When a healthy lifestyle turns unhealthy

Taking care of oneself, both mentally and physically, is essential for one’s wellbeing. What happens when a healthy lifestyle gets out of hand? Crossing a certain boundary, can make something healthy turn into something unhealthy.

Orthorexia is a disease, that many do not know of. This specific eating disorder impacts more lives than can be accounted for – and many who suffer from it, or know someone who does, are unaware of its behavioural patterns and that it indeed is a disease.

Orthorexia rarely shows on the outside. To most people, someone living with orthorexia may seem healthy, and they usually are within the normal weight bracket, which makes it harder for others to detected. This enables the ones suffering to continue with their self-destructive patterns in secrecy.

Which signals to look out for, when suspecting that someone close to you has orthorexia?

Even though, it might be challenging to detect orthorexic behaviour, some patterns are detectable when it comes to this disordered relationship with food. These could be i.a. that the person does not allow days off from working out. Working out every day, or even several times a day, could be a sign that the person has a compulsive training pattern.

Another sign could be that the person avoids situations where ”unhealthy” food is offered. Perhaps your friend does not want to tag along when going to the cinema, in order to avoid having to eat popcorn or snacks. Or maybe your colleague skips the coffee break to avoid being offered sweets.

What many people suffering from an eating disorder have in common, is that they tend to avoid situations in which they would potentially have to explain why they do not want to eat a certain type of food, if anything at all. It can be hard getting questioned and ending up in uncomfortable situations in which one is expected to have answers regarding one’s eating habits.

An advice to those who suspect someone close to them is suffering from orthorexia, or any other eating disorder: simply ask how they feel. There is no need to nag or to put pressure, since that might have the opposite effect to what was intended. On the other hand, it is important to show that you are there for them, and willing to listen in case they wish to share or are in need of someone to talk to. For more information about eating disorders and how to get help in Sweden visit 1177 Healthcare guide and information about how to help someone close to you visit here.

Written by Molly Rosenström, translated by Heta Asikainen


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