When the Mirror Lies. A Look at Eating Disorders, Part 3.

When we talk about healthy eating, sometimes we become extremists without realizing it. In other hands, the phobia of eating something new limits our food options. Disorders such as orthorexia and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is about having a selective diet, not about losing weight. Removing foods from your list because are less healthy or being afraid of eating it, can cause nutrient and mineral deficits that may damage your health. Keep reading, to learn more about how to identify and treat them on time.

Orthorexia: The other extreme

Orthorexia is the obsession to eat exclusively foods considered healthy by the person. It can be triggered by following a diet or by having a food allergy. Some of the foods that are eliminated may be those that are not organic, those that contain artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, pesticides or ingredients with GMOs, fats, sugar or salt, meat and dairy products, among others. Paying more attention to the nutritional information may, over time, become an obsession and the center of someone’s life. As food elimination increases, the lack of nutrients and minerals could lead to malnutrition and other health consequences. Consequently, this is the reason why it is so important to identify the symptoms and ask for help as soon as possible.VPWW1ZLOIZ

 Symptoms of Orthorexia

  • Obsession with eating healthy foods, such as organic and unprocessed foods.
  • Worry about being or eating unclean.
  • Eat perfectly healthy to the point of feeling virtue in it.
  • Feelings of guilt and punishment.
  • Depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
  • Increased time spent planning meals.
  • Avoid eating food bought or prepared by others.
  • Confused with Food Neophobia (new food phobia). In many cases, children with ARFID are branded as spoiled or fussy, which often results in the condition being neglected during childhood.

ARFID: Selective Feeding

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) involves restricting or avoiding certain foods. It is not related to age or sex, nor to weight loss, and is classified as a mental disorder. It should not be confused with Food Neophobia (new food phobia). In many cases, children who suffer from ARFID are branded as spoiled or picky eaters, which often results in the condition being neglected during childhood.

Symptoms of ARFID

  • Problems with digesting certain foods.
  • Enjoy eating only small portions.
  • Avoid eating foods with a certain texture, color or odor.
  • Have no appetite most of the time, or lack interest in food.
  • Fear or phobia to eat, because of negative and shocking experiences with food.
  • Dependence on nutritional supplements.

Many people who follow the vegan diet could suffer from Orthorexia, without knowing it.

Health Consequences

Given the selective elimination of food, the consequences of the two disorders above are very similar. In both cases, they can lead to other eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia.

Orthorexia can cause isolation and panic attacks (in extreme cases), malnutrition, extreme loss of weight, to the point of causing heart attacks and even death.

ARFID can cause malnutrition, significant weight loss, or not gaining enough weight for normal growth. 

How I can help?

Eating disorders have no gender, race or age that defines them. The difference is that women tend to seek help more than men. Is it reflected in any of them? Have you sought help? It is within us to identify the symptoms and take immediate action, to avoid major evils.

Creating a healthy relationship with food is of vital importance. If we are concerned about our weight, appearance or nutrition, it is best to seek advice from a professional. A nutritionist will help you understand and lead a healthy diet, without reaching the extremes. If you already suffer from any of these conditions or have a family member or friend who might suffer from them, do not hesitate: Get professional help! Do not let the mirror lie to you.

For immediate support, contact the physician, call the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) confidential help line at 1-800-931-2237, or visit their website for more information: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

This is my third and final article about eating disorders. In the first article, I wrote about Anorexia and Bulimia. You can read it here. In the second article, I talked about dealing with Binge Eating Disorder and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. If you miss it, read it here. Identifying this type of disorder is the first step to getting the right help, and even avoiding fatal consequences. The main purpose of this article is to provide awareness and not to substituted medical help.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.


* The Spanish version of the Author’s article was published in cocinaMAX ™ Magazine by Royal Prestige®, Year 8; Issue 31; 2016, SPA.

Photography Credit: Danielle MacInnes & Kate Zaidova.



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