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Orthorexia creeps into Finland

When does an effort to eliminate excess carbs and fat from one’s diet turn into an obsession with healthy eating, orthorexia? Experts say the leap is smaller than people think.

Image: YLE Etelä-Karjala

Those with orthorexia take healthy eating to the extreme, cutting out calorie-dense foods from their highly restricted diets.

“I’ve seen orthorexia among colleagues, other fitness instructors. Their diets may only consist of yogurt and pineapple—every day and all the time,” says physiotherapist Marko Kuukasjärvi.

Gyms are a place where orthorexia can be witnessed—among fitness instructors as well as the clientele. Both groups are overly concerned with burning fat off their bodies, he says.

Orthorexia has not received much attention in the medical community and there are no real figures on sufferers. The strict exercise and food regimes typical of orthorexia can set off bulimia. As with other eating disorders, control is a big factor.

“People plan their days according when and what they will eat. They ask themselves whether they can go to an event because of the food on offer,” describes Marjo Sandvik, who heads a private eating disorder clinic.

Orthorexia affects both men and women.

”We can’t just live on proteins, carbohydrates or fats. In addition to vitamins and minerals we need enjoyment when it comes to food,” says Kuukasjärvi.

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