Have you ever felt guilty for indulging in a treat or worried that your diet wasn’t “clean” enough? For people with orthorexia nervosa, these feelings can be a 24/7 struggle.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterised by an obsession with eating only “healthy” or “pure” foods. This condition can start off as a desire to live a healthy lifestyle but can quickly spiral out of control and interfere heavily with your daily life and overall well-being. Orthorexia is a growing concern in the medical and mental health communities so it is important to understand exactly what this condition means for those who are suffering from it.

Orthorexia trapped in a healthy

What is orthorexia?

Orthorexia is a term that was first used in 1997 by Dr Steven Bratman, to describe an obsession with healthy eating (the term “orthorexia” itself literally means “correct appetite”). It is often characterised by a rigid and restrictive diet, with a focus on eating only certain foods that are considered “healthy” or “pure.” Orthorexia is a type of behavioural addiction that often develops in people who are already struggling with other eating disorders but can also develop in individuals who are extremely health-conscious.

Do I have orthorexia?

Recognising the symptoms of orthorexia is very important in ensuring you seek professional orthorexia help as soon as possible. If you are worried that you may be suffering from this condition, here are some questions to ask yourself which could point to common orthorexia symptoms:

  • Do I have a preoccupation with eating only “pure” or “healthy” foods?
  • Do I follow a rigid and restrictive diet that eliminates entire food groups?
  • Am I so focused on healthy eating that I totally neglect other aspects of my life?
  • Do I experience an extreme sense of guilt or shame when indulging in foods I consider “unhealthy”?
  • Do I try to avoid social situations that involve food?
  • Do I have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming “unhealthy”?

If you answered yes to these questions then you may be showing signs of orthorexia and could benefit from professional treatment.

What are the health consequences and other impacts of orthorexia?

Orthorexia can have a significant impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Some of the health consequences of orthorexia include:

  • Malnutrition: Due to the restrictive nature of the diet, people with orthorexia are at risk of malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to a host of physical health problems.
  • Weakened immune system: Orthorexia can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections and illnesses.
  • Osteoporosis: Orthorexia can lead to bone degradation and an increased risk of osteoporosis, especially in women.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: The restrictive nature of the diet can also lead to gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation and bloating.

Aside from the physical health consequences, orthorexia can also have a significant impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. Some of the impacts of orthorexia include:

  • Increased anxiety: People with orthorexia often experience high levels of anxiety related to their relationship with food.
  • Depression: Orthorexia can also lead to depression, as a result of the negative impact it has on a person’s life and relationships.
  • Isolation: The rigid diets that sufferers follow can also lead to social isolation as people with orthorexia may feel like they cannot participate in social activities or events that involve food.
  • Strained relationships: Orthorexia can also strain relationships with friends and family, as loved ones may not understand the severity of the condition or may be worried about the health of the sufferer.

What does orthorexia treatment involve?

Orthorexia treatment typically involves a combination of rehab treatment and nutritional guidance.

Orthorexia rehab

The purpose of orthorexia rehab is to get to the bottom of why you have become so fixated on eating a completely clean diet so that you can address these root causes. Common psychological factors that may contribute to orthorexia include low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, underlying mental health conditions and a history of trauma.

Orthorexia rehab will help you identify these issues and give you tools and skills for dealing with them in a healthy way. At Banbury Lodge, our comprehensive orthorexia treatment programme comprises various types of therapy, including:

  • One-to-One Therapy – This involves individual sessions with an professional therapist to address the root causes of orthorexia and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Group Therapy – Group therapy sessions help to provide a supportive environment, reduce feelings of isolation and allow you to learn from others’ experiences.
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) – CBT will help you to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours related to your relationship with food.
  • Family therapy – Family therapy can be especially helpful for people with orthorexia, as it helps to address any family dynamics that may be contributing to your disorder and also supports families through the treatment process.
  • Holistic Therapies – Holistic therapies take a whole-person approach to treatment and include activities such as yoga, meditation, art therapy and music therapy to manage stress, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression that may exacerbate orthorexia and promote physical and emotional well-being.

At Banbury Lodge, you will also work with our professional nutritionist to develop a healthy and balanced diet and to learn how to eat without restrictions. This is very important because it will give you a basis for making lifestyle changes that will help you stay healthy and prevent orthorexia relapse long after you leave our clinic.


After completing a comprehensive orthorexia treatment programme, ongoing support is needed to maintain your progress. At Banbury Lodge, this means weekly group therapy sessions for a year which will help you stay on track with your recovery and help you through any difficult moments which could lead to relapse.

Orthorexia one-to-one therapy

Tips for preventing orthorexia relapse

Recovering from orthorexia is a long-term process that requires commitment and hard work and there will be times on your recovery journey when things get difficult. Here are some tips for overcoming those obstacles and preventing relapse:

  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you stay in the present moment and avoid getting caught up in thoughts about food and healthy eating. This can help reduce stress and anxiety and prevent relapse. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, or massage, can also help you relax.
  • Seek support: Recovering from orthorexia can be challenging, and it’s important to have a supportive network to help along the way.

This can include friends and family, the therapists and clients in your aftercare sessions and other members of our Alumni Network which you will be invited to join after leaving Banbury Lodge.

  • Celebrate success: It is important to celebrate small victories along the way and focus on progress rather than perfection. This can help build self-esteem and prevent orthorexia relapse.
  • Avoid situations that are more likely to lead to relapse: Situations such as family gatherings, parties with food or eating out at restaurants can be particularly challenging when you first leave rehab so try and avoid these until you feel more confident.
  • Take up new hobbies or meet new people: Engaging in new activities and building relationships with new people can help you expand your interests and focus on something other than food.


Myths and misconceptions about orthorexia

Orthorexia is a relatively new term, and there are still many misconceptions about the condition. Let’s take a look at some of the common myths and misconceptions and the truth behind them.

Myth: Orthorexia is just a fad diet
Truth: Orthorexia is not a fad diet. It is a mental health condition that can have serious consequences, including malnutrition, anxiety and depression. People with orthorexia are not choosing to eat a certain way, they feel compelled to do so due to their obsession with healthy eating.
Myth: Orthorexia only affects women
Truth: Orthorexia can affect anyone regardless of gender, age or ethnicity. While women are more likely to develop eating disorders, orthorexia can impact both meAdd Newn and women.
Myth: Orthorexia is not a serious condition because it is just healthy eating
Truth: Orthorexia can have serious consequences, both to physical and mental health and impact relationships, work and daily life.

How to get orthorexia help

If you or someone you know is struggling with orthorexia, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Contact Banbury Lodge today to learn more about our orthorexia treatment programme and start your journey to recovery and a new, healthier relationship with food.

Frequently asked questions

How can I support a loved one who is struggling with orthorexia?
You can support a loved one who is struggling with orthorexia by being a supportive and non-judgmental listener, encouraging them to attend therapy and follow through with their treatment plan and providing nutritious meals and snacks to support their recovery after they leave orthorexia rehab.
Is orthorexia treatment effective?
Orthorexia treatment can be highly effective for many individuals who are struggling with an obsession with healthy eating. With the support and guidance of our professional therapists and nutritionists, you can learn how to adopt a more balanced and healthy relationship with food and the body.
How long does orthorexia treatment take?
The length of time it takes to recover from orthorexia varies from person to person and depends on several factors, including the severity of your condition, your individual support system and your level of commitment to treatment. That is why Banbury Lodge offers orthorexia rehab programmes of varying lengths to suit everyone’s needs and help as many people as possible.
In today's health-conscious society, eating nutritiously is often promoted as the ultimate path to wellness.... More
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