Orthorexia Nervosa: Obsession with Dietary Purity as an Eating Disorder
Health Food Junkie. Obsession with dietary perfection can sometimes do more harm than good, says a physician in alternative medicine (and one who has been there). Originally published in the October 1997 issue of Yoga Journal, and reprinted here by permission of the author, this piece coins the term "orthorexia nervosa" in describing a novel eating disorder of recent years: extreme fixation on eating proper food that becomes pathological.
Clarifying Orthorexia: Obsession with Dietary Purity as an Eating Disorder. Discussion of the "Health Food Junkie" article (just above) on internet listgroups revealed emotional defensiveness, along with misconceptions and misunderstandings, among those caught in the spotlight or who objected to yet more labels. Here's some clarification and further explanation about where to draw the line regarding your own dietary behavior along with helpful tips for self-examination.
Eating Our Way to God: A Poem. The light-hearted account of an individual health seeker's
experience with the powerful obsession for dietary purity
that is so common in raw vegan/raw food diets.
Dietary Bios of individuals who experienced orthorexia first-hand,
from our Dietary Problems in the Real World section:
Bio #1,Bio #2,Bio #3.
An Anorexic Creed. A sarcastic summary statement of the self-hatred and rigid
perfectionism that are major factors in anorexia nervosa and orthorexia
nervosa. With a few obvious changes, could be revised to produce
"An Orthorexic Creed."
Note: This off-site article featuring an interview with one of our primary site contributors will eventually be reproduced in full on Beyond Veg itself.
Widespread communication between rank-and-file followers of vegan and raw diets in the new Internet era is showing that firsthand collective experience often conflicts with "party line" beliefs about these diets. When that happens, are you more likely to question yourself--or instead to reconsider the dietary philosophy? Denying experience or reinterpreting it to conform to theory can not only lead to the traps of dogma and extremism, but can easily turn reality into a foe rather than your friend, with unpleasant repercussions on health. An extended look at the problem of how and why denial blinds us, the range of forms it takes, the consequences for both individuals and the veg movement, and why "it is always better to live with reality, or without fail, reality will come to live with you."
Simplicity vs. Complexity in Diet: Where Do We Find Truth? Are our beliefs and justifications for our ideal diets really as simple as we think? Why do we often feel so conflicted or uneasy about what science has to say about the diets we promote? Do we want scientific backing, but at the same time cry foul when it disagrees with our cherished ideals? When reality seems to conflict with our beliefs, does the complexity really lie "out there," or perhaps within? An examination of the hidden complexity in dietary utopianism, how it generates more complications for us in the end, plus a look at an alternative approach: a kind of psychological simplicity based on not trying to make "the messy realities" that we all know exist go away.
Functional and Dysfunctional Lunch-Attitudes. Is your behavior around the consumption and morality of food spoiling your life and alienating the people around you? You may not think so, but then sometimes those who are prime examples are the last to know. A look at how we can let our identities become too tied up in food, the problems that result, and some helpful suggestions for maintaining "lunch-mindfulness"--or a relationship with food that's both physically AND mentally healthy.
The Seduction of Simplistic Raw Vegan Dogma. Why do some people become so enamored of a dietary ideal that they throw common sense to the winds, react in hostile or hateful fashion to questions and challenges, and persist on a diet even in situations where their health begins to fail? Here you'll find discussion of the psychology and motivation behind why some become "true believers," and what is so appealing about some of the claims in the realm of alternative diets that could be characterized as "dietary snake oil."
Idealism vs. Realism in Raw Foods. An appraisal of the current state of the raw-foods movement and the undercurrents permeating many of the rationales that underlie the raw-food program--often ones comprising too much idealism and too little realism. In contrast to those who over-romanticize the benefits of idealism, this discussion suggests a dose of more realism, and that the long-term results of overidealism are detrimental to both the health of the individual and the health of the raw-foods movement itself.
Assessing Claims and Credibility in the Realm of Raw and Alternative Diets: Who Should You Believe? A serious problem in alternative dietland is how to evaluate the claims of all those telling you their diet is the one for you. Are they just fooling you--and perhaps themselves--or are they really onto something? Here's a discussion listing numerous telltale clues based on logic, evidence, experience, and the psychology of extremism that should help you determine how to tell who's fibbing, who's fooling, and who just might be for real.