Orthorexia is a little known Eating Disorder that is increasing world-wide. The growing popularity of "clean and whole-eating" makes it more and more difficult to recognize Orthorexia.
"Ortho" being Greek meaning straight, correct, and true and "rexia" meaning eating, was a term coined by Steven Bratman, ND. It first became popular in his 2000 seminal book on the topic, "Health Food Junkies. Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating.'' Bratman came up with the word as a way to help his naturopathic clients who were obsessed with healthy eating see that it had gotten to the point that it was really hurting them.
He saw that, for some of his patients, these different theories of healthy eating were becoming all consuming. The rigid adherence to food rules was overshadowing every other aspect of their lives. They were experiencing diminished physical, emotional, mental, spiritual health and relational well-being. They were not healthy and they were not free.
When the pursuit of physical health, or the appearance of physical health, becomes compulsive and unyielding it overshadows all else and it actually hurts us and our lives.
Steven Bratman's Orthorexia Self Assessment
In his book Health Food Junkies, Steven Bratman offers a simple self-assessment to see if we have any Orthorexic tendencies in ourselves. While this is not empirically tested and validated assessment, this is a simple self-assessment.
Answer Yes or No to the following ten questions.
1. Do you spend more than 3+ hours/day thinking about healthy food?
2. Do you plan tomorrow’s food today?
3. Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
4. Have you found that as the quality of your diet has increased, the quality of your life has correspondingly diminished?
5. Do you keep getting stricter with yourself?
6. Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the food you believe is right?
7. Do you feel an increased sense of self-esteem when you are eating healthy food? Do you look down on those who don’t?
8. Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
9. Does your diet socially isolate you?
10. When you are eating the way you are supposed to, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control?
According to Bratman, if you answer yes to two or three of the questions, you have "a touch of Orthorexia". If you answer yes to four or more that should be a sign that you might have Orthorexia. In that case, it's recommended that you seek help from a professional who is familiar with Orthorexia.
If you think you might have Orthorexia, the first step is to get help. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has a Treatment Finder resource for you.