Where anorexia nervosa is an obsession with the quantity of food you eat, you can also be obsessed with eating foods of a certain quality.
Orthorexia nervosa (a term coined by Steven Bratman, M.D.) refers to this obsession with eating "proper" foods. ("Ortho" means straight and "orexia" refers to appetite.)
It's normal to change what you eat to improve your health, treat an illness, or lose weight. Usually, people focus less on what they eat once they're used to their new eating habits.
However, people with orthorexia nervosa remained consumed with what types of food they allow themselves to eat, and feel badly about themselves if they fail to stick to their diet.
People suffering from this obsession may display the following signs:
- Spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food
- Planning tomorrow's menu today
- Feeling virtuous about what they eat, but not enjoying it much
- Continually limiting the number of foods they eat
- Experiencing a reduced quality of life or social isolation (because their diet makes it difficult for them to eat anywhere but at home)
- Feeling critical of others who do not eat as well as they do
- Skipping foods they once enjoyed in order to eat the "right" foods
- Feeling guilt or self-loathing when they stray from their diet
- Feeling in "total" control when they eat the correct diet
While orthorexia nervosa is not a formal medical condition, many doctors do feel that it explains an important and growing health phenomenon.
If you think you or a friend suffers from something that sounds or feels like this description of orthorexia nervosa, you should visit either a nutritionist or doctor for help.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
The Orthorexia Home Page, by Steven Bratman.
The National Eating Disorders Association - Orthorexia Nervosa, By Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LD/N
Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating, Steven Bratman, with David Knight. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2001.
Clarifying Orthorexia: Obsession with Dietary Purity as an Eating Disorder, by Tom Billings.
Orthorexia: Good Diets Gone Bad, Jeanie Davis.
Fugh-Berman, Adriane. Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating - A Book Review. Journal of American Medical Association. May 2001.
For More Information:
See our Binge Eating article.