Orthorexia Treatment

Learn about Orthorexia treatment, symptoms, causes, and our unique approach to working with eating disorders at Opal.

What is Orthorexia?

  • A mental health condition with complex origins
  • A fixation on “perfect eating,” often in the form of eating “perfectly healthy,” and a fixation on food quality and purity.
  • Eventually, a person’s relationship with food can become so rigid and restrictive that he or she actually compromises health as well as relationships, social activities, etc.
  • This is not an officially recognized eating disorder in the field of psychology.

    What are the signs and symptoms?

    Although one could struggle with many of the above signs and symptoms of orthorexia, it can be sometimes difficult to identify when you or someone you love is struggling.  A change in one’s patterns, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors with food, weight and exercise could be a sign of something more serious going on.  Due to so many culturally normative values around weight and health, orthorexia can be difficult to detect.  We encourage having a professional that specializes in eating disorders help you or your loved one get clarity on what is really going on. If you would like to get more information on supporting a loved one, see our advice.

    • Wondering if this applies to you? The more questions you respond “yes” to, the more likely you are dealing with orthorexia (Copied from NEDA).
      • Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
      • Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
      • Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else – one single meal – and not try to control what is served?
      • Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
      • Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
      • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
      • Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
      • Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat?

    What you might not know about Orthorexia.

    • You cannot tell someone is struggling with orthorexia by looking at them. Body weight may or may not change due to the eating disorder.
      • There is less distress about appearance than other eating disorders. 
      • Many mainstream diet trends can lead to and or exasperate orthorexia symptoms. 
      • These behaviors are often praised by friends and family which reinforces the eating disorder 
      • There is a strong morality assigned to certain ways of eating. 

      Check your biases! 

      Orthorexia can be life-threatening for anyone that is experiencing it, regardless of body size, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion.

      Opal's Approach to theTreatment of Orthorexia

      The treatment of orthorexia is individualized. We take a holistic approach to treatment that allows for healing to be done in community and in individual sessions. We believe eating disorders develop to serve a function for an individual.  Opal’s staff come alongside our clients to better understand those “whys” and find new ways to cope and live life without an eating disorder.  We offer three levels of care at our Seattle clinic. Overall, our treatment model includes: 

      • Individual therapy, nutrition counseling, psychiatry, exercise experientials and family/relationship therapy available at the PHP and IOP levels of care. 
      • Health at Every Size, weight-neutral treatment approach 
      • Non-diet approach to food. Meals and snacks provided offer a wide variety of foods (highly processed, fresh, organic, non-organic, home-cooked, frozen, easy to prepare, etc.) 
      • Eating at meals and snacks are done with other clients and staff, as a community.
      • A belief that adequate food intake is a foundational step in recovery. 
      • Exercise + Sport programming, which addresses exercise bulimia, exercise avoidance, and other exercise concerns
      • Radically Open Dialectical Behavioral Therapy as a foundational treatment 
      • Group therapy including body wisdom group, movement group, self-inquiry, process groups, facing fears and more. 
      • Teaching/Didactic groups including Radically Open Dialectical Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Exercise + Sport Didactic, Health at Every Size Didactic, etc.
      • Non-clinical lodging for PHP clients to use while in treatment, at a weekly fee and as space allows. 
      • Alumni Outpatient groups