May 5, 2013

Orthorexia – The New Eating Disorder

This was a new one unfamiliar to me. In listening to my favorite radio show last Thursday, they were talking about this and I had to listen to the end of this discussion. The discussion was not quite what I expected and orthorexia nervosa was explained as vegetarianism to the extreme. Also mentioned was the cutting or elimination of entire food groups from your diet such as poultry, red meats, dairy, whole grains, and several other essential foods.

Upon conclusion of the program, I returned to my computer and did a search on orthorexia. I could not believe that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had the lead article. I expected some of the sources, like Fox News and the MayoClinic, but there was more information from many other sources. From this, I would expect many more to be added in the coming year, as more is uncovered about this eating disorder. It is unfortunate that women are taking the brunt of the criticism, but there may be a reason.

I have not found a standard definition, but this is from Wikipedia - “Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthful. The term orthorexia derives from the Greek ορθο- (ortho, "right" or "correct"), and όρεξις (orexis, "appetite"), literally meaning a correct diet. It was introduced in 1997 by Doctor of Medicine Steven Bratman, to be used as a parallel with other eating disorders.”

This needs attention and like anorexia nervosa, orthorexia is a disorder rooted in food restriction. Unlike anorexia, for othorexics, the quality instead of the quantity of food is severely restricted. The bold words are the distinction and why this disorder is very dangerous to the health of the people with this disorder.

Unlike many eating disorders, therapy and/or severe intervention often including hospitalization may be required. Yet many of these preventive measures are ignored because this disorder is not yet on the radar of many physicians and therapists. I wish the doctor on the radio program had been more specific about the organizations that are promoting this disorder with their advertising as the list was quite extensive and the one I recognized is one of the animal activist groups, PETA.

For people with orthorexia, some of the signs are they will not eat out at restaurants, very picky eating at a family gathering. This is because unless they have prepared the food themselves, they consider the food as not pure and they exhibit extreme anxiety eating food that others have prepared. Orthorexics often have a lot of knowledge about food and food science, but this knowledge is not accurate and is often only part of the information that they concentrate on.

I urge people to become knowledgeable about orthorexia, as many will accidentally come across these people and some of them will be people with diabetes.

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