The main risk with eating healthy is the development of orthorexia - a serious eating disorder that has only recently been recognized along with the more common ones, anorexia and bulimia. And just as with the other eating disorders, orthorexia has been on a steep rise in the last few years, affecting more and more people in the world. Unlike anorexia and bulimia however, orthorexia is practically unheard of, and is most commonly developed in men.
What is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia is, in short, an unhealthy obsession with eating "right", or healthy. Now this may sound idiotic - what could possibly be the harm in eating healthy? But as it turns out, it can actually be quite harmful, with orthorexia often leading to severe malnutrition and, in rare cases, even death. A person suffering from orthorexia develops an obsession with eating only the most healthy foods out there, and oftentimes focusing on just one food in particular. It is not uncommon for orthorectic people to eat only fruit and vegetables, and nothing else.
Why is it Dangerous?
The danger with orthorexia is primarily malnutrition - orthorectics most often develop a one-sided diet, which leads to a deprivation of many necessary nutrients and nourishments which the body needs. But perhaps the most dangerous aspect of orthorexia is that, unlike other eating disorders, it is hard for others to detect. Orthorectics appear healthy, sometimes even healthier than others, and more often than not they show no outer symptoms of their disorder until the condition has progressed to an extreme phase - by which point it has become a serious health issue.
So unlike the other eating disorders, where people in the surroundings will notice and help the person, orthorexia will often go untreated for long periods of time. Sometimes, the orthorectic even becomes fatally ill from malnutrition before anyone even notices that something is wrong.
A Practically Unknown Disorder
One of the main problems with orthorexia is that barely anyone has any knowledge of it. Most often, people wont even take it seriously, telling the orthorectic that there is nothing wrong with him eating healthy - despite his problems. An orthorectic person has therefore a hard time finding support from others, as most people consider the condition a joke.
Another issue is that orthorexia mainly affects men, who are less likely to seek help about an eating disorder. As it is generally considered weak and unmanly to suffer from an eating disorder, few will even admit, or realise, that they have a problem. Another factor contributing to this issue is the fact that most organizations focused on helping people with eating disorders are directed towards women, leaving men to fend more for themselves.