T Nation

Eating Healthy is Now a Mental Illness


#1

Healthy food obsession sparks rise in new eating disorder

Fixation with healthy eating can be sign of serious psychological disorder

Orthorexia nervosa sufferers like to focus on 'righteous' eating and have rigid rules about avoiding certain foods.

Eating disorder charities are reporting a rise in the number of people suffering from a serious psychological condition characterised by an obsession with healthy eating.

The condition, orthorexia nervosa, affects equal numbers of men and women, but sufferers tend to be aged over 30, middle-class and well-educated.

The condition was named by a Californian doctor, Steven Bratman, in 1997, and is described as a "fixation on righteous eating". Until a few years ago, there were so few sufferers that doctors usually included them under the catch-all label of "Ednos" â?? eating disorders not otherwise recognised. Now, experts say, orthorexics take up such a significant proportion of the Ednos group that they should be treated separately.

"I am definitely seeing significantly more orthorexics than just a few years ago," said Ursula Philpot, chair of the British Dietetic Association's mental health group. "Other eating disorders focus on quantity of food but orthorexics can be overweight or look normal. They are solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly 'pure'."

Orthorexics commonly have rigid rules around eating. Refusing to touch sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soya, corn and dairy foods is just the start of their diet restrictions. Any foods that have come into contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives are also out.

The obsession about which foods are "good" and which are "bad" means orthorexics can end up malnourished. Their dietary restrictions commonly cause sufferers to feel proud of their "virtuous" behaviour even if it means that eating becomes so stressful their personal relationships can come under pressure and they become socially isolated.

"The issues underlying orthorexia are often the same as anorexia and the two conditions can overlap but orthorexia is very definitely a distinct disorder," said Philpot. "Those most susceptible are middle-class, well-educated people who read about food scares in the papers, research them on the internet, and have the time and money to source what they believe to be purer alternatives."

Deanne Jade, founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders, said: "There is a fine line between people who think they are taking care of themselves by manipulating their diet and those who have orthorexia. I see people around me who have no idea they have this disorder. I see it in my practice and I see it among my friends and colleagues."

Jade believes the condition is on the increase because "modern society has lost its way with food". She said: "It's everywhere, from the people who think it's normal if their friends stop eating entire food groups, to the trainers in the gym who [promote] certain foods to enhance performance, to the proliferation of nutritionists, dieticians and naturopaths [who believe in curing problems through entirely natural methods such as sunlight and massage].

"And just look in the bookshops â?? all the diets that advise eating according to your blood type or metabolic rate. This is all grist for the mill to those looking for proof to confirm or encourage their anxieties around food."


#2

Ridiculous. I think this is a "mental illness" that more Americans need to become affected by.


#3

90% of "mental illnesses" are bullshit, and that's coming from someone who works in a mental health clinic.


#4

Agreed.

A&E considers exercise an addiction worthy of intervention. The "interventionists" are usually fat and unhealthy looking. Imagine that, even "scientists" hate on healthy people. Lets all get fat and disgusting because that's more normal and we need to fit in.


#5

Same shit different day. You're serious about your health ergo you must be loco.

God forbid you actually be dedicated to something other than Starbucks and Krispy Kremes.


#6

So, basically, having self control and/or dedication to eating healthy is a mental disorder now? My logical and rational mind does not compute ...

Seriously, are they handing out Ph.Ds in Cracker Jack boxes now a days or something? Whothefuck is doing this research? The feeders we trolled a few years ago?

It's a conspiracy I tell ya...They want us to be fat, dumb, and lazy...

It's a fuckin' conspiracy...


#7

I disagree. There are some people who take it too far:


#8

I can see someone taking it too far, but if I read the original post correctly, one of the doctors stated that he is seeing a lot more cases and I don't think it's likely that taking it too far is very common...


#9

Does Johnny live in Portland? I bet he does. Fucking Portland.


#10

nothing exceeds like excess.

Moderation can apply to everything.


#11

ITT: people not understanding the difference between an mental illness and a mental condition


#12

shut the fuck up


#13

So now I'm considered mental, while the rest of society has a warm and fuzzy heart for fatties?

I'll stay in the wacko minority, thanyouverymuch.


#14

I've seen that video before somewhere - I believe they neglected to mention that their "orthorexic" subjects were also recovering anorexics.


#15

If a focus on eating for health produces ill-health and the behaviour is not changed in light of this reality then i think it reasonable to consider it a plausible 'madness'


#16

think i'm with irondwarf on this one.


#17

Who did the research is a good question. Or who "sponsored" it, even better. Whichever industry is already, or is likely to, take a hit if people go and get HEALTHY (oh noes!) sponsor this stuff. Pharmaceutical Co's perhaps? Ever think that the reason some things aren't "cured" is because they'd be out millions. The boom in diabetics (as young as age 13) has those bastards laughing all the wayyyyyyy to the bank. You want conspiracy theories? haha That's my favorite right there.


#18

Why is it a "mental" illness instead of an "eating disorder"? Aren't anorexia and bulemia eating disorders, not mental illnesses? What makes this a "mental" illness?


#19

A mental illness is only diagnosed if it is problematic for the individual. Most if not all of you would be safe from this diagnosis in intelligent, ethical hands. But there's the real problem... one of the comments from a clinician in that article was slightly concerning.


#20

addictive personalities.