A Holistic Approach to Orthorexia Treatment

Woman struggling with orthorexia

Contributor: Camille Williams, MA, LCPC, Eating Disorder Specialist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

A holistic approach to treatment means including all aspects of health and well-being: physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, occupational, and more.

What is Orthorexia

An individual struggling with orthorexia, obsessive behaviors around “healthy” eating, is most likely out of touch with other aspects of health and is most likely following distorted and unhealthy practices with food as well.

Orthorexia may begin by someone starting a diet or following a new food trend that can grow to become more limiting and restricting in regards to nutritional intake. Orthorexia is ironic because the person’s initial quest for health through food often leads to a very harmful relationship with food that denies the body of its needs and greatly impairs a person’s health.

Holistic Approach to Orthorexia Treatment

An individual struggling with orthorexia will benefit the most from a team treatment approach with a dietitian, therapist, physician, and other health professionals who have a background with eating disorders.

A therapist or eating disorder specialist can address thought distortions that drive the behaviors with food. They can begin to break down the all-or-nothing food judgments, such as salads are “good” or “healthy” and pizza is “bad” or “unhealthy.” It will also be important to separate food and nutrition from the individual’s worth if someone eats pizza they are not “bad.”

An individual with orthorexia may feel a lot of shame if they are not strictly following their rigid food options. In therapy, they can begin to let go of the obsession and instead find balance with food as well as explore their identity and values.

Since health is most likely an important value, it will be essential to redefine health and include all aspects of health and well-being.

Woman relaxing with exercise

It will be vital to work with other professionals including a dietitian, medical doctor, and attend support groups.

Nutritional education that is accurate and research-based from a registered dietitian will be valuable as well as receiving a meal plan to ensure all nutritional needs are met.

A doctor can help to monitor vitals, labs, and assess other aspects of physical health.

Support groups may also be very beneficial to find support from others struggling with the same thoughts, feelings, and behaviors around food and body.

Support groups can help validate and shed light on the impact of obsessions with food and body image and ways to live a more balanced life including all aspects of health and well-being.

Find Outlets to Support and Promote Growth

It is important to continue to find outlets that support and promote growth physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, occupationally, and spiritually. Other creative outlets such as art therapy, dance movement therapy, and yoga therapy can be very connected ways to facilitate and encourage self-growth and wellness.

Social engagements and activities with friends and family can help an individual get outside of the obsessiveness and enjoy connecting with others. Meaningful work either through a job, career, or volunteering can help an individual to focus on other aspects of life rather than getting stuck and obsessive about food and body image.

Holistic treatment provides an opportunity for the individual to explore whole health and wellness that extends and expands for even greater life satisfaction.

Camille WilliamsAbout the Author: Camille Williams, MA, NCC, LCPC

As the Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Camille supports the development of curriculum, supervises the eating disorder specialist, and provides group therapy. She also educates and trains all staff on campus and advocates for eating disorder awareness through publications.

Camille started at Timberline Knolls as a Behavioral Health Specialist. She then transitioned into the Eating Disorder Specialist (EDS) role. In this position for nearly five years, she developed her skills and competence in working with the eating disorder population.

Camille received a Bachelor of Arts degree in both psychology and sociology from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Clinical Professional Psychology from Roosevelt University, IL.

Camille is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP).

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.

Published on October 1, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 1, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com