Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Orthorexia & Exercise Bulimia: Too Much Of A Good Thing

Ever had a client or patient (or yourself) that just seemed a bit too controlling about their diet?  Perhaps, going out to eat sparks anxiety or the thought of missing a workout, “but Tuesday is my leg day”. 

The Academy defines orthorexia as: “an unhealthy fixation on eating only healthy or "pure" foods – was originally defined as a disordered eating behavior in the '90s, but experts believe it has been gaining steam in recent years, fed by the profusion of foods marketed as healthy and organic, and by the media's often conflicting dietary advice. Like anorexia nervosa, orthorexia is a disorder rooted in food restriction. Unlike anorexia, for othorexics, the quality instead of the quantity of food is severely restricted.”

Along with orthorexia is exercise bulimia.  Recently, Mika Brzezinski, from Morning Joe published Obsessed.  It details her journey with binge eating, exercise bulimia, and behavioral health issues she sought help for, along with her best friend, who had to lose weight.  The two women had the same goal: to be healthier, while they had different paths to lead to the same road.

A revealing article in Elle illustrates how editor Johanna Cox struggled and admitted to her over exercising habits while on a set for a reality show. 

The two conditions don’t always overlap as with Cox and Brzezinski’s experiences but both conditions are used as a coping mechanism for underlying issues. 

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Majorie Nolan, MS, RDN, CDN, SCSM-HFS stated in a recent Academy article, “if someone is orthorexic, they typically avoid anything processed, like white flour or sugar. A food is virtually untouchable unless it's certified organic or a whole food. Even something like whole-grain bread – which is a very healthy, high-fiber food – is off limits because it's been processed in some way.”

Additional triggers to watch for are:
·        Skipping meals or social engagements
·        Anxiety over missing workouts
·        Obsession over food, skipping certain foods or food groups

Encouraging the client to “talk to someone” such as a licensed counselor can initiate the road to recovery.  Additional information can be found at the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, http://www.anad.org/.