Can you eat “too healthy”? What can happen to your brain and body when you start restricting yourself for the sake of being “healthy”? Have you heard of orthorexia before? In this podcast episode, I speak about when eating too healthy makes you sick and the signs you need to look out for.


  • Orthorexia
  • Signs, symptoms, and complications of orthorexia
  • Who is at risk for developing orthorexia?


Someone who has [orthorexia] will be really fixated on only eating “healthy foods”. They completely avoid entire food groups. Everyone who suffers from orthorexia has their own food preferences … but that being said, the most common form of orthorexia is just an obsession with healthy foods.
People who suffer from orthorexia may spend hours meal-prepping and finding exactly the “right” foods to eat, measure them out exactly into portions, and will not touch any foods that they have deemed “unhealthy”. People who struggle with orthorexia will exert so much energy into finding and making the foods they want to eat because they fear any unhealthy foods that may, in their mind, make them overweight or sick.

Signs, symptoms, and complications of orthorexia

  • An obsession over how to prepare foods and what they allow themselves to eat, in the name of “health”.
  • They have extreme limitations of choices of foods to allow themselves to eat from.
  • They may cut out entire food groups, such as no fats, no carbs, no sugars.
  • They may feel like they know exactly what is the best to eat and this might put a strain on their relationships, due to them feeling like they need to make it clear that they do not eat what their friends or family are eating.
Not everyone who has a passion for clean eating will develop orthorexia, but for some people, it is a step in the wrong direction and it can develop into these behavioral patterns and tendencies of extreme self-restriction in the name of “health”. Physically, even people who dive deep into clean eating and hereby develop orthorexia can suffer from complications.
  • They can become emaciated.
  • They can suffer from loss of bone density.
  • They can suffer from cardiac complications.
There are, like with most eating disorders, also social complications.
Lots of social events involve food, so they may decline invitations to dinners, lunches or even weekends away because above and beyond anything else, they have to make sure they only consume what they deem acceptable.
There may be social tension when someone can only talk about food, what is “healthy food” in their eyes and this can create tension between them and their friends and the foods their friends choose to eat.
  • If you notice yourself beginning to feel anxious when a certain food is not available on a restaurant menu or at your friend’s house, that is a potential sign.
  • If you notice yourself slowly cutting out more and more food groups and consciously avoiding entire food groups in the name of “health”, that is a potential sign.
  • If you are spending increasingly more time reading food labels and the ingredients list of foods before purchasing them.
  • If you are nervous about attending an event because you are worried about the food that will be served.
If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of orthorexia it is really important to seek help at these first signs and symptoms, because there can be really bad long-term effects.

Who is at risk for developing orthorexia?

Not everybody who chooses clean eating will develop orthorexia, but there are some that are at more risk than others.
  • If someone has had a past struggle with an eating disorder.
  • A history of dieting.
  • Poor body image.
  • Perfectionism and anxiety.
  • The internalization of the “thin ideal”.
  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
  • Someone who has access to clean or organic foods.
Not all people who suffer from orthorexia suffer from body image concerns.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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