Dr. Helen

Orthorexia Nervosa: The 'Disease Disguised as a Virtue'

The Independent:

The deluge of nutritional and health advice on the internet and in the media could be fuelling a dangerous but as yet unrecognised eating disorder called orthorexia.

Orthorexia nervosa, a term coined in 1997 by Dr Steven Bratman, is a fixation with healthy eating, to the point where it becomes a crippling compulsion, described as “a disease disguised as a virtue”.

It differs from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia in that the goal is not usually to become thin. In fact, ironically, sufferers are initially motivated by a desire to be well, and to consume pure, “clean” foods, often to recover from illness.

One high-profile sufferer is Jordan Younger, who became a poster girl for health with her New York food blog. The Blonde Vegan had become a successful brand, spawning an app and even a clothing line featuring slogans such as “Oh Kale Yes!” A fervent believer in “clean eating”, Younger shared her advice on detoxing and juicing (she would regularly embark on 10-day cleanses) with her 100,000-plus Instagram followers.

Despite seemingly glowing with health, Younger was struggling. Her lethargy increased and her periods stopped. She also began to be anxious about her routine, panicking when faced with eating a meal she hadn’t planned, or something that didn’t fit in with her rules. Younger gradually began to realise that there was something distinctly unhealthy about her restrictive diet.

I really think, as the article points, that a lot of women are using these restrictive diets to fill their time because they don’t have love. As one woman said in the article: “I had to find something to fill my time that loved me back. Food doesn’t do that.” As the dynamics of male/female relationships change and men are put on the backburner, women are turning to harmful diets to give them a sense of purpose. Why not look for love instead?

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