What is Orthorexia Nervosa?
You’ve heard of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia, right? Anorexics restrict their eating whereas Bulimics go through cycles of binge eating followed by purging. But what is Orthorexia Nervosa? An eating disorder currently not recognized in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Orthorexia was first coined in 1996 by a physician who used it to describe patients who were overly concerned with their health. Orthorexia, which literally translates into “fixation on righteous eating,” begins with one’s attempt to eat healthy foods. But orthorexics then become obsessed with food quality and how much to eat. The more restrictive the diet, the greater one’s health suffers. Like anorexia and bulimia, there is no exact cause to orthorexia. Though the desire is to eat healthfully, there are other deeply rooted motivations, such as the hunger to be thin, the determination to be in control, and the need to improve self-esteem.
Rachel Levine, a kindergarten teacher in Denver, Colorado, and an advocate for those suffering from eating disorders, has been in recovery from both orthorexia and anorexia for more than seven years. In the March 2015 issue of Self Magazine, she shares her raw story of how orthorexia “almost killed her,” starting from the very beginning, when her heart nearly stopped beating from nutritional deprivation. To learn more about how Rachel got her appetite for life back, I invite you to read her story, “What it’s Like to Care Too Much About Eating,” here.