The first documented dieting book for weight loss was published over 150 years ago, called “The Banting Diet: Letter of Corpulence” (1). It starts out by referring to obesity as the most parasitic phenomenon of humanity (1). This was at a time when obesity wasn’t understood or even thought of as an issue. Banting was the first to address the matter talking about his success altering his diet.
Although this was the first documented “fad diet”, the strange history of dieting started long before this (2). Yet, we fast forward to present day to hash out arguably the most widespread downside regarding dieting; Orthorexia Nervosa.
Despite Orthorexia Nervosa being observed often by clinicians, it still has not been designated as a psychiatric disorder (3). Orthorexia Nervosa translates to “proper appetite”, but this mentally draining condition is described as a “disease disguised as a virtue” (3,4). A “virtue” that has those afflicted on a high horse looking down upon everyone else as unhealthy heathens.
This virtuous way of eating has now reached the masses. Which started as a movement to combat our traditional Western diet which is low in protein, high in carbohydrates and fat. The primary contributor to the current state of the general population in the United States.
We will examine where this “disorder” began, what shaped this ailment, and how our obsessive nature as humans is the ultimate culprit.
(If you have a healthy relationship with food, but want to shed some body fat. Use our macro calculator to jump-start the process.)
The Diet That Started This Movement
This unhealthy obsession with food quality and purity is often tied to the clean eating diet (5). Clean eating as a dieting system varies from person-to-person. It doesn’t have a universal set of standards outside of all the foods consumed being from whole sources (unprocessed, organic, nutrient dense, “non-chemical” etc.).
Beyond this, the stringency of the approach is up to the follower’s interpretation. The obsession with healthy eating is the starting indication that someone has Orthorexia Nervosa. Due to those that suffer from this “mental disorder” being overly restrictive, picking apart each ingredient of every food they consume.
With that said, clean eating as a dieting approach has been picked apart repeatedly as of late. Yet, the fixation for dieters on eating “pure” food sources has not died off, this movement is still strong and continues to push misinformation regarding the foods we consume.
Othorexia Nervosa Extends Beyond A Single Approach
Although clean eating is a primary culprit of this “disorder”, any restrictive diet can lead to this problem. While Orthorexia Nervosa suffers are all consumed by their dieting intake – isolating themselves. Their dieting limitations not only hamstrings them physically with the possibility of nutrition deficiencies, but it can impair their ability to eat intuitively (5).
Every diet that eliminates or significantly reduces a certain food group is guilty of this. The only diet that doesn’t do this is flexible dieting. Yet, as dieting system, it isn’t impervious to causing certain followers to have an unhealthy fixation on their food intake.
The same can be said for IIFYM, as much as we are here to help your relationship with food, poor tendencies may arise. Some followers of our dieting strategy can become preoccupied with what they need to eat at all times.
Even a sustainable dieting system such as IIFYM can lead to an unhealthy obsession. This goes for every single mainstream diet, including keto, paleo, low-carb, intermittent fasting etc.
With that said, the majority of people who are able to accomplish creating a sustainable diet create a great relationship with food. Learning how to release their previous negative connotations of eating food. Allowing themselves to control their caloric intake over an extended period of time to help them reach their physique goal while repairing their relationship with food.
Yet, Orthorexia Nervosa is the fallout and is a rising issue. Only being aggravated by many of the current mainstream influencers of fitness and nutrition.
The Perpetuation Through Social Media
The internet personalities that perpetuate Orthorexia Nervosa aren’t necessarily aware of it. Their belief is that this is the healthiest lifestyle to follow and they are doing right by their army of loyal followers. They build their platform on the idea that “chemicals” in our processed foods are the reason for all of our health issues.
Food Babe is one such “influencer”. In one of her posts, she claimed that “refined sugar is acid forming in the body”(6). She has used her platform to skew the reality of our food industry, claiming that larger companies are purposefully using ingredients to create “chemically laden foods”(6). This bad science (pseudoscience) has had a negative backlash on those loyal to her brand.
An adverse effect that has evolved into Orthorexia Nervosa.
Those who follow this dogma wouldn’t dare ingest anything with “chemicals”, even though everything known to man is made up of chemicals. This word has become taboo, especially among those who deal with Orthorexia Nervosa.
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