What is Orthorexia?

In 1996, Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term Orthorexia Nervosa to describe the condition in which an individual develops an unhealthy obsession with consuming healthy foods.

 

In Greek "ortho-" is right or correct while "-orexia" stands for appetite. Basically, this condition arrises from an individual's obsession with eating a right, or correct, diet. While innocent sounding, this obsession can lead to unhealthy consequences.  

Warning Signs

The National Eating Disorder Association website lists the following warning signs of orthorexia nervosa:

  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels

  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients

  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)

  • An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’

  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating

  • Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events

  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available

  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram

  • Body image concerns may or may not be present

Othorexia's Relationship with Anorexia & Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

My primary care physician diagnosed me with OCD and an unspecified eating disorder, later discovered to be orthorexia. A 2015 study at Bates College illustrates the relationship between Orthorexia and OCD as well as Anorexia. Several other researchers have noted how these conditions can relate to each other. I hope to further the discussion on this relationship as our movement progresses.

Koven, Nancy & Abry, Alexandra. (2015). The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: Emerging perspectives. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment. 11. 385-94. 10.2147/NDT.S61665. 
 

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