Orthorexia: the ‘healthy’ eating disorder

Orthorexia: the ‘healthy’ eating disorder

Orthorexia literally translates to ‘correct diet’.

That’s right, there’s finally an eating disorder for healthy eaters, a shockingly common eating disorder might I add, that affects “one in 10 women and one in 20 men,” according to Deanne Jade, a psychologist and eating disorder specialist for the National Centre for Eating Disorders.

So which idiot genius dreamt-up discovered this laughable dangerous condition? That would be Dr Steven Bratman, MD.

Bratman is a medical professional, who came to understand the serious nature of orthorexia – a phrase he coined – through years of painstaking, peer-reviewed, medical research – or at least that’s what orthorexia advocates would like you to believe.

In fact, Bratman discovered the disorder in a very different, although no less valid way.

“My sensitivity to the problem of orthorexia comes through personal experience.  I myself passed through a phase of extreme dietary purity when I lived at the commune,” he said, in an essay written for Yoga Journal, no less.

Bratman bases his belief in the existence of orthorexia on his own subjective experiences. Peer-reviewed, orthorexia ain’t.

While living at the commune Bratman became obsessed with his eating habits, “I became such a snob that I disdained to eat any vegetable that had been plucked from the ground more than fifteen minutes.  I was a total vegetarian, chewed each mouthful of food fifty times, always ate in a quiet place (which meant alone), and left my stomach partially empty at the end of each meal.”

However, for Bratman, his own obsession wasn’t enough. He felt compelled to force his views on all those around him, “I wasn’t complacent in my virtue.  Feeling an obligation to enlighten my weaker brethren, I continuously lectured friends and family on the evils of refined, processed food and the dangers of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.”

My optimism was unbounded as I set forth to cure myself and everyone else

He admits, “twenty years ago I was a wholehearted, impassioned advocate of healing through food.  My optimism was unbounded as I set forth to cure myself and everyone else.”

Although he undoubtedly means well, Bratman is a man with an obsessive nature and a desire ‘do good’, objectivity, I fear, may not be his strong suit.

The rest of his essay addresses how he gradually came to the realisation that healthy eating wasn’t the answer to all life’s issues. He eventually came full circle, shunned the idea, and decided that all who practiced were at risk of becoming as unhealthily obsessed as he had once been.

Bratman’s new obsession, it seems, is ‘fixing’ other’s destructive eating habits. But wait, isn’t that exactly what he was doing all along?

Orthorexia isn’t recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, nor is it listed in the DSM-IV; in fact, orthorexia isn’t really recognised at all.

According to a BBC news article, “orthorexia is a modern condition, as yet unrecognised by the medical profession.”

Well, it’s been 14 years, just how long does it usually take for ‘the medical profession’ to recognise a genuinely dangerous condition, such as orthorexia?

Numerous articles have been published in the press about orthorexia – or orthorexia nervosa as it’s sometimes called, you know, so it sounds more authentic – it is both frightening and amusing that one man’s neurosis has managed to infect the public’s perception of ‘healthy eating’ to such an extent.

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