Unhealthy Eating: Obsession with healthy eating can be dangerous - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Unhealthy Eating: Obsession with healthy eating can be dangerous for some

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

If you walk the aisles of the grocery store or pay attention to advertising, you know there’s a trend to eat whole, low-processed, natural, clean, healthy food.  However, the quest for health is being taken too far by some, and leading down a dangerous path to orthorexia. The term was coined in 1996 and indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.

21-year-old Brittney Wuesthoff lived through it.  She suffered from orthorexia and anorexia her freshman year in college two years ago. The 3-sport high school athlete says she became obsessed when she started college with the idea of staying healthy, but the obsession soon took over her life.  She restricted her diet to less than 700 calories daily and ran up to 10 miles a day.  She dropped 30 pounds on her 5’6” frame and got down to 102 pounds.  Brittney says she ate the exact same thing everyday and became overwhelmed and stressed when she didn’t stick to her very strict diet.

Eventually, Brittney found help at The Emily Program, a treatment center in Spokane for eating disorders.  The Emily Program Director, Registered Dietician Michelle Weindbender, says people with orthorexia are obsessed with their food choices.  She says they become fixated on knowing every ingredient of every piece of food they consume. 

"They're using diet guidelines we would suggest for people to be healthy, but they take it just a step or 2 steps too far.” says Weindbender.

Current diet trends can also blur the lines between health and dangerous eating practices.  For example, popular diet plans include cleanses and detoxing, but in actuality restrict caloric intake to a potentially dangerous low.  On cleansing days, a person can consume less than a few hundred calories.  During her time at the Emily Program, Brittney says she learned to look at food as a fuel and energy, not something she should restrict and deprive herself of.

Weindbender says a person who suffers from orthorexia or an eating disorder has a difficult time focusing on anything but food.  She says a person should take note if they find food constantly creeping into their thoughts throughout the day.  She also says people who suffer start avoiding social situations and won’t eat food that other people cook because they don’t know what’s in it.

Brittney says that’s exactly what happened to her.  She says "I lost all my friends because I'd flake out because being in that situation I couldn't follow my exact meal plan that I had strategized in my head."

Two years later, Brittney is doing much better and now says she has a healthy relationship with food.  She says she doesn’t have to know exactly how her food is made and what’s inside of it in order to eat it.  She’s even helping people suffering and recently spoke to clients at the Emily Program about her story. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from orthorexia or an eating disorder, you can contact the Emily Program for help.

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