Buying organic, eating whole grains and loading up on fruits and vegetables are all great for your health, yet for those that are adamantly dedicated to eating “right” can cross the line and into a disorder called orthorexia.

According to alternative medicine physician Steven Bratman, M.D., he coined the term in 1997 to refer to an extreme fixation on health food.  People with Orthorexia are preoccupied with the quality of foods as opposed to the quantity of foods of those that are anorexic and can often lead to physiological and physical repercussions.  Common symptoms of the disorder start with a real desire to improve health followed by restricting processed foods, and aiming for organic produce and whole grains. Naturally, many would assume this can do no harm, however  when restrictions become so severe—cutting out fats or salt or food groups—you put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies or other problems.

If you are unsure where you fall in terms of healthy eating and the disorder; the primary factor lies in how preoccupied someone dedicates themselves to healthy eating, according to Maria Rago, Ph.D., vice president of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).

Common patterns of people with orthorexia:

1.)   Spend hours at a time planning healthy meals

2.)   Refuse to go out to eat because of fear of processed ingredients and impure ingredients

3.)   Food inters with personal and family life

4.)   Start withdrawing socially

5.)   Extreme restrictions in calories and elimination of food groups

Athletes in particular are more predisposed to the disease due to the fact that they are very conscious of their bodies and their health for optimum athletic performance.  Similar industries that have a strong importance on body image and health such as models, dancers and athletic clubs are more prone to the disease as well.

Healthy eating is never a bad habit to have, but just like too much ofanything can start to become unhealthy even when it comes to food.  Although Orthorexia is not a clinically recognized condition, so no statistics are available. But over the last few years, eating-disorder specialists have reported a rise in the condition.  The important thing to remember when it comes to diet is as long as 90% of your food intake is healthy balanced foods; you can still have a good diet with 10% of foods that are not as healthy.