Approaching a Loved One Who Is Struggling with Orthorexia

Woman deep in thought about problems.

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

If you have a loved one in your life who is particularly careful about what they eat or following a “clean-eating” trend, this can bring about many thoughts and concerns. On the surface, this may seem like a very admirable trait.

Striving to eat healthy and make careful decisions about what someone chooses to put in their body can seem like a positive thing and is often instigated with the best intentions. However, what if a person becomes obsessed with “clean” eating to the point that it is negatively interfering with their daily life? This may indicate that a more severe issue might be at hand.

Obsessed with Clean Eating

“Orthorexia” is a term used to describe a condition in which a person is obsessed with eating foods that are considered “healthy” or “clean”. A person dealing with orthorexia may follow an extremely restrictive diet in their attempt to avoid foods that are “unhealthy” and “unclean” or avoid certain foods/food groups in their entirety.

These types of habits and behaviors with food are not beneficial to the body and can actually lead to harmful consequences or the development of a more severe eating disorder.


This can be a sensitive subject to approach, particularly if you have observed behaviors in your loved one that are concerning or raising red flags. Perhaps you have noticed your loved one become very selective about the foods they eat or extremely regimented in how they cook/prepare their foods.

You may see an obsession go so far to the point that a person is beginning to avoid social functions or daily activities that might be interfering with their desire and want to eat “healthy”.

Trust Your Instincts

Mother soothes crying daughterNever ignore your instinct that something might be wrong and take the time to appropriately approach your loved one who may be dealing with orthorexia. You may be the voice of reason that leads them to help, which is an intervention in itself. Consider having a discussion with your loved one during a time and in a place that feels safe and comfortable for you both.

Express your concerns in a loving way by explaining how certain behaviors you have observed are concerning for you. Lastly, be prepared with some resources that may be helpful to your loved one, such as the number of a counselor, support group, or even just more information about orthorexia.

Taking the time to share your concerns in a gentle and loving way can be life-changing for a person you love and care for.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What might be some difficulties encountered when approaching a loved one with orthorexia, and what are some ways to overcome these?

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 18, 2016
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