Orthorexia Nervosa: the “healthy” eating disorder

Van Mensvoort
November 21st 2009

Following anorexia nervosa (under eating) and bulimia nervosa (overeating and compensating), orthorexia nervosa (obsessively healthy eating) is the latest eating disorder in the book. It is characterized by a fixation on eating what the sufferer considers to be healthful food, which can ultimately lead to early death.

While anorexia is typically associated with our visual culture and its unreachable beauty ideals, orthorexia seems closely related with our information age and the easy access to facts and figures.

Today so many data about health benefits of our food are available – how it was processed, prepared, etc– and food packages are routinely decorated with scientifically detailed data on their contents. We are suffering from ‘overknowledge’.

While most of us respond to the food-data-overload with an occasional dosage of self chosen ignorance – forget about the facts, grab a burger! – people suffering from orthorexia will spend just as much time and energy thinking about food as someone with bulimia or anorexia.

Taken from the Greek "ortho" (meaning "correct" or "true"), this term was first coined by a Californian doctor, Steven Bratman, in 1997, to describe a "fixation on righteous eating".

Orthorexia, often begins with someone's simple and genuine desire to live a healthy lifestyle. The person may choose to stop eating red meat, but eventually cuts out all meat; then all processed foods, and will eventually eat only specific foods that are prepared in very specific ways.

Orthorexia Nervosa - healty eating obsession

People suffering from this obsession may display the following signs.

  • Spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food
  • Planning tomorrow's menu today
  • Feeling virtuous about what they eat, but not enjoying it much
  • Continually limiting the number of foods they eat.
  • Experiencing a reduced quality of life or social isolation (because their diet makes it difficult for them to eat anywhere but at home)
  • Feeling critical of others who do not eat as well they do
  • Skipping foods they once enjoyed in order to eat the "right" foods
  • Feeling guilt or self-loathing when they stray from their diet
  • Feeling in "total" control when they eat the correct diet

While orthorexia nervosa is not a formal medical condition, many doctors do feel that it explains an important and growing health phenomenon.

If you think you or a friend suffers from something that sounds or feels like this description of orthorexia nervosa, always visit a doctor who can help you.

Sources: Guardian, Wikipedia, Pamf, Orthorexia.com

Share your thoughts and join the technology debate!public: 1


Floor van der Geest
Posted 16/12/2012 – 14:16

Is orthorexia really a disorder? And is it really caused by an information overkill? Maybe the excessive information is only the last step in the chain of causes. Then what is the first step? The standard in our society is to eat lots of prefab (fast)food, chemical additives, genetically modified fruits and veggies, antibiotic-stuffed meat, etc. And now the people who don't want to stay ignorant about this because their bodies and minds are telling them that this foodsystem is harmful for the health of men, animals and the world and nature in general, are the ones having a "disorder". Strange world we're living in.

Gigantic Productions
Posted 30/09/2011 – 19:09

Gigantic Productions is casting for a nationally televised documentary on young people who are obsessed with eating healthy or “pure.”
Are you constantly worried about what you can eat and what is in your food? Do you think most foods are dangerous to your health? Are you afraid to eat food that isn’t raw, organic, unprocessed or local? Or maybe you read food labels obsessively and avoid foods with fats, preservatives, additives and animal products. Has this compulsion led you to shed weight, feel weak and suffer panic attacks or severe anxiety? Do you refuse to eat at restaurants or friends’ houses? Are you isolating yourself from friends and family to hide your obsession?
If you’ve taken a healthy diet too far, you may be eligible to appear in a nationally-television documentary on a major channel. If this sounds like you and you appear to be between the ages of 16 and 24, email us at casting@gigantic.tv and tell us your story. Please include your name, location, phone number, email and a recent photo of yourself.

Posted 29/01/2011 – 09:00

nice info..goodluck for your web....

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What is your view on the coronavirus?

Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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