I received a call early on Monday morning (7th September) from BBC Birmingham asking if I had seen the Daily Mail article that day written by Sarah Vine on orthorexia. I do check all the diet and health news stories at breakfast – it’s one of the joys of having your passion being your vocation – so I was invited onto the lunchtime radio show to discuss orthorexia with ‘Molly’.
The media has been covering the topic for some time. The Guardian ran an article on the topic back in August 2009. I was involved in an article earlier on this year for You Magazine, Mail on Sunday.
The word “orthorexia” comes from two Greek words meaning “correct” and “appetite”. The phrase is attributed to Steven Bratman, who wrote an article in October 1997 called “Obsession with dietary perfection can do more harm than good...”, published in Yoga Journal. He also wrote a book (with David Knight) called “Health food Junkies”, published in the year 2000.
The term is not (yet) officially recognised as an eating disorder and therefore has not been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 is the latest version). As a result, you will be able to find different definitions of orthorexia. One definition is “an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.” Another I have seen is “a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods that they believe to be harmful.”