They say summer bodies are made in winter, and because most of us have missed that boat, many are frantically looking for quick fixes to get summer-ready. While there is nothing wrong with trying to improve your health and get fitter and healthier, obsessing over this can pose a serious threat to your wellbeing
The overwhelming amount of ‘health’ information available online and in magazines makes it easier to fixate on the subject. New food trends and celeb diets come and go, and while the majority of people are not affected by them, others take every piece of advice as gospel.
“Orthorexia is someone who is in search of perfect eating, and that ‘perfect eating’ is a pathology because it incorporates all healthy eating rules including those that are mythical or don’t apply,” says registered clinical dietician Tabitha Hume.
According to Eating Disorder Hope, orthorexia is a type of disorder that is characterised by a fixation on eating only “healthy” foods, or to avoid entire food groups altogether. Every person suffering with orthorexia has their own food preferences – foods they will and won’t eat.
Many are familiar with the more common eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, but orthorexia is one of the lesser-known eating disorders.
“The most dangerous thing is demonising food, and the problem with demonising food is that you end up avoiding things that are not only unnecessary to avoid, but are actually dangerous to avoid, which leads to deficiency diseases or malnutrition, Hume says, adding that: “It also leads to psychiatric issues because to be completely frightened of something is not okay.”
Some of the side effects of the disorder include irritability, hunger and depression. Those fixated on healthy eating and working out also face a real risk of developing other eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating.
While a large number of people can start a new diet and exercise programme without any major problems, others are more vulnerable. Hume says she sees people between the ages of 20 and 40 in her practice, and eating disorders affect both men and women.
The more vulnerable groups are people with anxiety and depression, perfectionist personality types and those who are vulnerable to suggestion.
Excessive exercise is also a common mistake people make when trying to be healthier.
The World Health Organisation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity.
Too much exercise can lead to injuries, exhaustion and depression.
While you may be tempted to do more than than is healthy, it is important to remember what you are trying to achieve and that moderation is key.
Hume says people should be wary of consulting nutritionists or health advisors for advice and should rather see a registered dietician.