As registered dietitian nutritionists and future registered dietitian nutritionists, it is important that we promote overall health and wellness to clients, patients, community members and ourselves. However, when does prioritizing healthy eating become an obsession? Orthorexia is when one has an unhealthy fixation on being healthy. Someone with orthorexia may obsess over creating the “perfect” diet, spend more time worrying about food rather than enjoying a social life or even find it hard to let someone else create a meal and portion size without their control.
When counseling a client with orthorexia, there are several things you can do to increase the chances that your interventions will be effective. First, make sure to do as much research as possible so you are familiar with the condition. Next, give the client personalized education. Each person battles with orthorexia differently so it is important to tailor counseling to the client. Third, use resources to help guide you. Attending conferences, reading reliable research articles and networking with other health professionals in the eating disorder field will help.
Finally, break the myths and negative associations your client may have with food and diets. Labeling foods as “unhealthy,” “bad” or any other negative connotation could trigger the client and reinitiate the issue. Instead we should use neutral language to talk about food.
As nutrition experts, we can help people understand there is no need to cut out foods and food groups in the pursuit of health. To help those struggling with orthorexia, remember to first break down any walls between the client and yourself, and then show the client how all foods can fit into his or her eating pattern.