Orthorexia – What Is It? Why Is It Concerning?

Many people in today’s society have likely heard or participated in behaviors surrounding health and fitness. However, a fixation on health, fitness, and restrictive or “clean eating” is a significant problem in our society today. It often leads to disordered eating. It is almost impossible to avoid some exposure to ideas and themes in today’s media, social media, and exercise studios around dieting and exercise. Terms such as: “clean eating,” a “whole foods” approach to dieting, diets like the Paleo diet, 30 days, 50 days, or 100 days of “real food” cookbooks. The culture and recipes have become so commonplace that many of us do not even fully understand the definition of this type of eating or what “clean eating” really is — let alone the negative consequences ensued by the bombardment of these themes.

We see hashtages littered over social media such as: #cleaneating #bodybuilding #eatclean #shredded #nutrition #supplements #lifting #gym #gymlife #fitspo #fitlifestyle

Seems Innocent Enough, But Can It Be A Bad Thing?

Many individuals develop an array of symptoms that we as clinicians and mental health practitioners call Orthorexia. Orthorexia is a term coined by Steven Bratman, MD in 1996, who started to use this term with patients that were obsessed with their health. Although the current diagnostic manual (the DSM-5), does not recognize this as a stand alone disorder, those who suffer from Orthorexia are similarly impacted as those are from Anorexia Nervosa. Instead of being focused on calories and weight loss, Orthorexia often starts with individuals being consumed by diet and exercise, and consuming only “healthy” foods. Eventually, food choices become so restrictive in both variety and calories they can lead to significant weight loss. Orthorexia can result in various medical conditions too, including cardiac complications and bone loss. Often, those obsessed with health and fitness can slowly rid their lives of balance and social connection, which impairs relationships and physical health. Individuals feel a sense of shame, depression, and self-loathing when they fail to meet the demands of “clean eating,” which contributes to less overall satisfaction of life.

Over the years in my practice, I have seen the focus of “health and fitness” change from one theme to another, leaving patients more restrictive, sad, and ashamed. Documentaries such as: Forks Over Knives and Fed Up, have only succeeded in fueling the focus on diet and restrictive food choices that lead to potential disordered eating.

One common theme I encounter in my practice is that clients struggle with coming to terms that they truly have a disorder or problem. The conflict arises from the fact “clean eating,” fad diets, fitness, and exercise is not only endorsed, but praised by our society.

My goal and belief as a clinician is one of balance.

By restoring and relearning how to trust our bodies to know what they need clients can achieve an inner peace that decreases the need for obsessive dieting, exercise, and a focus on body image. If someone you know is suffering from what you believe may be disordered eating or an eating disorder, please visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/find-help-support for more information.

My Qualifications

  • • Licensed MFT
  • • MFC #47955
  • • Certified Eating Disorder Specialist
  • • Certified Eating Disorder Specialist Supervisor
  • • Certified EMDR Therapist
  • • Tri Lingual Capabilities
  • • 15+ Years of Experience
  • • Professional Associations:

  • Professional Associations

    My Office / Location

    219 N. Indian Hill Blvd. Suite 201
    Claremont CA 91711
    Phone: (562) 281-7752