Orthorexia Nervosa: The New Eating Disorder

I recently gave a hypnosis session to a friend who encouraged me to write an article about her eating disorder, Orthorexia Nervosa, and the session we had on it (I have express permission to speak directly about her life experience with Orthorexia and her session in this article).  According to the National Eating Disorders Association (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa):

“Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”  An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style. Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.

Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.  Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.”

Unfortunately, Orthorexia is on the rise, with a culture becoming ever-more obsessed with healthy eating.  She decided to become a vegan, later on eliminating gluten, then corn, then soy.  She then became anxious about the “status” of the food she was eating.  Was it GMO, cruelty-free, free of androgens, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides?  In combination with other eating disorder-type symptoms she had from a childhood rife with abuse, she no longer enjoyed eating at all.  She felt extremely limited in her food options, stuffed food down quickly, and felt anxious during meals and at restaurants.  Food had become a source of frustration, discomfort and pain.

Over several sessions, we identified multiple traumatic memories in relation to eating.   Being told to “clean her plate”, repetitious dinners, and stressful mealtimes created an anxiety around eating.  In one session, we worked on rescuing her inner child from those traumatic events, and I read her a customized suggestive script, which visualized a successful eating future.  We spent another session visiting further events that had contributed to her eating disorder.  Learned food habits at the age of 3, teen worries about gaining weight, and other traumatic associations in her grandmother’s house, where many meals were had, tainted her relationship with food.  She spoke to herself at those ages, letting her little girl know why those eating habits were not helpful.  She spoke to the weight-conscious teen and reassured her that she would grow into a beautiful, healthily-proportioned woman.  As we went through and healed each trauma, I read release statements for her to repeat that she would continue reading aloud each day.  Release statements such as, “I now release all responsibility toward eating obsessively.  I will now eat intuitively, enjoy my food, and eat slowly and mindfully”, have helped her continue healing after the session.  A trip to the grocery store with her inner child, in which she got to pick out healthy yet fun food choices, allowed her to have a better experience with food.  She continues daily loving conversations with her inner child in regard to healthy food decisions.

The day after our session, my friend let me know that she had eaten 7-seafood soup (she previously had a seafood allergy), and later in the week, sent me a picture of a meal her inner child had put together.  Combining the daily inner child work, along with her release statements, she is well on her way to more satisfying mealtimes, and less anxiety around eating healthfully.

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