Can Healthy Eating Become Obsessive?

With so many widely varying diet fads, from Keto to intermittent fasting, it’s becoming more common for adults to develop a slight obsession with the healthy eating trend; it’s even got a name, orthorexia nervosa (ON), and it can wreak havoc with mental health and well-being. 

According to a recent CTV News report, researchers from York University’s Faculty of Health have been studying this condition that puts vulnerable people at increased risk for obsessive behavior concerning their diet.  And because their healthy eating plan is so regimented and time-consuming, people with ON may find they struggle to engage in social situations that involve eating.  

Studies have found that vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder that is demonstrated by obsessive-compulsive traits, a strong desire for thinness and poor body image.  People with orthorexia nervosa may also struggle with their mental health.  Latching on to a diet fad with strict adherence can also lead to malnutrition in some instances, something older adults, in particular, should be careful to avoid.    

When so much time is spent planning and preparing healthy foods, people who are susceptible to ON may not only lose weight, they can withdraw socially which has been found to be a health risk on its own, especially for older adults.  Eating a healthy, well-rounded diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, legumes and whole grains and limiting red meat can help ensure seniors get all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.  The Mediterranean diet consistently comes out on top as heart-healthy diet; replacing butter with olive oil, enjoying a glass of red wine and eating fish and poultry at least twice a week can help prevent chronic illness.  

Staying active with at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, making time for social interaction and drinking plenty of water can also help seniors prevent illness and enjoy an active and engaging old age.  Small changes, like switching to whole grains and limiting sugar and processed food are likely to be more enduring and in the long run, better for overall health and wellness.  

Learn more about the Mediterranean diet by following this link to the Mayo Clinic.