22 April 2015

Orthorexia Nervosa: When Righteous Eating Becomes An Obsession

The following is an excerpt of this article by Rebecca Reynolds, a nutrition lecturer from UNSW.

Orthorexia nervosa, the “health food eating disorder”, gets its name from the Greek word ortho, meaning straight, proper or correct. This exaggerated focus on food can be seen today in some people who follow lifestyle movements such as “raw”, “clean” and “paleo”.

There is a blurry line separating “normal” healthy eating and orthorexia nervosa, but one way to define the condition is when eating “healthily” causes significant distress or negative consequences in a person’s life.
Such behaviours can have a significant impact on relationships with family members and friends, let alone on their mental health.
They note distinct pathological behaviours with orthorexia nervosa, including a motivation for feelings of perfection or purity rather than weight loss, as they see with anorexia and bulimia.

As a nutritionist and a recovered sufferer of bulimia, I leave you with some advice:
Don’t trust all-devoted kale consumers, including health professionals and celebrities, if their advice isn’t based on scientific evidence.
Don’t make food the most important focus of your life. As Bratman says, "rather than eat my sprouts (or kale) alone, it would be better for me to share a pizza with some friends."
Try to be a balanced food consumer with a “mostly and sometimes” mantra.