Orthorexia is a disorder characterized by an obsession of healthy eating which could eventually lead to many dietary restrictions and a host of detrimental effects on the well-being and health of the person. 

Unlike other eating disorders such as anorexia, binge-eating disorder or bulimia, the obsession in people suffering from orthorexia revolves around the quality of the food instead of the quantity of the food to be consumed. For instance, an individual with orthorexia will have an obsession for eating only pure, clean, natural, vegan, non-processed, non-GMO, organic foods. On the other hand, they will ban some foods that they deem unhealthy from their diet such as processed foods, meats, dairy products, foods high in fats or gluten. 

Warning signs and symptoms 

The symptoms associated with orthorexia overlap many symptoms associated with other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa as the food intake lacks variety, leading to some nutritional deficiencies and other physical symptoms linked to the restriction. Also, the rigid food rules can also take a toll on the mental, emotional and social wellbeing of the orthorexia sufferer. 

Some of the signs and symptoms include the following: 

  • Elimination of certain food groups (such as any foods with sugar or fats)
  • Permission to eat only certain foods that are deemed pure and healthy
  • Intense feeling of guilt and stress if the person breaks the rigid rules and eats their forbidden foods
  • Many hours spent per day thinking about their dietary intake
  • Obsessive checking of ingredients list and nutrition facts of foods
  • Increased isolation and avoidance of outings involving foods due to anxiety of eating food that are not within their control

As a result of the rigid and restrictive behaviour, several detrimental health issues could arise, including dangerous weight loss and other related symptoms such as low heartbeat, dizziness, chronic fatigue, loss of menstruation or irregular periods, hair loss, etc.


The pursuit of wanting to be healthier is the trigger for developing all those thoughts and behaviours related to orthorexia. However, there are often other underlying issues that reinforce the illness and those could include the following: 

  • To improve or cure a chronic medical condition (ex: diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome- IBS, etc.)
  • To increase self-esteem
  • To improve their spirituality
  • To cope with certain emotions and have a greater control 

The fact that healthy/clean eating is heavily portrayed on social media, namely Instagram and Tik Tok, and in the media in general, hundreds of thousands of people could become influenced by those trends. And as a result, wanting to eat healthy could become an obsession. 


The first step in the recovery process is to be able to recognize orthorexia as an unhealthy behaviour that triggers detrimental effects on someone’s well-being. 

Once the sufferer is able to do that, seeking help from a multi-disciplinary team consisting of a doctor, psychologist and a nutritionist specialized in orthorexia could be required. 

In some cases, eating disorder experts will treat orthorexia as a variation of anorexia and/or of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and will discuss treatments such as:

  • Psychotherapy to treat underlying disorders such as anxiety, depression, or OCD
  • Gradual exposure and reintroduction to trigger foods
  • Behavior modification
  • Cognitive reframing or restructuring
  • Various forms of relation training (e.g., mediation, yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, breathing exercises)

At our eating disorder clinic, our dietitians first help the clients make some changes in their diet to ensure that they meet their nutritional needs. 

They will also help the individual re-introduce their fear foods gradually by demystifying any beliefs or myth surrounding those same foods. 

In addition, our nutritionists specialized in orthorexia will help the sufferer decrease the triggers that could reinforce the eating disorder. 

If you recognize yourself here, please know that you are not alone in this. Do not hesitate to seek help. We’re here to accompany you on that recovery journey. Contact us!


If you are struggling with your relationship with food, I really recommend that you set up a meeting with one of the dietitians at NutriVie Santé. They immediately make you feel at ease! They listen to you and take every aspect of your life into consideration when helping you on your journey towards healthy eating. You won’t feel restricted in terms of the food you can eat so eating can become pleasurable again, something that can be difficult to attain. Thank you!” 

Consulting with one of the nutritionists at NutriVie Santé was the best choice I’ve ever made in addressing my eating disorder. It’s like she could read my thoughts and truly understood me. I often questioned her approach, because it felt counter to everything I knew. But in the end, upon following her advice, my relationship with food has changed for the better. I’m so happy I made the decision to get help from her and I highly recommend her to anyone having any time of issue with food, or even just to understand your own needs.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do We Differentiate Orthorexia from “Healthy Eating?”

There is nothing wrong in making food choices to be healthy and feel well physically and mentally. However, when it becomes an obsessive behaviour that is so rigid that it triggers detrimental impact on your physical, mental and social well-being, you can start questioning those same behaviours. 

Do I need a diagnosis or a referral to be seen at our treatment clinic?

A diagnosis or referral from a doctor is not required to start treatment with one of our eating-disorder nutritionists. In fact, it could prove to be beneficial to start the recovery process even if your symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criterias yet. This is because early intervention in the treatment process can minimize the detrimental effects of the eating disorder on the sufferer and enhance chances of long-term recovery.

Therefore, do not hesitate to contact us.  Our dietitians specialized in orthorexia will be able to help you heal your relationship even if you don’t have a referral from a doctor. 

How many sessions do I need for orthorexia recovery?

Since everyone’s needs are different and given that the orthorexia treatment plan and intervention are very individualized for each person’s needs and reality, the number of sessions varies from one person to the other. 

At the beginning, the treatment process can involve a weekly or biweekly appointments. However, nothing is imposed and our eating disorder dietitian will respect your pace. 

Are sessions covered by insurance?

Our services are typically covered by most private insurance companies and may also qualify for tax deductions, making it more accessible to get nutritional support for your eating disorder recovery journey. All of our eating-disorder specialists are members of the Ordre Professionnel des Diététistes et Nutritionnistes du Québec (ODNQ). Therefore, do not hesitate to consult your plan to see if you can benefit from any coverage. 

How do I make an appointment?

One of our nutritionists at NutriVie Santé will gladly help you in your recovery from orthorexia. You can simply write to us or call us. We will take some time with you to explain our approach and discuss about your needs and eventually book an appointment for you. 


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