Orthorexia Nervosa: An Unhealthy Obsession with Healthy Eating

Today I had the privilege of speaking at a one day conference for clinicians on the topic of orthorexia in athletes. Are you familiar with this term? Many of the clinicians in the audience were not. Here’s some of the info I shared with them:

Stemming from the Greek words “orthós” (straight, right, proper) and “orexsis” (appetite), ON was coined by Steven Bratman, MD, who first wrote about this condition in a 1997 issue of Yoga Journal. It is not yet an official eating disorder diagnosis, but the symptoms are well recognized and cause undue life disruption.

Defining characteristics:

◾️Pathological obsession with proper nutrition characterized by a 1️⃣restrictive diet, 2️⃣ritualized patterns of eating, and 3️⃣rigid avoidance of foods believed to be unhealthy or impure.
◾️Ironically, although prompted by a desire to achieve optimum health, orthorexia may lead to nutritional deficiencies, medical complications, and poor quality of life.

Who’s at highest risk?
✔️Instagram Users: Research shows the “healthy eating” community on Instagram has a high prevalence of orthorexia symptoms, with higher Instagram use being linked to increased symptoms.
✔️Kids who’ve had healthy food choices overemphasized

✔️those with traits of OCD, perfectionism
✔️Those with Chronic Illness
✔️Health Care Professionals (esp. dietitians!)

If you or someone you care about struggles with rigidity around food, here are some things you/they can do:
✔️unfollow accounts that promote “clean eating” or “fitspo” or that negatively affect your ability to eat with flexibility
✔️take the NEDA screening tool or the Bratman self-test
✔️Get support from a Dietitian and/or therapist with expertise in disordered eating behaviors