Orthorexia nervosa, also known as orthorexia, is not mentioned in the Diagnositic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but was first used by Dr. Steven Bratman to characterize people who develop an obsession with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy.
Are those who seek the highest quality food orthorexic?
Here is the explanation of each tier above, as is published on the Pasture Prime Family Farm’s website:
- American Grass-Fed-Association [AGA] – Certified Grass-Fed. Taking the USDA standards to a higher level. Grown and produced in the U.S.A. Grass fed from wean to harvest and never given antibiotics or hormones, certified by a third party audit and farm visit every year.
- Grass-Fed – nothing but grass from weaning to harvest. Could be imported and no guarantee it wasn’t given antibiotics or hormones, not certified or verified.
- Organic – Raised without antibiotics or synthetic hormones, pesticide and herbicide free, however the feed can be grain based, and contains no GMOs.
- Grain-Fed – Fed grain at some point and comes from a large or a small farm. Animals can be confined and given hormones or antibiotics.
- Naturally Raised – Never been fed animal by-products, growth hormones, or antibiotics. Could be fed grain or grass and confined. Not certified or verified, meaninless terminology. Self-made claim.
- Natural – No artificial ingredients or added color and minimal processing. Nothing to do with how the animal was raised or fed. Even E. Coli is “natural.”
I don’t like to think that the work of our educational initiative is encouraging orthorexia. Dr. Weston A. Price observed people who only ate nutrient dense foods. That was all that was available to them. There simply weren’t any processed or “unhealthy” food for them to avoid. So why may those of us who seek out nutrient dense food rather than lower quality, industrially produced foods considered orthorexic?
Perhaps the “diagnosis” is found in the word obsession. How do you define obsession?
From the article, Orthorexia: An Obsession with Eating Pure:
“Orthorexia starts out with a true intention of wanting to be healthier, but it’s taken to an extreme,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, CDN, ACSM-HFS, who specializes in working with eating disorder clients. “If someone is orthorexic, they typically avoid anything processed, like white flour or sugar. A food is virtually untouchable unless it’s certified organic or a whole food. Even something like whole-grain bread – which is a very healthy, high-fiber food – is off limits because it’s been processed in some way.”
“Orthorexics typically don’t fear being fat in the way that an anorexic would, but the obsessive and progressive nature of the disorder is similar. Orthorexics may eliminate entire groups of food – such as dairy or grains – from their diets, later eliminating another group of food, and another, all in the quest for a “perfect” clean, healthy diet. In severe cases, orthorexia eventually leads to malnourishment when critical nutrients are eliminated from the diet.”
Well, I completely avoid white flour and sugar. Virtually all of the food I eat is organic and whole. I don’t consider whole-grain, high-fiber food to be healthy. Read Wheat Belly and The Fiber Menace. Yet, I don’t want those of us who are deeply committed to consuming only high quality, nutrient dense food to be pathologized. Are those who keep kosher or halal dietary laws orthorexic? Are those who follow a paleo diet orthorexic because they’ve eliminated wheat and dairy?
Here is a quick self test for orthorexia. I took the test and was diagnosed with a modest case of orthorexia. “You may have a modest case of orthorexia. You may need to relax your diet standards.” I likely wasn’t diagnosed with a more extreme case because I am not socially isolated. I encourage you to take the test.