Orthorexia: The Celebrated Not-Yet- an-Eating-Disorder

Picture found on: zengardener.com
Picture found on: zengardener.com

     With extensive research being done all over the world on different foods and the effects of food manufacturing, today’s healthy eater has a lot more information available  to consider before taking a bite into a snack. Many new eating lifestyles have come about in recent years with specific restrictions on what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, etc. Healthy choices are important but healthy portion size and timely meals are equally as important. When a new “healthy” diet meant to keep out any unhealthy foods begins to restrict too much, it has  the exact opposite effect than was intended. 

     With the number of overly restrictive diets increasing, the number of people who have foregone proper nutrition in the name of such diets have also increased. When one works to maintain an excessively strict diet to the point where it becomes detrimental to one’s health, one may be dealing with orthorexia. Orthorexia is a name created by Steven Bratman MD but is not yet recognized by the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders edition 5) as an eating disorder (Kratina).  However, it is considered and spoken about on the National Eating Disorders website as a special issue that deserves proper attention and treatment. Although orthorexia may stem from healthy intentions, it most certainly does not reflect a beneficial or healthy lifestyle. Literally, orthorexia means “fixation on righteous eating” stemming from the Greek root words orthos (“right”) and orexis (“appetite”). This literal translation accurately reflects the nature of the situation (Kratina). People with orthorexia become consumed by their diets, regulating every bite before it goes into their mouth and considering all of the information and research available on food before deciding their meals (Kratina). This obsession is not necessarily fueled by a desire to become thin but rather the desire to be “healthy”. 

      Additional fuel is provided by the current state of society, especially in terms of food intake. With high rates of obesity, especially in the United States, media and society create a hyperaware, hyper alert eater in an effort to tackle the  high rates. We look to those who highly regulate their food intake as the societal ideal: the smart and sensible consumer. Thus, we glorify this restricted eating and further fuel those who are inclined to make a change in their diet to become excessively restrictive and proud of these new unhealthy eating habits (Kratina). We celebrate orthorexia instead of understanding it for what it is, an impediment from real healthy choices. 

Kratina, Karin, PhD, RD, LD/N. “Orthorexia Nervosa.” NEDA. National Eating Disorders                       Association, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.

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