“The orthorexic does not replace the foods he rejects with others that can provide him with similar nutritional supplements. This translates into anemia, vitamin or trace element deficiencies, or lack of energy”, Isabel Zamarón, from the Department of Nutrition of the Ramon y Cajal University Hospital in Madrid, explained.
Causes and Symptoms of Orthorexia
Although the factors behind orthorexia are not clear, it is observed that it usually manifests in people with obsessive and highly perfectionistic behavior. This last characteristic is shared with subjects who suffer from anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders (EDs) and, in fact, in some cases orthorexia is part of the restrictive symptomatology of these disorders.
According to Marina Díaz Marsa, president of the Madrid Psychiatric Society, psychiatrists and psychologists often recognize that excessive concern for healthy eating “is accompanied by a personal discomfort or difficulty that one tries to alleviate by controlling other aspects of life”. , in this case, through food.
The main symptom that characterizes this disease is excessive concern for everything that is ingested. Experts indicated that patients spend a large number of hours a day planning and preparing meals and are usually so strict that they feel guilty when they fail to do so and force themselves to follow even stricter diets and medications. punish with fasting. Likewise, they completely remove certain foods from their diet, not only meat and fat, but also other substances such as sugar.
Unlike other eating disorders, orthorexics are very open people when it comes to disseminating their eating rules and they don’t mind boasting about them in front of other people, but experts indicated that they may Those who do not follow the dietary rules, so the patient may be forced to social isolation.
Prevention and treatment
To avoid becoming obsessed with healthy eating, experts recommend following these tips:
Follow a healthy diet that includes the right amount and variety of foods for the body to function properly.
It is important to influence the education of children through mentoring such as respect for self and others and to educate with non-conservative models of beauty and conduct.
For Robin Rica, director of the Eating Disorders Unit at Instituto Santa and member of the Eating Disorders and Obesity Working Group of the Official College of Psychologists of Madrid, it is necessary to differentiate, value and disseminate the two aspects of eating. “Food has a nutritional component, which refers to aspects such as calories, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, but it also has a very powerful social component—especially in Mediterranean cultures—and that is a pleasure; This is why gastronomy exists”, he explained.
The treatment of people with orthorexia is based on psychological therapy and drug therapy on a case by case basis. “You have to address this pathological attitude in order to reduce it. At some point, depending on the affective or anxiety consequences of the affected person, a stress or anxiety regulator can be administered,” explained Diaz Marsa.
In many cases, the disorder is approached in a multidisciplinary manner with a team of professionals that includes a psychiatrist, psychologist, and dietitian-nutritionist. Nutritional education is essential for the patient to turn to intuition again: they should eat when they are hungry and stop when they feel satisfied.