Do you ever worry that your man has become super-obsessed with healthy eating? Label-reading for fat and calories…avoiding going out to dinner…spending a lot of time planning meals? Then start looking for tell-tale signs of orthorexia. You might notice he looks paler, or is always exhausted, yet will still be disciplined with his hundred push-ups.

I’m about to go on BBC Asian Network lunch-time news programme to increase awareness of orthorexia. This condition is masked as eating healthily, but it is taking a healthy diet to extremes, and often means you cut out all processed foods and live on fruit and veg.

Orthorexia affects men more than women and there is a small but increasing number of men with the condition. It really needs attention.

This is a lot about what’s going on in his mind, and it’s stressful for him. Women know how much pressure there is in society to look good (and slim) and men with orthorexia appear to feel a pressure to look fit and strong. I believe it’s an eating disorder that is sneaky as it looks just like you’re just being healthy. Yet symptoms include dizziness, low self esteem, low blood pressure, iron-deficiency anaemia and weakness. If severe, it can affect your heart.

What can you do?

  • Support him – he is going through a hard time, and although he’s obsessed with planning meals he isn’t enjoying his food. He probably doesn’t have much of a social life either, as eating out or holidays aren’t comfortable.
  • Find ways to seek expert help. A registered dietitian can help retrain him about nutrition and why he needs certain foods to stay fit and healthy.
  • Counselling is a must, as a lot of this is to do with what’s going on in his mind.
  • Since he’s likely to be socially isolated, in time, increase his social support through trusted friends.

What are the important foods?

  1. You need  protein from foods such as milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, pulses. Many of these will provide iron and vitamin B12 which help maintain healthy blood and brain function.
  2. You need good quality fats like those found in avocado, fish, nuts and olive oil. Fat helps you absorb important fat soluble vitamins like vit A, D and E.
  3. You need carbs, especially whole grain carbs as they give you minerals like magnesium for healthy bones, and manganese which helps maintain heart health.

If you’re concerned that someone you love could be suffering from orthorexia, speak to your GP. Or search for a dietitian in your area.