Having a correct and healthy diet is fundamental for any living being, however, when that worry becomes obsessive behavior, then the case changes shape and there may be physical and emotional implications. It is the so-called orthorexia (word from the Greek ‘orthos’, which means correct, and ‘orexis’, which indicates appetite). This expression was first used to define this disorder in 1997 by Steven Bratman, an American physician, and author of the book Food Junkie (Healthy Food Addicts). For Bratman, orthorexia begins with the virtue of achieving a healthy body but eventually becomes an obsession with rigid control and restriction of certain foods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) admits that orthorexia already affects 28% of the population in Western countries and the trend is to increase. As for Portugal, there are no official figures because, according to Ana Rita Lopes, coordinator of the Clinical Nutrition Unit of Hospital Lusíadas Lisboa, in statements on the hospital website, orthorexia is not yet “considered a disease of eating behavior, such as anorexia and bulimia. “
In the initial phase, these people removed from their food certain substances they consider harmful, such as dyes, preservatives, fats, refined sugar, salt, pesticides, among others. But the obsession takes them to the extreme and there they drastically limit the food variety, because they exclude foods such as meats, dairy products, fats and carbohydrates without making the appropriate substitutions. The result is nutritional deficiencies that can lead to serious disorders and even cause illness, nutritionists warn.
The alarm signals arise, according to experts, when a person takes too much time to shop (makes a thorough analysis of all the ingredients on food labels), it takes an eternity to decide your dish (exhaustively evaluates all the properties of the meal), he is distressed when he eats something he thinks he should not, refuses to eat if he considers that the dish is not the healthiest, or even takes his own meal to the restaurant.
“This disproportionate preoccupation with food leads to these individuals dedicating more and more time to planning their meals and less time at leisure, and may have a negative impact on their social life,” says Ana Rita Lopes.
In practice, the awareness of having a healthy diet ends up becoming an obsession that can end up in a nightmare for body, soul, and spirit, with incalculable repercussions.
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