Today I am honored to feature a guest voice on my blog! Ritta Shikwana is a Holistic Health Coach who helps people going through something she herself has recovered from — orthorexia.
Have you heard of orthorexia before? While not officially included in the DSM-V, it is a condition that is running rampant in our society today and has serious health effects. It is described as “an unhealthy obsession with healthy or ‘pure’ foods” that begins to get out of control, and takes over one’s life. Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.
Read on to hear about Ritta’s desire to get pregnant and have a family, and what she has learned about the way eating disorders can threaten the things we value the most.
Recovering my Period, my Body and my Life: A Story of Recovery from Orthorexia
Have you lost your period? Do you want to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy? Not long ago I used to desperately search the internet on how to get my period back. I had lost my period due to excessive exercise and struggling with orthorexia (click here to take a self test to see if you might have some of these behaviors too).
Not feeling womanly, not having a period and not being able to get pregnant caused me to have so much more stress than I needed.
Ritta is a certified Holistic Health Coach from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her mission is to help women develop a healthy relationship with food, their body and exercise. Because she overcame Orthorexia, Depression, Exercise Addiction and Amenorrhea, she now coaches women who are going through similar struggles. You can connect with Ritta on here website rawritta.com. And also connect on social media at YouTube, Instagram, Facebook
In honor of eating disorders awareness week, I am reposting one of Kate Daigle Counseling’s Denver Post blog posts as it is very relevent to this week’s focus: a dangerous strain of eating disorders entitled “Orthorexia”.
I thought I knew about just about every strain of eating disorder out there. As I was doing some research online, I found out that I still have a lot to learn as a counselor and as a human being. Have you ever heard of orthorexia? Didn’t think so. Do you like to eat healthily? Lots of us do; it’s one of the newest ‘fads’. But this fad might border on the line of eating disordered if we let our tendency to control of types of food we eat (in the name of ‘health’) become too central in our life. What is “orthorexia”? “Ortho” comes from the Greek term that means “right”. It is defined as a ‘different kind of eating disorder’, and the term was first used in 1997 by California doctor Steven Bratman. It is not clinically considered a medical term, but doctors and therapists are seeing more issues with obsessive control of types of food that their patients will allow themselves to eat. Bratman states that people affected by orthorexia “create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating.” He goes on to say that for many folks it may start as a commitment to live a healthy lifestyle. As the client reads more and educates him or herself about food, they may cut out a type of food they will eat, such as red meat. Then processed foods. Eventually they will only eat certain foods prepared in a very specific way. It’s as if the Atkins diet, which was a pioneer in the cutting-out-types-of-food diet culture made it seem ‘normal’ to limit variety of foods it is okay to eat.
How does this affect mental health? Just like all types of eating disorders, orthorexia latches on to the control aspect of our personalities. Some doctors have found it common to symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is also common for people who are affected with bulimia or anorexia. Instead of restricting amount or bingeing and purging, people with orthorexia might spend hours fixating on finding the “right” foods and determining how they can be prepared. Like anorexia and bulimia, this can take up copious amounts of time and be very expensive. So orthorexia does not have the same health threats as other eating disorders do, but doctors fear that it can lead to the development of a more life-threatening disorder. In this way, orthorexia could be considered a screening tool for other eating disorders and, if detected, can help us find treatment for the person before it gets too serious.
The jury’s still out for me about consideration of orthorexia as a valid mental health condition. What do you think?