How to Know When ‘Healthy Eating’ Turns into Orthorexia

Melainie Rogers, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Melanie Rogers ImageEating Disorder Hope: Welcome to today’s #EDHchat! Today we will be tweeting with @melainierogers how to know when healthy eating turns into orthorexia.

Eating Disorder Hope: Please welcome Melainie Rogers, Founder of BALANCE ED Treatment Center @BALANCEedtc

Eating Disorder Hope: Melainie will be tweeting as @melainierogers

Eating Disorder Hope: Melainie, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your involvement in the eating disorder community?

Melainie: I am the Founder and Executive Director of BALANCE eating disorder treatment center and melainie rogers nutrition, llc.

Melainie: I received my education in Melbourne, Australia, where I was born and raised.

Melainie: I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Melbourne University and completed a Graduate diploma in Sports Nutrition from Deakin University

Melainie: Upon coming to the US, I earned my Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition at New York University

Melainie: In 2002, I developed the largest private group nutrition practice specializing in eating disorders in NYC.

Melainie: As I saw a need for more services for eating disorders, I established BALANCE eating disroder treatment center in 2009.

Eating Disorder Hope: Eating “clean” has been trending for some time. What might this term imply and what are the dangers associated with this concept?

Melainie: Eating clean means eating foods that are healthy, organic, usually locally sourced

Melainie: This could also be eating foods that do not contain antibiotics or hormones, and that if they contain fat, are comprised of health fat (nut/vegetable based fats)

Melainie: Eating clean has been taken to mean eating low to no fat, which can be disordered adn unhealthy.

Melainie: It also has become a pseudonym for low calorie eating, which can also be disordered

Melainie: Eating clean can become obsessive to the point that it is in fact unhealthy.

Melainie: It can also be disruptive to daily life if foods can only be eaten from certain stores, etc.

Eating Disorder Hope: How does a person know if their attempt to eat healthy has gone too far?

Melainie: One measure to know if an attempt to eat healthy has gone too far is the degree of obsessiveness and anxiety that is related to this style of eating.

Melainie: If a person is not able to tolerate eating out at a friend’s place for dinner…

Melainie: Or unable to eat any food other than what they themselves have cooked, for example…

Melainie: We know that this style of eating has gone beyond healthy and is more about anxiety.

Eating Disorder Hope: What is Orthorexia and how does this differ from Anorexia?

Melainie: Orthorexia is “perfect eating”, making sure that one is eating all of the “right foods”

Melainie: Perfect eating can mean that a meal must be made up of the “perfect amounts” of healthy protein, carbs, and fats…

Melainie: But also must have the maximum number of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and super foods that one can put into one meal.

Melainie: It is obsessive. Often orthorexia is the same as clean eating, but taken to a disordered, disruptive degree.

Melainie: Orthorexia may not be about weight loss as is the case with anorexia.

Melainie: Anorexia is an obsession with low calorie eating and body weight.

Melainie: Orthorexia is about the quality of the food.

Melainie: We often find our anorexic clients proceed to orthorexic tendencies in their recovery and can often get “stuck” there.

Melainie: Same with clean eating…

Melainie: Thinking they are fully recovered bc they are eating food, but it is still obsessive and food is still not neutral.

Eating Disorder Hope: What types of people may be more at risk for developing Orthorexia?

Melainie: Orthorexia is more likely to be a risk factor for clients who are anxious.

Melainie: The anxiety gets focused on the food, and eating perfectly.

Melainie: Orthorexia is often seen in clients who are recovering from anorexia… but they never get to the stage of neutralizing all foods.

Melainie: Judgements are still very high.

Melainie: There can be moral superiority for those who pride themselves on eating perfectly or eating clean.

Eating Disorder Hope: What are some helpful interventions for a person dealing with Orthorexia?

Melainie: At Balance, we use a lot of exposure therapy to expose our clients to all types of food

Melainie: Everything from salad to burgers to sushi to fries.

Melainie: Our philosophy is that all foods fit

Melainie: To be fully recovered from an eating disorder, it is essential to get to a place whereby all foods are neutral…

Melainie: And where there is no moral or nutritional judgement attached to that food.

Melainie: It is about moderation, food enjoyment and pleasure, and eating what makes us feel good.

Melainie: Also it is helpful to work with eating patterns and belief systems. Clients believe that if they eat badly they are bad.

Melainie: If they choose unhealthy foods, they are bad.

Melainie: There is often a great deal of judgement and shame attached to food choices, when in reality, food is just food.

Melainie: Nothing more, nothing less! That is what being neutral with food really means!

Eating Disorder Hope: What encouragement might you share with an individual who wants to eat healthier without becoming obsessive?

Melainie: If eating healthier means eating more fruit and vegetables, but also includes all macronutrients – protein, fat and carbs – then I say go for it!

Melainie: Stay flexible and allow yourself fun foods, also to keep things in balance.

Melainie: Don’t restrict yourself to certain restaurants or only eating your own cooking.

Melainie: This can get rigid, restrictive, and obsessive really quickly.

Melainie: Eat from hunger, fullness, and satiety and not to a calorie goal – a sure fire way to get obessive!

Eating Disorder Hope: Can you tell us about the services offered through Balance Eating Disorder Treatment center for orthorexia sufferers?

Melainie: At BALANCE eating disorder treatment center, we have several levels of care available to clients who struggle with orthorexia.

Melainie: We have a full time day program of 30 hours per week of meals and therapy groups.

Melainie: We also have an evening program that offers a dinner meal and therapy group for 9 hours per week.

Melainie: For clients who need weekend support, we also have a Saturday day program that provides meals and therapy groups.

Melainie: Individual nutritional counseling is also available to help a client work through their food beliefs and obsessions.

Melainie: Our goal is to help clients move towards a more neutral relationship with food and their body.

Eating Disorder Hope: Thank you so much to everyone who participated in our Twitter Chat today with @melainierogers!

Eating Disorder Hope: Thank you again to our fantastic guest, Melainie, for joining us for this important conversation on Orthorexia.

Eating Disorder Hope: Please check out Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center at for more info about their program and eating disorder resources

Eating Disorder Hope: For more helpful eating disorder resources, visit

Eating Disorder Hope: No matter where you may be today, be encouraged in your recovery journey and know that you do not walk alone. Take care everyone!