability to function normally and create uncontrollable anxiety. You can also experience dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations and trembling or shaking among others.

What Causes Obesophobia?

WhatOftentimes, obesophobia is a result of a distorted self-image. At first, all you wanted was to lose weight. Eventually, this desire will be so strong, your body tells your brain to avoid anything that can make you gain some pounds.

Worse, you look at yourself as a failure every time the line in the weighing scale moves up. For you, every person has a different minimum amount of calories, and there is an ideal weight for every height.

Just like any other phobias, obesophobia is a combination of many factors. Internal predispositions, which is a distorted self-image, and/or external events and environment can all play a part.

If you grew up in a setting where kids compare kids, or you have someone close to you who also struggled with their weight, you are more likely to suffer from obesophobia.

Aside from the portrayal of media as to who is perfect and who are the ugly ducklings in the pool, if your parents conveyed a bad image about weight, you might suffer from this disease, too. As a result, you tend to place restrictions on both your diet and daily activities. At the same time, you probably isolate yourself from those who have different set of beliefs in terms of weight.

Can You Get Over Obesophobia?

medicationsYes, but just like in orthorexia, it’s going to take some time. There is no magic pill that can correct your eating disorder in just one day. Still, medications or therapy – or both – might help you get over this fear and eventually make you feel better.

Allowing yourself to let other people intervene and help you is the first step to recovery. Identify the root of the problem that causes you to feel in such a negative manner.

This way, it will be easier to pinpoint what went wrong and what are the appropriate treatments for your condition. Having a support group is one effective way to get better. Surrounding yourself with positive, encouraging people will help you a lot in your long-term recovery.

Also, don’t forget to follow a healthy lifestyle. By healthy lifestyle, this means taking and eating the right amount of foods, including fats, and not feeling guilty about it. Have a strong sense of willpower to overcome your fear of weight gain. It may be hard at first, but you will get there, in time.

There is nothing wrong with following a healthy diet. You need that to keep you body functioning properly and at the same time, make sure that your weight is at a healthy level. However, don’t get too consumed over it to the point of compromising your health and body. That’s where the problem lies.

More importantly, don’t let today’s society dictate to you on what you will do to your body. Just because Hollywood stars have zero fat and wear the skimpiest dresses with absolute perfection, that doesn’t mean you should, especially when your health is compromised. You’ll get better eventually, one bite at a time.

This entry was posted in Health.

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