Orthorexia nervosa is a serious problem. It is loosely defined as an obsession for healthy food. In extreme cases, starvation can occur if the person refuses to eat any food they deem “impure” or harmful to their health. The biggest catch is that what is considered “impure” or unhealthy is decided by the sufferer, and is often arbitrary. Sure, they may have read that sugar or saturated fats are “bad” but these claims are then taken to the extreme. Rather than avoiding eating too much of these foods or ingredients on a regular basis, they are avoided at all costs. Also, the list of “bad” or “impure” foods can grow as the eating disorder advances. So, what once was an avoidance of sugary drinks turns into an obsession of eating nothing with any sugar at all (for example, this can include healthy foods such as milk and fruit).
Unfortunately, pro-eating disorder sites and some obsessive healthy eating bloggers claim that the new emerging eating disorder is health professionals exaggerating what the suffers believe is “just healthy eating”. I believe that vehemently denying the very existence of the disease could be seen as a sign that the road to recovery will be a long one.
Well, if you are on the fence about orthorexia being a real problem or if you want to know if a friend is suffering from it, these questions may help. This is the The Bratman Test for Orthorexia and it has been validated (meaning science has proven that it helps you determine if you suffer from orthorexia).
If you answered yes to 4 or 5 of the above questions- you may have orthorexia. Speaking with a registered dietitian or psychologist who specializes in eating disorders may help you learn how to be more relaxed about food.
If you answered yes to all of the questions– you most likely have orthorexia. Getting help from a professional can seem scary, but dealing with an eating disorder on your own is extremely difficult.