A Growing Food Concern: Obsession With 'Clean Eating'

Some want 'orthorexia' recognized as an eating disorder
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2015 3:00 PM CST
A Growing Food Concern: Obsession With 'Clean Eating'
Green smoothies are all the rage, but some worry about people becoming too obsessed with 'eating clean.'   (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

It's called "orthorexia"—an obsession with healthy, "clean eating"—and as it gains traction in this age of Instagrammed food photos, some think it should be recognized as its own eating disorder. "It's really a real fixation," one nutritionist tells NBC News of those who take things too far. "They almost get like a fan club, especially on social media." Steven Bratman, a doctor who coined the term back in 1997, says it's time to recognize it as a type of disorder on par with anorexia but distinct—i.e. the objective isn't weight loss but purity. Still, many in the medical field cite a lack of sufficient research and too much overlap with currently described disorders, from anorexia to obsessive compulsive disorder, to warrant its own classification, reports the Washington Post. "The dietary obsessions that people get into with anorexia often lead into these kinds of concerns with proper nutrition and healthy eating," says the director of an eating disorders program. "There’s a great deal of overlap."

Still, while he says "we treat people based on research," he concedes it isn't necessarily a bad thing for people to self-identify with orthorexia and seek to obsess a little less. Which is exactly what former vegan blogger Jordan Younger did—revealing on her wildly-popular Instagram page that she had become so anxious about the food she ate it was making her sick, reports Broadly. Once she went public, she says, "a flood of people came forward saying they identified with me." Karin Kratina, a 30-year veteran therapist focusing on eating disorders, says the rise in orthorexic patients is "serious" and that the problem is "we have moralized eating, weight, food, and exercise. Food has become presented—more and more—as the answer." The issue is not without precedent. People can, for instance, exercise themselves right into the grave. But for whatever the reason, eating healthily in moderation is for some easier said than done. (Is healthy eating a privilege of the rich?)

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