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The New Eating Disorder

Have you ever heard of Orthorexia Nervosa?

I hadn’t, but it is an eating disorder.

Orthorexia Nervosa is a healthy eating obssession! Click To Tweet

Can you believe that? You can take healthy eating too far. Who knew?

What is Orthorexia Nervosa?

It’s a term coined by Dr Steven Bratman. He’s quick to point out though that adopting a keen interest in a healthy diet isn’t Orthorexia, it’s when that interest becomes a rigid obsession and is so strict it’s self-punishing.

“Orthorexia nervosa, as I defined it in 1996, indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. The term is derived utilising the Greek “orthos,” which means “right,” or “correct,” and is intended as a parallel with anorexia nervosa. I originally invented the word as a kind of “tease therapy” for my overly diet-obsessed patients. Over time, however, I came to understand that the term identifies a genuine eating disorder.”

He goes on to say: “Please note that I do not, and have never claimed that vegetarianism, veganism, or any other nutritionally sound approach to eating healthy food is in itself a disorder. That would be absurd! Nor do I think that people who pay close attention to labels on the foods they mean to purchase are demonstrating a psychological problem (as some web articles on orthorexia would appear to imply.) Finally, I entirely agree that the problem of addiction to junk food is immensely more prevalent than obsession with healthy food.” Nonetheless, it is possible to have an unhealthy obsession with healthy food.”

What Causes Orthorexia?

“A healthy diet turns into orthorexia when a boundary is crossed and a person’s relationship with food begins to impair various essential dimensions of human life. There is no bright line to mark this transition, but it can be recognized as a situation in which the search for a healthy diet has taken on a life of its own and no longer serves the goal of improving health,” says Dr Bratman.

As with most eating disorders risk factors include a tendency to obsessessiveness and rigidity – couple that with weight or self-image issues and there could be potential for the feeling of control a severely restricted diet can supposedly deliver. Often the process is gradual.

It was this video that first alerted me to Orthorexia Nervosa. (7 mins)

Could you have Orthorexia?

Questions via Dr Steven Bratman

  • Do you turn to healthy food as a primary source of happiness and meaning, even spirituality?
  • Does your diet make you feel better than other people?
  • Does it interfere with relationships or work, friends or family?
  • Do you use pure foods as a sword and shield to ward off anxiety, not just about health problems but about everything that makes you insecure?
  • Do foods help you feel in control more than really makes sense?
  • Do you have to carry your diet to further and further extremes to provide the same kick?
  • If you stray even minimally from your chosen diet, do you feel a compulsive need to cleanse?
  • Has your interest in healthy food expanded past reasonable boundaries to become a kind of brain parasite, controlling your life rather than furthering your goals?

Food, no matter how pure, cannot fill the space in your soul that longs for love and spiritual experience. If you are trying to use it for this purpose, you may have gone astray on your journey.

“Let’s keep a sense of proportion: If you prefer to eat mostly organic, preservative- chemical- and antiobiotic-free foods (as I do!) and think that many overly processed foods are not foods at all (as I do!) it still doesn’t mean you have to follow those principles 100% of the time. That’s just perfectionism, obsession, orthorexia,” counsels Dr Bratman.

“Trying to be perfect will make you crazy, in diet as elsewhere in life,” he says. “Lighten up a little. Be gentler with yourself.”


Sources: Orthorexia.com


#cleaneating #paleo #orthorexianervosa #wellnesswednesday

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