When trying to eat cleaner, healthier turns into Orthorexia

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Many of us strive to eat better.

More fruits and vegetables--some of us may go organic or gluten-free. A couple years ago, that's exactly what Amanda Harris set out to do.

“That is exactly how it started. I was like, oh I'm going to be more healthy. It was kind of like my New Year's Resolution. And that is when it really kicked in,” says Harris.

But soon the goals of eating better became an obsession, and Amanda's food choices became quite limited.

“Essentially over a three-month period. It boiled down to I can eat anything to apples and trail mix. And it was like, this is healthy. This is good,” says Harris.

Harris had what was called Orthorexic tendencies. Those who have this eating disorder eventually limit their food to about ten items. They can obsess over fats, sugar, salts, animal products, dairy, even artificial colors.

Food is now looked upon as harmful. That obsession becomes a fixation. The person may judge others who do not adhere to their strict diet, and become isolated because their dietary patterns are top priority.

”Something that happens when individuals suffer from an eating disorder is they lose their ability to really tap into and be connected to their hunger and fullness cues. And when they lost that, they often don't even know what they want. And they don't know their bodies. So this is about getting back present in my body, listening to my body,” says Erin Snell, a licensed social worker with the eating disorder facility Center for Hope of the Sierras.

Yoga can be offered as it helps patients think differently about their bodies, and can get the patient away from obsessive thoughts about food or body weight.

Patients may also opt for Reiki, a touch therapy which allows patients to re-connect with their bodies in a positive way leading to more energy and self-esteem.

Group therapy, family therapy, nutrition education, addressing the physical damage caused by the eating disorder are all part of treatment.

“And it was just of this moment where it was what I am doing is not working. And it is not going to suddenly, randomly, decide to start working. And I'm going to try and let these people help me. And if this way does not work, I can always go back to what I am doing. But it worked,” says Harris.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.