‘Orthorexia’ a sneaky eating disorder

A fixation with eating healthy

The inundation of healthy diet advice on the internet has definitely raised awareness on the benefits of consuming nutritional and natural foods to people’s lives, especially in a society where a sedentary life style is prevalent. However, there is a danger when going too far with the obsession of ‘eating healthy’, and it is called ‘orthorexia nervosa’. It is a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997 and refers to the ‘fixation with eating healthy’, which can lead to a crippling compulsion. It is described as a ‘disease disguised as a virtue’. It derives from the Greek compound word ‘Orthos’ meaning ‘correct-right-proper’ and ‘orexi’ meaning ‘appetite. It is dissimilar to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, in that the goal of people suffering from orthorexia nervosa is not to become thin or lose weight, but ironically, at least at the start the desire to be well. One of the most high profiled sufferers from the relatively obscure eating disorder is Jordan Younger, a fanatic vegan who became the poster girl of New York for her eating blog. She would regularly urge her thousands of followers to cleanse their bodies by ‘eating clean’. Younger was really struggling, despite seemingly glowing with health. She started to be obsessed with missing a planned meal. or would feel anxious about her routine. She eventually realized there was something distinctly unhealthy with her restrictive ‘healthy eating’ diet. One of the problems with orthorexia is that it is more socially acceptable than the other eating disorders. While a diet of eating natural foods full with nutrients and cutting back on carbohydrates is far from a bad thing, becoming fixated with a specific diet can lead to imbalances and subsequently to eating disorders. As the ancient Greeks used to say ‘Moderation is the best thing’.

16-year old Jordan Young