How to Help Someone With Orthorexia - A Simple Plan

Written by: Shreya Manerkar – MA (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : March 13, 2023

Ever wondered, “How can I help my child with orthorexia?” As a parent, you may want your child to eat a healthy meal, however, too much focus on food is unhealthy. So, how do you help someone with orthorexia? What if you see your child showing signs of orthorexia? What should you do? Let us put your worry at ease and answer some of these questions.

“Very interesting and relevant” John

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Chapter 1:

What Is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia is the unhealthy focus on eating healthy food. This means that people will go to extreme lengths in eating healthy food all the time. Orthorexia is a type of eating disorder. In simple words, it means that the eating pattern is affecting a person’s life. In this case, it could be your child. How do you know your child has orthorexia? How can you help them with their orthorexia? First, let us understand some common signs.
How to Observe Orthorexia in My Child
There are some common signs children will show while they are choosing what to eat. These are unique and often extremely unhealthy. Here is a simple checklist for you to rule out before you plan to help your child with orthorexia.
  • Fear of “unhealthy” food.
  • Extreme focus on healthy and nutritious food.
  • Have a rigid style of eating.
  • Finds it difficult to try new food.
  • Keeps checking nutrition labels, calories and ingredients.
  • Avoids important food groups such as carbohydrates, fats or sugars. without any reason.
  • Judges other people’s food habits.
  • Avoids food prepared by others and at restaurants.
  • Losing weight by eating limited food.

Even though the above list may show if your child has orthorexia. It is extremely important not to confuse this with a genuine interest in healthy food.

Chapter 2:

How Does Orthorexia Affect My Child’s Body?

If you want to help someone with orthorexia, it is essential to understand how this behavior impacts your child’s body and mind. Let us first understand how orthorexia in your child will affect the body.

First and foremost, they will lose weight. This is because they restrict what they eat. Secondly, they will be malnourished as they avoid some food groups. This can lead to lowered immunity and problems in focus and concentration. Overall, it can have a dangerous effect on the body.

How Does My Child With Orthorexia Feel?
Equally important is the effect of orthorexia on the child’s feelings. Now let us discuss how this unhealthy pattern affects the mind.

Firstly, children with orthorexia show feelings of shame or guilt. They appear stressed around food. Secondly, they start hating how they look and show low self-confidence. In addition to this, children will also isolate themselves from others. Finally, you will observe that your child is irritated, and may fight with you or their friends.

Chapter 3:

How Can I Help Someone With Orthorexia?

After reading this, we understand you may feel worried. However, there are some ways to help your child manage this issue. When someone has orthorexia, they are usually not aware of how this affects their life. This is true even for your child. Therefore, as a parent, you need to be patient with them. Let us look at some simple tips you can follow to help your child with orthorexia.
Observe Your Child’s Behavior
Often, the difference between healthy eating and orthorexia is “rigidity”. This means that a person strictly follows rules, without any change. To understand if this is a problem, observe if they have stopped enjoying eating food. If you feel the focus is extreme, it is time to seek help for orthorexia.
Be Supportive of Your Child With Orthorexia
When you see your child struggling with orthorexia, don’t be judgmental. You should also avoid passing comments or being critical. Such an approach will make your child dislike themselves and you. This can also lead to constant fights. As a parent, it is important to be supportive of your child at such times.
Understand Your Child
In order to help someone with orthorexia, we should first understand how they feel. When someone struggles with orthorexia, they have a strong fear of being unhealthy. It is important to remember that someone with this issue will be very anxious about food. And hence, what they feel about food is the problem. Therefore, as a parent, you need to understand how your child perceives food.

Sometimes, children also learn from adults. And so, you need to observe how you look at food. Do you constantly call food “healthy” and “unhealthy”? Have you ever labelled food as “Good” or “Bad”? If your answer is yes, your child may have learnt it from you.

Model Positive Behaviour
As mentioned above, children learn from adults. Hence, you need to change your approach to food. Be careful of what words you use while referring to food. If you are on a diet, be mindful of how you deal with your food habits. Though your diet will not cause orthorexia in your child, it can shape his thoughts and beliefs about food.

Chapter 4:

Ask Help from a Doctor for Orthorexia

If your child’s focus on healthy eating is extreme, it is important to ask your family doctor for help with orthorexia. Since they know your child’s history, they will be in the best position to help. The doctor can check if your child is meeting their nutritional requirement. Along with your help, they can guide the child on the importance of nutrition.

If the doctor finds a problem, they can refer you to a specialist who can help your child. A specialist like a psychologist or a psychiatrist will help your child deal with all the negative feelings.

Chapter 5:

How to Plan Meals for Someone With Orthorexia?

Since children with orthorexia tend to get anxious around food, mealtime may be difficult for the whole family. Hence some simple tips can be followed to ease your child’s worry. You can:
  • Plan a meal that you and your child agree.
  • As a family, agree not to talk about calories, portions or nutrition.
  • Avoid following a diet in front of your child.
  • If you feel your child is getting too involved in cooking, give them other tasks to distract them. E.g., set the table
  • Avoid focusing on your child while they are eating.
  • Distract the child with games or some fun activities after a meal, so that they avoid exercising or stressing about food.

Remember, the more you learn about this topic, the better prepared you will be to help your child with orthorexia. If you found this article helpful, check out our informative and educational self help course “Binge Eating Disorder“.

"Very interesting and relevant" John

72 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount