Is Orthorexia really an eating disorder?



Orthorexia nervosa

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Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder[1] characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthful.[2][3]The term orthorexia derives from the Greek ορθο- (ortho, “right” or “correct”), and όρεξις (orexis, “appetite”), literally meaning a correct diet. It was introduced in 1997 by Steven Bratman, M.D., to be used as a parallel with other eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa. Orthorexia is not mentioned in the widely-used DSM[a], but was coined by Bratman[4] who claims that in rare cases, this focus may turn into a fixation so extreme that it can lead to severe malnutrition or even death.[5] Even in less severe cases, the attempt to follow a diet that cannot provide adequate nourishment is said to lower self-esteem as the orthorexics blame themselves rather than their diets for their constant hunger and the resulting cravings for forbidden foods. [6]

In 2009, Ursula Philpot, chair of the British Dietetic Association and senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University,[7] described people with orthorexia nervosa to The Guardian as being “solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure’.” This differs from other eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, whereby people “focus on quantity of food”.[1]


Steven Bratman coined the term “orthorexia nervosa” in 1997 from the Greek orthos, meaning “correct or right”, and orexis, meaning “appetite”.[8] Literally “correct appetite”, the word is modeled on anorexia, meaning “without appetite”, as used in definition of the condition anorexia nervosa. Bratman describes orthorexia as an unhealthy fixation with what the individual considers to be healthy eating. The subject may avoid certain unhealthy foods, such as those containing fats, preservatives, man-made food-additives, animal products, or other ingredients considered by the subject to be unhealthy; if the sufferer does not eat appropriately, malnutrition can ensue. Bratman claims Orthorexic sufferers have specific preferences about the foods they are eating and avoiding. Products that are preserved with additives can be considered dangerous. Industrial products can be seen as artificial, whereas fruits and vegetables can be seen as healthy.[9] Bratman asserts that “emaciation is common among followers of certain health food diets, such as rawfoodism, and this can at times reach the extremes seen in anorexia nervosa.” In addition, he claims that “anorexic orthorexia” can be as dangerous as anorexia. However, he states, “the underlying motivation is quite different. While an anorexic wants to lose weight, an orthorexic does not desire to become thin[9] but wants to feel pure, healthy and natural. Eating disorder specialists may fail to understand this distinction, leading to a disconnect between orthorexic and physician.”[5][10]…..

[16] Sufferers of orthorexia often display symptoms consistent with obsessive-compulsive disorder and have an exaggerated concern with healthy eating patterns. Like anorexia, however, these obsessive compulsive symptoms may be an effect of starvation rather than a cause of the disorder.[18] A diagnostic questionnaire has been developed for orthorexia sufferers, similar to questionnaires for other eating disorders.[17] Bratman proposes an initial self-test composed of two direct questions: “Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?… Does your diet socially isolate you?”[19] Other questions concerning those who may be suffering from orthorexia provided by Davis on the WebMD (2000) website are: Do they spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about healthy foods? When they eat the way they’re supposed to, do they feel in total control? Are they planning tomorrow’s menu today? Has the quality of their life decreased as the quality of their diet increased? Have they become stricter with themselves? Does their self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy? Do they look down on others who don’t eat this way? Do they skip foods they once enjoyed in order to eat the “right” foods? Does their diet make it difficult for them to eat anywhere but at home, distancing them from family and friends? Do they feel guilt or self-loathing when they stray from their diet? If yes was answered to two or more questions, the person may have a mild case of orthorexia.[13]

The above definitional discussion was taken from Wikipedia.

I have participated for a number of years in online forums relating to health and raw food. I came to raw food due to dealing with health-related issues that I wanted to resolve via non-medical means since the medical approach either didn’t have an answer for me nor provided any hope of ever having an answer.

First of all, let me say that I don’t believe that emaciation or malnourishment is good and if you are showing signs of either of these, then yes, it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate whatever program you may be on because clearly something is not working.

For example, I have several friends who, in the name of the above-mentioned pursuit of “purity” have water-fasted several times and this resulted in severe depletion of their bodies and major physical problems, one in particular, resulting in hospitalization.

However, I have also know several long-term raw foodists, one of the examples given above as a possible “orthorexic” type, who have excellent health and are not emaciated nor malnourished and are in fact vibrant an thriving.

The word “obsession” or “fanatic” is often used to describe those who hold up for themselves a high standard of health and one of the questions the article asks us to consider is how our social life has been affected and if we are now isolating ourselves.

The word obsession is defined as :


According to this definition, something is just dominating one’s thoughts.

If I were choking, the thought of oxygen would be dominating my thoughts. If I were unemployed, the thought of finding a job would be dominating my thoughts. If I were in love, that person would be dominating my thoughts. If I were grieving, the loss of my loved one would be dominating my thoughts.

So, it sounds like obsessive thinking is common in life’s events, no?

If the fast food and processed food industries had not made unhealthy food so ubiquitous, then this obsession with healthy food would probably vanish as there would be no other food choices.

And, the need for social isolation would disappear as well.

I just finished reading a book on Willpower and it talked about how poor physical fitness was actually contagious and had actually done a study on it.

What would you do if ANYTHING was contagious? Wouldn’t you socially isolate yourself from it? Even loved ones who might be sick and contagious? The book said that as one person in a social group or family’s weight went up, the weight of others in the group tended to go up as well.

And it said that willpower and good goals were contagious as well.

If you have a health condition that is triggered by foods that you consume whether it be an allergic reaction or something other, then indeed, avoiding certain foods can border on “obsession”.

Does that mean you have an eating disorder or have a mental condition?

I dare say not.

The real disorder lies with the processed food and junk food industries who have studied which foods addict us to their foods and have done detailed studies involving taste testers and hundreds of samples to find out what our “bliss point” is to hook us to their products.

To heck if those products wreak our health and appearance. As long as their pocket books are full, then they will continue producing them.

Trouble is, it’s created a toxic food environment literally EVERYWHERE including even outer space where astronauts consume Tang which has absolutely no natural ingredients in it whatsoever.

I have cleared up my endometriosis completely via diet and had to be very strict with myself. Any dietary fat including nuts and avocadoes which would be considered by most people to be “healthy”. Not in my body.

We are each unique and some people have extreme allergies to gluten, dairy, nuts and all sorts of foods. They have to avoid them entirely or else suffer the consequences.

For some people, the overweight and discomfort in their bodies signals to them intuitively that their bodies are toxic and there is an inflammation response even though they haven’t yet developed a health condition. This feeling, however is enough to become an obsession to restore the ease and equilibrium in their bodies as their bodies are giving them feedback that these non-foods are not agreeing with them.

Society has become sick. Not just physically, but psychically as well.

The sickness comes from the programming they’ve received literally from birth from television commercials designed by the fast food and processed food companies that have been scientifically designed to hook us and make us believe that their foods are not bad for us.

Restaurants and shops even have scents they release out of their stores that smell like real food designed to engage our dopamine centers so that we will be hungry for their foods.

We are being manipulated and Orthorexia is another label used to create social stigma against one who is trying to eat the way ALL people used to eat before processed foods became mainstream.

In Michael Moss’ book “Salt, Sugar, Fat” he talks about the campaign the processed food industry launched back in the 50’s through the 80’s designed to counteract the home economic teachers efforts to get people to stop eating so much processed foods and eat and cook at home (one of the definitions of orthorexia): they infiltrated the organization these teachers belonged to and set up their own teachers and invented “Betty Crocker” an imaginary person who wrote cook books using processed food ingredients to gradually condition Americans that processed food was convenient, modern and classy.

It worked. They are doing similar things today. They know that consumer groups are onto them about their use of GMO’s, aspartame, non-organic foods, the heavy use of fat, sugar and salt and chemical additives and colorings all of which have been found harmful to the body.

There is a huge grass-roots effort nationally to consume more organic produce and cut down on processed foods.

So the response of the fast food industry has been to create this label of Orthorexia and to launch the “moderation in everything” mantra knowing FULL WELL that their products are addicting and that the “betcha you can’t eat just one” (the slogan for Pringles manufactured by Frito Lay owned by Pepsi Co) will go into effect once we try to “moderate” eating their junk crack.

In fact, Warren Buffett, one of the world’s wealthiest people, made two of these addictive foods part of his stock portolio, See’s Candies and Cherry Coke. In fact, in the excerpt below, he sums up his investment philosophy about ALL addictive substances:

Choosing Investments With Long-Term Value
In 1987, Buffett famously stated, “I’ll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It’s addictive. And there’s fantastic brand loyalty.” While he later stated that the tobacco industry was burdened with issues that made him change his opinion of it, this statement sums up Buffett’s description of the perfect investment.

This pretty much summed up his feelings on his purchase of Coca Cola and he himself was an addict of Cherry Coke drinking up to five of them a day.

However, others in the industry studiously avoid the products they push as in the account in Moss’ “Salt, Sugar, Fat” where the author goes out to dinner with a scientist known for creating the bliss point in several products including helping Dr. Pepper create their Cherry Vanilla version who refused to drink it.

Folks, we are being played.

Do not fall for the labels and the teasing and the scoffers. Your health is YOUR responsibility and you have to live with the consequences of your food, beverage, recreational and pharmaceutical choices forever. Do not let others intimidate you into believing that your self-care decisions about how much you exercise or eat are obsessive.

Consider the source. If they themselves are not a model of health, then perhaps it’s jealousy motivating their comments? If not jealousy, then either profit motive or their own social fears of being different from others.

I don’t know. This I DO know:

I once was very unhealthy. Now I am pain-free and running five miles regularly something I had to stop doing due to my pain. And, it took a boat-load of effort that bordered on *gasp* “obsessive focus” to turn around.

I have no regrets.

awesome life tip

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