Everybody knows we should “eat healthy”, but just what that is can be … confusing at best. The thing it shouldn’t be is limiting—in nutrients and your social life. The focus on quality and purity can deteriorate into orthorexia, a term coined in 1996 by physician Steven Bratman to describe a "fixation on righteous eating." Like anorexia and bulimia, it can wreak serious damage on the health of someone trapped in the obsession.
Orthorexia is not a formally recognized psychiatric diagnosis or eating disorder, although most experts agree it blends elements of both. While an anorexic or bulimic person is fueled by a desire to lose weight, someone with orthorexia single-mindedly pursues health through food.
Some with the condition eat only raw or organic foods. Some may follow a strict vegan or fruitarian diet. And others may eliminate sugar, processed ingredients, artificial flavors and colors, or anything that contains additives.
As the list of unacceptable foods lengthens, going hungry rather than eating something "unhealthy" seems increasingly reasonable.
The risks are more than physical, as those with orthorexia tend to isolate themselves. Because they may eat only specific foods in specific situations, dining at restaurants with friends becomes impossible. And their world revolves around planning, purchasing, and eating meals.
When you take that to an extreme, when you lose your flexibility, you're stressing the system—not supporting it. The most important factor is balance.