Orthorexia has caused mild controversy (in my opinion, at least) as it is not a medically recognised classification and diagnosis. However, when Knight & Bratman’s book is read (Health Food Junkies), it certainly begins to resonate with experiences I have of meeting and working with certain people who have food issues.
In Orthorexia the focus is truly on food quality rather than quantity consumed, avoided or eliminated. it is characterised by somebody’s obsession (and this is the important element, here, the behaviour is obsessive as opposed to being a simple concern or love of healthy eating) with the value of the food they ingest. Alleged Orthorexics would have overriding preoccupations with the nutritional value of their food and the way it is prepared. This can extend to the way it is prepared and its provenance.
Reactions to have the ‘wrong’ food can be extremely severe (a rudimentary, though useful, example might someone who would rather not eat at all than eat something they perceived to not be healthful). What constitutes healthy, permitted food can vary between people experiencing the obsession. It’s suggested that often the obsession can truly dominate someone’s life (a potentially significant problem when many family and friend bonds are formed over or around eating together).
Over to you, then: what do you think of Bratman’s theory? Should Orthorexia be given full recognition as an accepted definition of an eating disorder or related behaviours? Do you know anyone who this might apply to?
- Bratman, S. & Knight, D. (2004) Health Food Junkies: The Rise of Orthorexia Nervosa – The Health Food Eating Disorder. London: Random House Inc.
- Vandereycken, W. (2011). Media hype, diagnostic fad or genuine disorder? Professionals’ opinions about night eating syndrome, orthorexia, muscle dysmorphia, and emetophobia. Eating Disorders, 19(2), 145-155.
(Originally published in 2012)