Eating disorder orthorexia not commonly recognized

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- According to the National Eating Disorder Association, up to 30 million people in the US suffer from an eating disorder.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 28th - March 6th.

Although not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the NEDA says awareness about orthorexia is on the rise.

According to the NEDA, the term ‘orthorexia’ was coined in 1998 and means an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating.

“Although being aware of and concerned with the nutritional quality of the food you eat isn’t a problem in and of itself, people with orthorexia become so fixated on so-called ‘healthy eating’ that they actually damage their own well-being,” says the NEDA.

Heather Kreiger, dietician at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire says we need a well-rounded variety of foods in our diet and taking away vital nutrients can affect our everyday body functions.

“Restrictiveness in diet to a point of being overly obsessive can be harmful and potentially life threatening if they restrict so many things in their diet,” says Kreiger.

There are many warning signs and symptoms of orthorexia. These include, but are not limited to; Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels, an inability to eat anything not deemed healthy or pure, unusual interest in the health of what others are eating, and showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available.

The NEDA says there are currently no clinical treatments developed specifically for orthorexia, but many eating disorder experts treat orthorexia as a variety of anorexia or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Krieger says one way to treat this is to seek emotional support from healthcare providers to overcome obsessive behaviors and ensure optimum health.

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