Do You Have Orthorexia?
Here’s a quiz (isn’t there’s always a quiz?)
Give yourself a point for each yes answer.
A score of four or more means that you are at risk for orthorexia nervosa. If all 10 of these statements apply to you, you don’t have a life – you have a regimen.
- Are you spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food?
- Are you planning tomorrow’s menu today?
- Is the virtue you feel about what you eat more important than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
- Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet increased?
- Have you become stricter with yourself?
- Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy?
- Do you look down on others who don’t eat this way? Do you skip foods you once enjoyed in order to eat the ‘right’ foods?
- Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, distancing you from friends and family?
- Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
- When you eat the way you’re supposed to, do you feel in total control?
Let’s make way for a newcomer to the field of eating disorders.
It has more sufferers than anorexia and bulimia put together, it affects as many men as women, and since you’re reading a food blog, you probably have at least a touch of it.
It’s orthorexia nervosa, and it’s defined as an extreme devotion to healthy eating— a true health food junkie.
How can it be unhealthy to eat healthy?
We should all be concerned with what we eat; where our food comes from and how it affects our environment and our bodies. Pesticides, hormones, trans-fats, food-borne illnesses– we’d be crazy not to worry. Dietary quirks are not just socially acceptable, they can be a mark of distinction connoting a well-informed individual of moral superiority.
Orthorexics take it to another level. They refine and restrict their diets according to their own personal understanding of which foods are truly pure. They derive virtuous self-satisfaction from deprivation, and can be overcome with guilt and shame when they deviate from the anointed diet. The diet can become so rigid and specialized that it becomes nearly impossible to share meals with family and friends. Social isolation is common. At its extreme, orthorexia leads to excessive weight loss and malnutrition. It can be a gateway to other eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
We are living in an orthorexic moment.
Every day brings news of threats to our food supply. Obesity is a national epidemic. Genre book titles like Food Rules and Food Matters top the bestseller list. But at the same time, we worship at the church of bacon and make every day a cupcake day. It’s no wonder we have issues with food.
Delicious, high-quality food is not just about health: it’s also about taste and pleasure, community and celebration. It should bestow a sense of well-being, not ennoblement. Life can and should be food-focused to the extent that it nourishes body and soul. That is not a disorder; it’s a culture.