Orthorexia Nervosa – A New Eating Disorder ?

Browsing for new books in the nutrition world is one of my favorite pastimes, and so it should be, as a Specialized Sports Nutritionist in the middle of getting a book published. It is healthy to compare your research to “competitors”. I often get blown away by some of the stuff that is out there, but my find just the other day definitely deserved a mention on my blog.

Brace yourself, people – Dr. Steven Bratman, a so-called medical doctor and author has written a book with an intention to medicalize a new mental disorder. He refers to it specifically as an eating disorder and has termed it Orthorexia Nervosa. The latin translation is “a strong conscious desire to eat health and nutritional foods.”  Absurd?  Tell me I am not on an island on this one!

If you are middle class, well educated, have the time and the money to find pure alternatives to genetically modified food, and you have a tendency to read about and research food scares in the media, then you may be at risk for this new eating disorder. Persons “suffering” from Orthorexia Nervosa (poor souls) have the rare and unspeakable concern of the quality of what they eat, so much so that they are refining their diet and restricting their food to that that is pure and healthy. Oh my!– demented souls, I tell you!!

Furthermore, can you imagine that these poor sufferers eliminate refined sugar, salt, caffeine, preservatives, man-made food additives, animal products, some other ingredients deemed unhealthy and wait for it — alcohol. Really!! Alcohol – what a bland and hapless life they must lead. Thank goodness someone like Dr. Bratman is coming to the rescue and is enabling a medical intervention to cure this awful mental disorder.

Sarcasm, me? No never!! Ok, there are those that are obsessed with food issues and are eligible to be pigeonholed into a disordered eating category, but the idea of wanting to eat healthy and maybe even be somewhat obsessed about it as a mental disease is just another man’s manipulation of finding a money tree. Granted, there are those that become obsessed to a point of being malnourished, but that in itself falls under Anorexia Nervosa, and to take eating healthy to this level just blows me away.

Before we know it, the multi-level marketing company selling drugs and supplements to suppress Orthorexia Nervosa will be blossoming, and Dr. Bratman will be waving his anti-ortho drug mightily from the top of that pyramid scheme.

The book is called “Health Food Junkies”. I warn anyone even thinking of purchasing it, that it is idiotic and irresponsible to attempt to persuade anyone from leaning towards a healthy lifestyle so he can cash in on book sales, let alone coming from a doctor (oh yeah, I forgot – trust him… NOT).

At least the ratings of the book on Amazon.com were entertaining. My favorite one is

“ So it is now a fixation to obsess about healthy food?  We should NOT do that, we should rather keep eating preservatives, chemicals and genetically modified food. We should ignore labels so we can keep our diabetes statistics high, let alone stats on cancer and heart disease. Lets do that, because doctors are so good at throwing band aid after band aid on diseases, instead of curing them. That is why we are such a healthy nation”

There are a few other good ones, but I will let you browse Amazon yourself and if you agree with me that diagnosing an obsession with healthy eating as a disorder then I encourage you to add a thought or two on to what is already out there.

So in summary, Orthorexia sufferers have specific preferences about food they eat and those they avoid. To them, industrial products, particularly those that are preserved with additives, can be considered artificial and thus dangerous, whereas earth bound fruits and vegetables are seen as healthy.  So unless you appreciate a peach with a thick coat of pesticide, or a heart-attack-waiting-to-happen bacon and cheese burger, or even a so called healthy prepackaged TV dinner with a unpronounceable/unidentifiable list of ingredients you best make an appointment with a shrink at your earliest convenience. Your mind is probably mentally irresolvable, but at least you will have a healthy body !!