Orthorexia: Obsession with Perfect Nutrition



Gone are the days of SnackWells and Diet Coke. Now, those that want to be

considered healthy are attempting to eat “clean.” Followers of this nutrition

philosophy claim that it is NOT a diet, but is a “happy and healthy lifestyle.” Eating

clean involves cutting out toxins, reducing your carbon footprint, and proselytizing

those around you. The diet contains whole, unprocessed foods. If you ask clean

eaters why they avoid refined grains, they will tell you it is not in the name of weight

loss. People eat clean to be healthy and pure. For some, what starts as an innocent

attempt to eat fewer processed foods, turns into an obsession of sorts, that

eventually can turn into an eating disorder. Orthorexia Nervosa is a term coined by

Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997. Although orthorexia is not currently recognized as an

official diagnosis in the DSM-5, orthorexia affects many individuals.


With orthorexia, food becomes an obsession that takes over a person’s life, isolating

them from friends and family. It is also a source of that person’s self-esteem. When

someone is suffering with orthorexia, they feel righteous and believe that they are

better than other people. When they eat foods that stray from their prescribed diet,

that person feels loathsome and unclean.


Unlike other eating disorders, orthorexia is not an obsession with weight or size, but

is an obsession with health. Often times the obsession with health becomes so

consuming that the number of acceptable foods slowly dwindles until only a handful

of “safe” foods remain.


Wondering if you have orthorexia? Consider the following questions (taken from

NEDA’s website).

-Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?

-Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and


-Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else –one single meal – and not try to control what is served?

-Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?

-Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?

-Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?

-Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?

-Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly

eat the foods they eat?


*If you answered yes to many of these questions you may be suffering from

orthorexia. Recovery is possible by making peace with food and developing a self-

esteem that is based on a much broader identity.


*This article is intended for those suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, in the greater San Diego area, seeking affordable treatment and services