From Instagram and TikTok to grocery store aisles and gyms, messages touting the paramountcy of wellness pervade modern life, and achieving and maintaining a state of well-being certainly is a wholesome, universal aspiration. But for people with the eating disorder orthorexia, healthy living becomes an obsession that can have severe, injurious consequences.

"Orthorexia nervosa is a term derived from the Greek 'ortho,' meaning right or correct, and 'orexia,' meaning appetite or desire; nervosa means obsession," said Rachel Evans, Ph.D., an eating disorder psychologist in Derbyshire, United Kingdom. "It is an obsession with eating correctly; typically restricting and avoiding food based on how clean or healthy food is judged by the individual to be."

Choices vs. rules

Sophie Smith, an eating disorder advocate in Perth, Australia, struggled with orthorexia for four-and-a-half years. She remembered her relationship with food and health initially became complicated in her early teens, when she first noticed her weight was increasing while her height remained stagnant—a normal part of puberty.

"I think I was mainly worried about a few things: that I would be unhealthy if I gained weight and reached