Is Healthy Eating Just a Cover Up for an Eating Disorder?

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Some people just love to fill their plates—and bodies—with the healthiest foods around. Healthy eating not only keeps the body healthy but the mind healthy as well. It helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and keeps our concentration levels high. But not everyone who eats these foods does it for the right reasons and, ironically, it can actually turn into an unhealthy obsession.

Although it is not yet officially recognized as an eating disorder, many individuals struggle with Orthorexia Nervosa. Those struggling with this disorder have an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating; the person becomes fixated on the quality of the food and what it is going to do to their body once consumed. These individuals pressure themselves to stay in line with their diet and will often punish themselves through exercise or further food restrictions if they fall off the wagon.


Image Sammy JayJay

A person who develops orthorexia often has intentions to be healthy, but they also have underlying motivations or feelings, including needing control, wanting to be thin, poor self-esteem (and thinking this will make them feel better about themselves) or avoiding poor health.

The “tipping point,” as Dr. Steven Bratman (who named the disorder after his own struggles with food) says, is when a person’s healthy lifestyle takes over every other aspect of their life. There is no shining-light-moment for when this happens, but it can be recognized when the diet becomes its own force and is no longer kept just to fulfill a healthy lifestyle.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Self-loathing or guilt when straying from diet
  • Place yourself on a nutritional pedestal and look down on the way others eat
  • A need to control the food you eat
  • Inability to eat a meal prepared by someone else/a meal that you have not controlled
  • Spend more time planning and preparing meals and obsessing over food

If you or your teen has any of the listed symptoms, it is best to consult a physician or nutrition for expert and individualized advice on healthy eating.

Featured image Joanna Slodownik