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Could An Obsession With Healthy Eating Actually Be Making You Ill?

September 06, 2015 2 min read

Seems counter intuitive but if you are a clean eater to the extreme -- like obsessively extreme, you could be suffering with an eating disorder that can lead to malnutrition and even death! If you are obsessed with 'naked' and 'raw' ingredients to the exclusion of all else, you may have something called 'orthorexia nervosa.' The term was coined in a 1997 paper by Dr Steven Bratman but it has yet to be recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It is important to note that some have suggested that orthorexia might be linked to obsessive compulsive disorder as there is a similar interest in control and ritual. inpost2   According to Dr. Bratman, sufferers fixate on quality and strict internal rules. These internal rules and guidelines might involve excluding entire food groups which can lead to lethargy, malnutrition and weight loss, all while people believe they are living healthy. New York food blogger,  Jordan Younger, who suffered with orthorexia says, "I had developed many fears surrounding food.... I was becoming more and more limited in what I was comfortable eating. I even joked about it with friends, calling certain foods, like eggs, “fear foods” because I had stayed away from them for so long. It was easy to hide behind the shield of veganism when I was at a restaurant with friends or even grocery shopping for myself. Anything not clean, oil-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and plant-based I dismissed because it wasn’t within my dietary label." [bctt tweet="Could An Obsession With Healthy Eating Actually Be Making You Ill?"] inpost2 TV presenter, Carrie Armstrong, tells a similarly frightening story. Armstrong says she began developing fears about food when recovering from a serious illness.

"You get a physical high from restriction – I was craving purity. I cut out meat, then dairy," she said. "I went vegan, but I wasn’t seeing the miraculous results I’d expected. I switched to a raw food diet, then just fruit. By the end I was only eating organic melon. I was six stone, my teeth were crumbling and my hair was falling out."


Like anorexia and bulimia, so much of the inner life of an orthorexic is devoted to food planning, purchasing and eating. As Dr. Bratman writes, "The orthorexic’s inner life becomes dominated by efforts to resist temptation, self-condemnation for lapses, self-praise for success at complying with the self-chosen regime, and feelings of superiority over others less pure in their dietary habits. It is this transference of all life’s value into the act of eating which makes orthorexia a true disorder... Whereas the bulimic and anorexic focus on the quantity of food, the orthorexic fixates on its quality. All three give to food a vastly excessive place in the scheme of life."

To be clear, healthy eating -- that is clean and balanced eating, isn't a problem on its own. But if you find yourself afraid of foods, or developing rituals about it, you might want to consider talking to someone.

Do you think the controversial orthorexia is a real and serious medical condition?

Source: Daily Mail

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