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Orthorexia in teens: Healthy eating obsession bad too?

With the rise in the worldwide obesity, switching over to healthy food habits has become all the more important. However, it is also very true that too much of anything is bad. Therefore, when this healthy eating habit becomes an obsession, it is generally considered a mental disorder rather than a healthy habit. This obsession is termed as Orthorexia. Initially, orthorexia starts with a normal change in some of the eating habits. This is usually done to control some kind of illness or for overall health benefits. However, gradually some people start taking it too far. Nowadays, as looking lean and fit has become a trend, more and more people, especially teens, are developing this healthy eating disorder.

Recognizing the symptoms

It is fairly easy to recognize the symptoms of Orthorexia. The people suffering from this disorder are usually under the misconception that they have the best lifestyle. They are displeased to see anyone indulging in unhealthy food habits. Some common symptoms that you can notice in such people are:

1. They continuously keep thinking about healthy food and plan their menu beforehand.

2. They only eat foods that are supposed to be healthy even if they do not enjoy having it.

3. They keep finding faults with different kinds of food and thus keep limiting the types of food they eat.

4. These habits prevent teens from becoming social as they indulge in specific home-cooked food.

5. They usually criticize people who do not develop a similar healthy eating habit.

6. They give up many of their favorite food just because they are not ‘so-called’ healthy.

7. They feel guilty if they fail to follow their menu.

8. They keep talking and discussing about food and its benefits.

9. Having the correct food and preparing the healthiest menu becomes the motto of their life.

Healthy eating obsession bad too: Why?

Orthorexia has not yet been recognized as a formal clinical condition. There can be many debates and discussions on this topic. However, it has been proved that healthy eating obsession can cause several problems. In a quest to find the ‘correct’ food, such people give up many kinds of foods that are actually helpful for their development. It is very necessary to have a variety of food to get all the required nutrition. People who only eat few kinds of food cannot fulfill all their nutritional requirements. As a result, these people often suffer from malnutrition.

Orthorexia can also cause social isolation. People with some strict diet cannot eat out with friends and family. This can give rise to loneliness and loss in self-confidence.

Orthorexia often stops people from having fun in life. These people keep thinking about their food, their menu and the effects it can have on their health. Amidst these thoughts, the fun and enjoyment of having good food vanishes away. These people fail to enjoy food and they only have it for the sake of their health.

Orthorexia, if not controlled, can lead to other serious disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or other eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Supporting teens with orthorexia

Treatment for this disorder is not easy. During the initial stages, it is very difficult to convince teens that they suffer from a problem. They need to realize that eating healthy is not the problem, but taking this habit too far can actually negatively affect their normal lifestyle. This condition can only be treated with the help of family and friends. Such people need support to get out of their wrong notion. They need to understand that being moderate is the only key to good health. If possible, such people should be taken to a doctor or a nutritionist.

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