So-called “clean eating” can become an obsessive disorder known as orthorexia nervosa and is reinforced culturally by the rise of celebrity diet advisers and beautiful food photos on social media. Diets that restrict followers to a short list of foods lack adequate nutrition and calories and could become hazardous. Orthorexia is a fairly recent phenomenon. The rise of celebrity diet gurus and glamorous food photos on social media reinforce the idea that eating only certain foods and avoiding others is a virtue — practically a religion. In the case of orthorexia, it centers around eating ‘cleanly’ and purely, where the other eating disorders center around size and weight and a drive for thinness. Sometimes these problems overlap, and some people who only eat “clean” foods miss critical nutrients from the foods they cut out or don’t consume enough calories. A 2018 review of orthorexia studies published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders finds no common definition, standard diagnostic criteria, or reliable ways to measure orthorexia’s psychological impact. Orthorexia is not listed specifically in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but that doesn’t mean it’s untreatable.
Lightbulb Moment: This is a frightening condition precisely because it is newly discovered and there is no clear definition, diagnosis, or treatment. They will come, it is just in its infancy. Too much or too little of anything can lead to trouble. Want to keep up on other diet trends? Schedule a Capabilities meeting with us and see what we can do for you.