Orthorexia: When healthy eating becomes an unhealthy obsession
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Experts say they're concerned about a growing number of cases where healthy eating, taken to the extreme, turns into an unhealthy obsession. It's called orthorexia, and it can have dangerous consequences.
Jordan Younger, a 24-year-old food blogger, has struggled with the condition. She told CBS News that what started out as a health-oriented vegan lifestyle went too far.
"I would embark on these 10 to 30 day juice cleanses where I would only be drinking vegetable juice," she said. "That's not veganism -- that's just not even eating."
Younger says she lost 25 pounds in two months, cutting far more than just meat and animal products out of her vegan diet.
"I would never eat white bread, refined flour, I didn't eat any flour -- there were a lot of things," she said.
Orthorexia is not formally recognized as a clinical diagnosis, but some experts believe it's an increasingly common form of eating disorder. Extreme cases can result in both physical and psychological harm. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) notes that a person with orthorexia can end up weak and undernourished, and their obsessive focus on controlling their diet may damage personal relationships and interfere with other activities.
Nutritionst Sondra Kronberg, a spokesperson for NEDA, says many patients with traditional eating disorders like anorexia also show signs of orthorexia.
"What they start out doing to feel better begins to control them because of other traits, perhaps they are OCD, or their anxiety, and it becomes more and more compulsive," Kronberg said.
Younger sought help from a therapist and nutritionist, and says she is getting better. She has reintroduced a variety of foods to her diet, including meat and fish for protein.
"I'm not vegan anymore," she said. "I don't believe in labels anymore."
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