Experts have warned that fitness-obsessed stars are leading to a rise in eating disorder orthorexia as their fans strive to achieve their ultra-toned bodies.
The condition – which sees sufferers become consumed with healthy eating and exercise – is a big issue, according to psychologists and nutritionists, who believe that Instagram accounts awash with glamorous gym selfies are having a dangerous influence.
They argue that the sculpted bodies of super-fit celebrities like former TOWIE star Lucy Mecklenburgh and Charlotte Crosby are not realistic for most ‘normal’ people who do not have all day to spend exercising.
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Former TOWIE star Lucy Mecklenburgh recently hit back at ‘body shamers’ who criticised her boyish shape (left), saying she’d chosen being fit over having boobs. Back in 2011 she was a size 10 (right) and had 32D breasts
The exercise guru runs the fitness website Results with Lucy (left). Before adapting her strict exercise regime she was a size 10 (right), but she’s said she didn’t feel good about her body
Dr Bijal Chedda Varma, a psychologist specialising in eating disorders at London’s Nightingale Hospital has seen an overall increase in eating disorders in recent years – including orthorexia, among both men and women.
She told FEMAIL: ‘It’s not a clinical term, but we have seen a preoccupation in young men and women under 30 with a preoccupation with being healthy.
‘They are very competitive over and displaying almost ritualistic behaviour around healthy eating and exercise, to the extent that they are not exercising in any healthy manner.
Geordie shore’s Holly Hagan was overweight after living off booze and takeaways (left). She’s lost two-and-a-half stone and has launched a highly successful fitness DVD
Exercise guru Charlotte pictured with an overweight cut out of herself to promote her ‘3 Minute Belly Blitz’ fitness DVD launch
‘With so-called orthorexia they are not motivated for weight loss, they are just obsessed with having a particular body type.’
She believes that celebrity fitness culture is ‘perpetuating and informing’ this kind of behaviour, and warns that it can lead to a ‘full blown eating disorder’.
‘I think the problem is becoming very caught up by what is in the media with celebrities and models. It makes people obsessed with perfection,’ she explained.
Some celebrities have turned fitness into their business, such as Lucy Mecklenburgh who runs the fitness website Results With Lucy.
She often shares the results of her hard work on Instagram and recently posted a rant, hitting back at ‘body shamers’ who criticised her boyish shape.
‘I used to be a curvy size 10 with a 32D bust I was living on pasta, pastries, sugary drinks, 3 sugars in my tea, skipping breakfast, McDonald’s once-twice a week. I did ZERO exercise,’ she said.
‘I had no energy, bad skin, covered in cellulite and felt yuk. I needed to change and I chose my health.’
She added that she had chosen being fit over having boobs.
Geordie Shore’s Vicky Pattison had a more rounded figure before entering I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (left) but recently she’s been showing off her toned body on Instagram
Vicky Pattison recently posted this image of her low carb lunch and food supplements
However, Dr Bijal Chedda Varma warns that celebrities with such extreme dedication to fitness are creating unrealistic targets for their fans.
She said: ‘Your body may be fit, but is your mind? It puts a complete strain on your emotional wellbeing and creates a whole different level of anxiety if you haven’t met the standard that’s been set. It’s making people unwell.
It can be contagious, wanting to look as good as your friends and idols, and living their lives
Nutritional therapist Angelique Panagos
‘The difference between being normal and being consumed by being healthy is when it starts to be the centre of your life. You shouldn’t be missing the Christmas meal or your daughter’s birthday cake.
‘When you get to this point of obsession it’s harmful. Going to an aerobics class after work and then going home to do a run or Pilates instead of a social occasion is too much.’
Nutritional therapist Angelique Panagos has also seen an increase in patients with orthorexia at her Harley Street practice.
‘The age of the selfie truly is in full swing, and with it the need for social media validation. It can be contagious, wanting to look as good as your friends and idols, and living their lives,’ she said.
‘The world of fitness selfies can pose a double-edged sword. Many women, and men, are using fitness motivation as a positive means to improving their health; getting active, overcoming negative body image and even recovering from eating disorders.
Another Geordie Shore cast member Holly Hagan has managed to transform her physique with exercise and diet. She has launched a diet plan called Holly’s Body Bible, which promises weight loss of 5lbs within a week
Lauren Goodger who found fame on TOWIE has lost four stone in less than a year and has also released a fitness DVD
‘The concern is for those whose fitness philosophies steer them away from this balance and into an obsession over what they eat or the amount they train.
‘We are sadly seeing an upward trend in orthorexia, which brings a host of health problems.’
Angelique warns that it can be difficult to identify when an interest in fitness and healthy eating has gone too far, as on face value it’s seen as a positive thing.
‘It’s never been easy to identify when we’ve stepped over the boundary of balance and into obsession, whether that’s an obsession over getting lean or gaining muscle,’ she said.
‘If you’re fixating or panicking about food or when you’ll get your next workout, it’s time to take a reality check and relax a little. If this prospect causes anxiety, it’s time to speak to someone.
‘I always advocate an 80/20 lifestyle, eating a varied wholesome diet and enjoying an active lifestyle and getting enough rest 80 per cent of the time, and allowing for a few indulgences in the remaining 20 per cent.
Men are also said to be feeling the pressure to be super fit. Celebrities such as Made In Chelsea’s Spencer Matthews has been just as vocal about their fitness endeavours as their female co-stars
Binky Felstead from Made In Chelsea has slimmed down from a size 10 (left) to a size eight (right)
‘This applies to everyone – celebrity or not! – a healthy lifestyle is about consistency above perfection. It’s important that we live in reality and look after our minds and bodies and keep that healthy balance.’
DO YOU HAVE ORTHOREXIA? TAKE THIS TEST TO FIND OUT
The disorder was coined by Dr Steven Bratman in a 1997 paper, in which he said sufferers could be driven to despair by inadvertently ‘devouring a single raisin’ in violation of internal guidelines.
Below is the Bratman Test for orthorexia:
Do you spend more than three hours a day thinking about your diet?
Do you plan your meals several days ahead?
Is the nutritional value of your meal more important than the pleasure of eating it?
Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet has increased?
Have you become stricter with yourself lately?
Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthily?
Have you given up foods you used to enjoy in order to eat the ‘right’ foods
Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, distancing you from family and friends?
Do you feel guilty when you stray from your diet?
Do you feel at peace with yourself and in total control when you eat healthily?
Yes to 4 or 5 of the above questions means it is time to relax more about food.
Yes to all of them means a full-blown obsession with eating healthy food.
It’s par for the course for reality TV starlets in particular to go from overweight and out of shape to super-ripped, and release an exercise DVD promising to help their fans do the same.
One of the most successful offerings comes from Geordie Shore’s Charlotte Crosby whose ‘3 Minute Belly Blitz’ became the fastest selling fitness DVD title ever in 2014
She used to have a fuller figure thanks to living off takeaways and copious amount of booze but lost more than two-and-a-half stone and now she regularly flaunts her toned body in a selection of bikinis on Instagram.
Her co-star Vicky Pattison has also transformed her body and reinvented herself as a fitness guru after dropping to a size six and releasing a fitness DVD.
Then there’s Holly Hagan who has launched a diet plan called Holly’s Body Bible, which promises weight loss of 5lbs within a week.
Former TOWIE star Lauren Goodger and Made In Chelsea’s Binky Felstead and Spencer Matthews have also shared their super fit selfies on social media after battling the bulge.
Even Justin Maguire, a personal trainer with FE Fitness concedes that a super fit celebrity body is an unattainable goal for many people.
‘It’s unattainable for 90 per cent of people because of having a family and extra commitments, and having a certain type of diet. Not everyone can afford organic, free range, grass fed meats,’ he explained.
‘A lot of celebrities will be calling on doctors and biochemists and other professionals to support their diet and training.
‘And age will certainly play a part. Ninety per cent of the time you can’t keep that physique especially after 30. Hormones become more sluggish and metabolism slows down.’
Justin says the competition among celebrities to have the best body defeats the purpose of exercising for a healthier body and mind.
‘Striving to achieve an aesthetic should be a secondary goal, not the primary purpose. It’s a misrepresentation of what exercise should be geared to,’ he said.
‘Getting healthier should be the goal. The biggest thing should be a an increase in movement and to be more lively and active in yourself. The look should just be a symptom of it.’
TV personality Luisa Zissman worryingly thought she was fat in this selfie posted to Instagram (left). The mother-of-one regularly shows off her tiny body on social media
Geordie Shore’s Marnie Simpson has recently been showing off her tiny waist on Instagram. However, even fitness professionals say that looking a certain way should not be the primary goal of exercise
Former Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh is known for her intense fitness regime and is not shy about flaunting the results, but experts say this level of perfection is not attainable for most people
He says that although no fitness model will admit it, they employ tricks to make themselves look more ripped before a shoot such as not drinking water or eating a meal the night before.
‘If you’re not holding as much water the muscles appear more striated and more defined and it doesn’t give you the most honest image.’
‘People also indulge in macro nutrient manipulation, which is very stressful on the heart and the kidneys.
‘All the pictures you see of people with shredded abs have gone through costly final preparation stages.
‘Is it misleading? 100 per cent. Is it something people should be striving for? No.
‘That shredded physique is short lived. People achieve this success and then become depressed that they can’t sustain it. They don’t tend to talk about it but they feel as if they’ve failed themselves.’