Healthy Eating: New Eating Disorder?

Healthy Eating: New Eating Disorder?

If you follow a raw food or paleo diet, you may be at risk for a new eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa, which is described as an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy.

The term orthorexia nervosa was conceived by holistic doctor Steven Bratman in 1996, when he was a cook and an organic farmer in a commune. Bratman, who suffered from the disorder himself, noted that the obsession often begins with a person's genuine desire to improve their health.

However, as a result of the self-discipline required to stick to the strict regimen of a very restrictive diet, a person can become obsessed with the diet's requirements and the negative consequences of eating a banned food. The diet gradually takes over a large portion of the person's day.

"For people with orthorexia, eating healthily has become an obsessive, painful, psychologically limiting and sometimes even physically dangerous disorder, reminiscent of but quite distinct from anorexia," Dr. Bratman wrote on the website "In rare cases, the fixation can lead to death."

Orthorexia has many similarities to the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. Like anorexia and bulimia, orthorexia nervosa occupies a major part of a sufferer's life.

But while anorexia and bulimia focus on the amount of food eaten, orthorexia focuses on the quality.

Although both anorexia and bulimia are recognized as clinical diagnoses by the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), orthorexia nervosa is not.

Dr. Bratman developed a test for orthorexia. Questions include: Do you feel guilty when you stray from your diet? And does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, distancing you from family and friends? (Go here to take the test.)

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