Watch CBS News

Orthorexia: When Obsessing Over Clean Eating Becomes A Harmful Eating Disorder

Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook  | Twitter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Doctors are warning of the dangers of too much "clean eating" by avoiding processed food. It's basically healthy, but for some people, it can become an obsession that leads to an eating disorder.

It's an eating disorder that's gaining steam with so many people focused on eating healthy, organic food.

This turns into unhealthy behavior when people spend an inordinate amount of time planning and preparing their meals, to the point where it interferes with other aspects of their lives.

Clean eating and sticking with natural foods, healthy, right? But when people become obsessed with food rules, they can spiral into a disorder called orthorexia.

Trace Amounts Of Weed Killer Found In Many Popular Beers And Wines, Study Finds

They're so fixated on so-called "healthy eating," that they actually damage their own well-being.

"Compared to other eating disorders, this one is more focused on the quality of the food intake, rather than the quantity of the food intake," Dr. Kasey Goodpaster of the Cleveland Clinic said. "And there's a lot of distress or impairment that results from not following a very restrictive diet."

It can start with good intentions, like cutting down on sweets and processed foods.

People with orthorexia often find unhealthy feedback on social media, accolades for so-called "righteous eating," and the ability to resist temptation.

Doctors say cutting back on too many food groups can lead to nutritional deficiencies, and in some cases, orthorexia.

FDA Issues Updated Regulations On Sunscreen Products After Warning Many Contain Chemicals Not Proven Safe

It can mirror symptoms of anorexia with things like bone loss, anemia and slow heart rate.

"If somebody notices that a loved one is turning down invitations to eat outside of the home; if they're spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about foods, planning them, preparing them, acquiring them; if they're eating becomes more and more restrictive, and if they seem like they're exhibiting a lot of distress when their eating doesn't go according to plan, those might be some red flags," Dr. Goodpaster said.

Compared to other eating disorders, which are done more in secrecy, doctors say orthorexia is more out in the open, with clean eating seen as a healthy habit.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.