The Danger of Dietary Obsessions

by Anita Freeman

The last few decades have seen a drastic rise in the number of obesity cases worldwide. As a result of this, there is a corresponding increase in the awareness of the risks that these conditions pose. In addition to this, thinness has become a measure of beauty. There are many individuals who are so affected by these ideas that they strive for complete perfection and become obsessed with the food they eat and the diet they follow. This obsession with food can have very serious consequences as the problem escalates and the diet become more and more restrictive.

Dietary Obsessions that Cause Unhealthy Weight Loss

The most well known health conditions associated with excessively strict dietary measures are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. Anorexia nervosa causes the individual to severely restrict their food intake so as to literally starve themselves - in severe cases - even to death! People with this condition often have a distorted self image and perceive themselves as being extremely fat even if they are severely emaciated. A person with bulimia will seesaw between bingeing and purging. This condition can cause malnutrition and a high risk of gastrointestinal and esophageal conditions. Anorexia nervosa has been linked to various endocrine disorders and can cause stunted growth. In addition to this, poor circulation and nerve deterioration can cause the individual to suffer from partial loss of leg movement which in turn leads to reduced mobility. Bulimia poses an increased risk of esophageal cancer, peptic ulcers and hypokalemia.

Obsessive Conditions Related to Weight Gain

Binge eating and compulsive overeating, on the other hand, result in immense weight gain. People who indulge in binge eating tend to eat large amounts of food according to their current mental state. In most cases, a certain emotion acts as a trigger for bingeing and so every time the individual experiences that emotion they tend to binge. On the other hand, compulsive overeating is a regular habit and is part of the individual's daily routine. This type of eating is often caused by deep emotional scars. Attempts to change their diet for the better can cause deep depression in the individual. Binge eating and compulsive overeating can cause cholesterol and heart problems, hypertension and in the long term can cause bone degeneration and major depression.

Related to Healthy Eating

Orthorexia nervosa is one of the newest dietary conditions and is characterized by an excessive focus on eating healthy foods. This focus becomes an unwavering fixation and the person starts to severely restrict their diet in order to remain "healthy". This condition is not an official medical diagnosis as yet but as the number of cases is increasing, many practitioners are using it as a diagnosis. The increase in the number of people suffering from this condition is thought to be linked to the growing craze for healthy foods and restrictive eating. Orthorexia nervosa is a cause for concern as it can cause extreme malnutrition and has been known to be fatal. One of the first symptoms of any dietary obsession is an unhealthy focus on food. This would mean that the person would plan their meals well in advance and are unable to break away from their dietary plan - even if circumstances demand it. A person suffering from an eating obsession will need psychiatric help to overcome this obsession and they can go on to lead a perfectly normal healthy life.


  1. Herzog, Greenwood, Flores, Martin B, et al (2000), "Mortality in eating disorders: A descriptive study", International Journal of Eating Disorders
  2. Kriz, Kerri-Lynn Murphy (May 2002), "The Efficacy of Overeaters Anonymous in Fostering Abstinence in Binge-Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa"
  3. Donini L, Marsili D, Cannella C (2004), "Orthorexia nervosa: a preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon".

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