Dr. Elissa Naïm



Everyone is searching for a brand new miraculous diet, an appropriate one to lose quickly some Kg gained during holidays, vacation, and stress period. We have already seen different types of diet since the mid of the last century. Nevertheless, a big part of these trendy diets have their pros and cons taking into account the period following each one of them.

Thus, in order to overcome the disadvantages of extreme diets and to improve their wealth, some people simply decide to turn to a healthy eating pattern across their lifespan. Yet in some cases, this turns into obsession.

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According to Dr Steven Bratman, MD, MPH, “Orthorexia” is an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. As defined in 1996, the term is derived from the ancient Greek word “orthos,” which means “right,” or “correct,” and is intended as a parallel with anorexia nervosa. People with orthorexia become so fixated on so-called ‘healthy eating’ that they actually damage their own well-being. It mainly concerns the quality of food more than the quantity.


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  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels with a focus on additives, preservatives and food colors.
  • Considerable time spent thinking about food and planning the meal
    Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
  • A sense of guilt linked to the transgression of strict dietary recommendations
  • The search for self-esteem and spiritual fulfillment through the control of food intake
  • The feeling of satisfaction and pride in eating healthy to maintain health and bodily purity
  • Contempt for those who do not respect the dogmas of dietetics
  • A tendency to hold moralistic and rigid talks on healthy eating
  • The conception of food as a medicine to the detriment of taste. The notion of pleasure is completely absent
  • Abstaining from eating foods bought or prepared by others and the fear that eating out of your home will make it impossible to follow the diet
  • The abuse of food supplements.
  • The pretext of food allergies not diagnosed to justify that we avoid certain foods.


Physical effects:

This condition will probably cause the same medical complications as other eating disorders: A lack of essential nutrients can lead to malnutrition, anemia, an abnormally slow heart rate, problems with digestion, hormonal imbalances or even bone health.

Psychological effects:

Orthorexic people can experience an intense frustration. For them, breaking the self-imposed food rules is liable to provoke a feeling of guilt, a self-hatred or an impulsion to purify themselves by means of cleanses or fasting. Therefore, they will spend a lot of time checking if certain foods are sufficiently clean or pure: Does it contain pesticides, hormones, artificial flavors or preservatives?

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Social effects

People with orthorexia often follow strict rules imposed by themselves, which foods can be combined or eaten at particular times of the day. Such rigid eating habits can complicate social activities accessing food such as lunches and dinners or invitations to weddings or other events. In addition, eating only the right foods gives a person with orthorexia a feeling of superiority over others. This can severely strain relationships with family and friends which becomes less important than the master of his eating habits. These strict rules and his beliefs in food can lead him to isolate himself socially and to experience a depression of anxiety attacks or panics in extreme cases. The worsening of emotional symptoms is an indicator of the evolution of the disease towards a serious eating disorder.

Are you excited to follow a healthy food diet? That’s great! However, be careful and reasonable in your choices and don’t let it turn into a primary source of happiness and meaning or interfere with your relationships or work, friends or family.