Investigating orthorexia

Critics have looked toward clean eating as an extension of orthorexia nervosa, the little known condition of clinical obsession with eating healthy foods (Williams 2015; Younger 2015). Where anorexia pertains to an anxiety about the quantity of food the sufferer consumes, orthorexia is most accessibly explained as an anxiety over the quality of the food one eats (Larsen 2013; Bratman 2015). Though the condition is not yet recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders index, Dr Stephen Bratman, who first coined the term “orthorexia” writes on his website:

Orthorexia is an emotionally disturbed, self-punishing relationship with food that involves a progressively shrinking universe of foods deemed acceptable. A gradual constriction of many other dimensions of life occurs so that thinking about healthy food becomes the central theme of almost every moment of the day, the sword and shield against every kind of anxiety, and the primary source of self-esteem, value and meaning.

Orthorexia recently received mainstream coverage as a result of an emotional article written by Jordan Younger, a former clean eating blogger now in recovery from the condition. While the popularity of her brand as a wellness blogger grew, Younger recalls her descent into mental illness in her article for Refinery 29.

My issue didn’t fall into the traditional categories of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. Mine was an obsession with healthy, pure, clean foods from the earth, and a fear of anything that might potentially cause my body harm.

Younger’s piece went viral and the 23 year old is now a very visible advocate for raising awareness of the condition. In recounting her descent into fanaticism toward certain foods, Younger’s account equates unclean foods with potential bodily harm, an interesting rendering of a body at battle with polluting forces which seek to physically degrade the integrity of the body.

Work Cited

  1. Bratman, Steven. “Healthy Eating vs. Orthorexia”., 26 May. 2015. Web. 12 July 2015.
  2. Larsen, Kristine Instefjord. “Similarities and Differences between Eating Disorders and Orthorexia Nervosa.” Diss. Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, 2013. Print.

  3. Williams, Mary Elizabeth. “We’re clean eating our way to new eating disorders.” Salon, 31 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 July 2015.

  4. Younger, Jordan. “My life with Orthorexia.” Refinery 29, 11 May. 2015. Web. 12 July 2015.

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