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Orthorexia: Too Much of a Good Thing

When Healthy Eating Goes Too Far

Orthorexia is a disorder of eating characterized by extreme rigidity in types of foods preferred. It generally begins as an attempt to improve health but as the disorder progresses, decreases in type of food eaten often leads to weight loss and other nutrition related medical problems.


In a 1997 holistic American physician Steven Bratman coined the term "orthorexia nervosa" which means in Greek, correct appetite. He modeled this term after the term Anorexia Nervosa when he was teasing some of his patients about eating so rigidly.

He wrote about it in a yoga magazine to describe people that he worked with who had extreme diets which although they began as a means toward greater health, they had developed malnutrition and health problems ( Steven Bratman’s website).  

This short webinar gives much information about this disorder as well as an interesting conversation with several other therapists. I apologize for the quality as it was my very first webinar!

The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test*

If you are a healthy-diet enthusiast, and you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may be developing orthorexia nervosa. If so I would recommend an assessment at Walden Behavioral Care:

(1) I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.

(2) When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods


(3) My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.

(4) Sometimes I would like to relax my self-imposed “good food” rules for a special occasion, such as a wedding or a meal with family or friends, but I find that I cannot. (Note: If you have a medical condition in which it is unsafe for you to make ANY exception to your diet, then this item does not apply.)

(5) Over time, I have steadily eliminated more foods and expanded my list of food rules in an attempt to maintain or enhance health benefits; sometimes, I may take an existing food theory and add to it with beliefs of my own.

(6) Following my theory of healthy eating has caused me to lose more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, loss of menstruation or skin problems.


Orthorexia: When Eating Healthy Becomes an Unhealthy Obsession
By Lindsey Getz Today’s DietitianVol. 11 No. 6 P. 40

Preventing Childhood Eating Problems [A Practical, Positive Approach to Raising Children Free of Food & Weight Conflicts] by Jane Hirschmann and Lela Zaphiropoulos to teach parents how to help their children become healthy, intuitive eaters. Parents also need to understand that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

Ellyn Satter’s book Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming includes a wonderful appendix which reviews the literature regarding the actual relationship between weight and health in children.” Stephen Bratman’s website

Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Goes Bad by Renee McGregor, also several youtube videos

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