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Orthorexia Nervosa

Has anyone ever heard of this term? It’s apparently an unhealthy obsession with healthful eating. There’s a book called “Health Food Junkies” about this topic and it was written by a former raw foodist who coined the orthorexia nervosa term and thought he himself suffered from it.

Anyone heard of this or read the book?



  • MicheleSS,
    I have heard of this term. I would like to read the book! I’ve heard of the term in my research of Eating Disorders in general. This disorder masks itself as a “healthy lifestyle,” but we’ve all known people who have been “granolier” than thou and like other eating disorders isolate themselves because no one can meet up to their culinary ethics and standards. Eventually they have to work their obsession/addiction in secret. The take away message for me is that food is deeply personal, but it can’t become so ritualistic that you can’t have a cookie your daughter made for you for mother’s day! Eat everything with love and without guilt. Food should not be wrapped in shame.

  • This is a good topic. Since going raw, I believe my health has improved as a couple of chronic conditions have cleared up. However, I also have a history of eating disorders (which I believed were long resolved). Now I’m not so sure. I have lost weight since my change in diet, but I was thin to begin with. Now my weight is ridiculously low. I feel healthy and definitely not dieting (haven’t in many years), but notice old control issues coming up around weight. I also do feel guilty if I eat anything that isn’t raw. So, where to go with this. I know my physical health has improved, but psychologically am not so sure. Any thoughts?

  • I think a lot of people come to raw from an unhealthy relationship with food – either from not eating enough of it OR from eating too much of it, if you get what I mean. Raw seems to provide people with one way of combatting either of these things in a physical sense, but I agree with Mon64 that it’s important to be combatting the psychological symptoms of such “disorders” too. It is, after all, fairly as easy to over- or under- eat on a raw diet, as I think a lot of posts on this and other forums testify.

    For me, it’s actually both important and liberating to be able to eat non-raw food now & then, without wanting to stuff myself with it constantly. This helps me realise that I have dealt – or am dealing – with any underlying psychological issues with food I might have had pre-raw.

  • Belisarius, I appreciate your input. In addition to people under and over eating, I’ve also noticed many posts about frequent cleansing, enemas, colonics and the like. I’ve wondered about the true impetus for all this. I know it has its place in health, but it can be a slippery slope (no pun intended!). I’ve seen many posts where people have been bravely honest about their eating disorders. I think it’s important to really examine where we are along the disorder vs. health spectrum. Sounds like you’re doing well B.—congrats.

  • lstorzlstorz Raw Superstar

    Great thread! A friend recommended “Health Food Junkies” and I’ve been trying to get a hand on it. Health and nutrition is so complicated, and I think that we have to be careful not to preach one solution because it worked for one person. From my experience, I was completely raw for 2 months and then for the next months, I was having a lot of digestive problems. I am now trying to find a balance for my own body working with raw food concepts, Chinese medicine, and my body’s own unique set of issues and genes. I am often jealous that raw food seems to work like a miracle for other people, and I am, in the meantime, crippled over in pain. This is something that I have to both let go and look more closely at. Finding true health is such an idiosyncratic and long journey. The more I learn, the more amazing and truly awesome I find the body and its relationship to food to be.

  • Great topic! Istorz, I’m curious as to what you had to put back into your diet to alleviate your symptoms and make raw work for you. I ask because I am trying for the second time to see if cutting out the 5-10% non raw in my diet (cooked fish) and also occassional raw cheese will effect me negatively as it did a couple months ago. I can’t not give %100 a few tries! :)

  • Check out this quiz and see how you fare:


    This quiz is apparently right out of the book, which I have reserved at my local library.

  • I’m buying the book!!!

  • I must confess, I’m very much obsessed! For quite some time now thought I was, but still, it’s eye opening for me that obsession with healthy food is so common that there are books written about it! I have to reserve that book at my local library.
    Thanks for that thread and link!

  • hi guys, i’m sure there are still many who suffer from a mild form of orthorexia. at first raw food felt like the solution to all my problems and issues with food but in the end, it is ourselves we must solve. i think raw food provides a clearer mental path to our own insight, its only a 10% step and the rest is up to us to decide. i’m still on the road to recovery, currently having amenohrea.
    theres a person on youtube who explains his orthorexia under the username myownstickfigure.hes a raw foodist and very honest. keep loving yourselves!

  • Mon46

    I’m so glad this topic was raised. Like you, for many years I dealt with anorexia/excercise induced bulimia. I’ve had it under control many years now and have been on a mission to do the healthiest thing possible to make up for the many years of nutritional and overexcercising abuse my body has taken. 2 years ago I read about the raw food lifestyle and it immediately made sense to me. My problem is that though I,ve been eating this way for almost 2 years now, I don’t feel well. Green juice makes me fuzzy headed and weak, green smoothies make me nauseous and even more hungry. I don’t feel well eating dehydrated foods, and having alot of salads leave me hungry and lacking energy. I’ve lost weight which I didn’t need to lose and my doctors freaking out cause he did a body fat analysis and my bodyfat is at 13% where it should be at around 22%. Between trying to figure out what to eat without feeling sick and making sure I properly combine my foods, I feel more obsessed than ever about food and this was exactly what I’ve been working so hard at getting away from. It really bums me out when I read these books and hear how people feel this incredible energy and vitality being raw, cause I just don’t feel it. I continue doing it cause I still beleive in it but I’m beginning to wonder if this is the right path for me, physically and mentally.

  • susannabellajanesusannabellajane Raw Newbie

    For me…the tendancies I have towards being obsessive about food (and I am) seems to be exacerbated by the constant planning I do to stay raw and keep my non-raw husband and family satisfied. I definitely spend three hours a day planning, cooking, soaking, sprouting, dehydrating and reading about the subject.

  • Excellent tread.
    Maria23, I’m very obsessed too, heehee!
    Woah! I just did the test and it freaked me out. I came to the conclusion that I need to resolve my issues with food before returning to the raw path and even, gulp, the vegan path.
    That said, I’m sure a lot of rawies have a sane approach to food and that’s perfect. But I’m not there, yet.

  • Bdhand40, I so appreciate your honest self assessment. It sounds like raw may not be right for you given the fatigue and hunger that you describe. You would not be a failure if you found an alternative way to eat! I have been thinking about consulting with a holistic nutritionist to see what actually might be best for me (sometimes getting a different and informed perspective helps). Maybe you should also consider it. You should be nourished by what you eat and not tortured. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  • koolieaidedkoolieaided Raw Newbie

    I think it’s a bit ridiculious to obsess about food. There are so many other things to focus on. Have you see the video on http://www.welikeitraw.com/rawfood/2008/02/heal… ? It’s called Health Food Junkie (It’s a UK production). It kind of scared me,because it gave me a glimpse of what people on the outside are probably thinking about me. On record I would never drink my pee unless it was a life or death situation were if I didn’t I would dehydrate and die.

  • This thread is really helpful, as sometimes I feel intimidated by the “is this raw? 100% raw” threads, and start to get anxious about what I am eating.

    I always considered myself ‘not skinny enough’ to have an eating disorder, though recently as part of my raw food journey have realised that I have always had food ‘guilt’ problems (that led to binging and purging for most of my teenage years). And I’ve always been considered by others a health-food-nutter/gourmet. I think about food 24/7.

    The one thing that really drew my to raw food was that I could eat without feeling guilty – ie. in the past I would never eat chocolate mud cake (considered a no-no junk food, unless I was binging), but I can make myself a raw one and eat it happily. But I have also noticed a change in my behaviours – I now dread going out to dinner with friends. And the other day hubby said wistfully (as I told him I was only having a smoothie for dinner, while he was having home cooked pasta) “I used to love watching you eat”.

    I love raw, but I think I have to spend less time over-analysing food.

  • ambergirlambergirl Raw Newbie

    this is such a good topic. I came to raw because I used to be bulimic. Raw was the only thing that could keep me out of the bathroom! But i too have begun to see old habits rising…i am new to this diet, and when i slip up (like today at lunch..spicy quesidilla) i feel horribly guilty and dirty and like i have no control over my appetite, and then vow to do better.
    I too saw the video on welikeitraw.com. I had a different reaction though; i felt like i wasn’t “raw enough”. I too of course would never drink my own urine, but these people seemed so on the ball, and so perfectly healthy that i began to wonder if i could ever live up to their standard. I dunno. But i feel sometimes like i am once again on the verge of spiraling out of control with food.. And i am terribly scared that Raw foods for me will mask itself as another form of an eating disorder for me, and i’ll be right back where i started.

  • Ambergirl, you hit upon a very important theme that occurs in most if not all eating disorders. Perfectionism. You saw the video and wondered if you “could ever live up to the standard.” Is that the first time you ever felt that way? When I was at the height of my eating disorder, it was really about not living up to the picture I had in my head of who/what I should be. It sounds like raw could be good for you if it initially kept you from purging. But pay close attention to those feelings of perfectionism. What are they about really? I don’t think they’re about not being a perfect raw foodist. It is probably something very old for you. I’m 46 years old and have had these issues off and on my whole life. When they start rearing their ugly heads, I need to pay close attention to what is actually happening. And needless to say, if you truly feel that food issues are getting out of control for you again, get whatever help and support you need. That’s more important than drinking your own urine or being someone else’s picture of health. Take care of yourself!

  • I don’t get it…when did it become freaky to prepare and eat healthy, real food? Sure it takes longer to prepare. Has everyone forgotten what life was like before microwave ovens? Are processed twinkies and McBurgers somehow cooler to associate with? Hmmmmm

  • debbietookdebbietook Raw Master

    In the early months of the raw diet, when raw is a sharp learning curve, and does consume one’s thoughts and time, I would think most raw fooders would score 4 or above on that quiz. ‘In trouble’? What rubbish.

    It’s quite understandable that the world out there will label those who care about what goes into their bodies ‘obsessive’ and suffering from a ‘disorder’, as the world is upside-down.

  • lstorzlstorz Raw Superstar


    Sorry I’ve been out of the loop… busy week. I added back in cooked quinoa which seems to really keep me stable and to keep my energy levels more consistent and my intestines calmer. Although I’ve added some other cooked things back in, they do not seem to have the same beneficial effects as quinoa. I have also added sweet potatoes back in. Right now, my gastrointestinal tract has been so volatile that I am really honing my sense of what my body wants to eat, and I try to give it exactly that. No “I SHOULD eat a green smoothie for breakfast when what I really want is cabbage.” It feels a little wacky at times, but I’ve been feeling a lot better.

  • RawVoiceRawVoice Raw Newbie

    I went to the quiz and read it most of it. I have a hard time taking it seriously. He doesn’t write like a serious professional. He doesn’t have an objective tone and writes things that are emotionally charged. He also doesn’t make a lot of sense, IMO. Like one question is, Do you have a higher sense of self-esteem when you eat healthy food. If the answer is yes, you’ve got a problem. But I think when we take good care of ourselves by eating healthy and we’re not contributing to the horror of factory farming, our self-esteem is bound to go up. We’re taking care of ourselves and our planet. Also, he asks if you plan menus for the following day, giving examples of broccoli and collard greens. What he doesn’t take into account is that raw and healthy foods are MORE PERISHABLE than processed foods. You can’t just stick them in the fridge and forget about them, they’ll go bad. So you have to plan menus.
    I think this guy must be in bed with pharmacuetical companies that want to keep us sick.

  • MOTHMOTH Raw Newbie

    Maybe it’s just me, but I enjoy my obsessions. :-)

  • modhinamodhina Raw Newbie

    dumdedumdum-gimme a break. I am sick of those things. Sure, we might all be screwed up because we are obsessive about health, but not as screwed up as those that aren’t. This girl I work with asked me if I’ve ever heard of it. She is on a diet SAD type of diet that is, and said a few things to me that sounded pretty much on the verge of disorderly. Of course she always does have something to say on the side, and I think she’s just insecure, so I told her about the site. She thinks she would feel better if she was thinner. I think she would feel better if she was nicer and not full of quips.

    The truth is I did have a lot of problems with food, and now I enjoy this as a way to connect to food, the earth, myself, and it’s a fun creative hobby.

  • I’ve pretty much accepted that almost everyone had a disordered relationship with food to some degree. (And if you don’t then I sincerely applaud you.) I think its part of SAD culture. People are eating things they KNOW are horrible for them, so I think it causes a bit of a conflict, and that conflict shows itself as a “disorder”. Now I’m not saying that everyone has anorexia or BED at heart, but I just think most Westerners too out of touch with their bodies to have a healthy relationship with food. I’m gonna be honest here, I was anorexic and then bulimic for quite awhile, and being raw has helped me like no other treatment has. I didn’t become raw with that in mind, but that’s just the way it’s worked out. The other night I was talked to my mom about raw food and she said all worried, “You know, this is starting to sound an awful lot like an obsession…. I hope you’re not falling back into old patterns.” That really got me thinking… and I realized that my entire relationship with food has changed. I suppose that’s what really matters…. Two people could spend equal amounts of time thinking about food… but whereas one might be thinking about what she wants to make for supper, how good it will taste and how healthy it will be, the other might be obsessing for hours on how to cut down the calories as low as possible. I think orthorexia as a disorder has alot to do with fear of food.
    Not sure if any of that made sense to anyone, but that’s just my 2 cents.

  • modhinamodhina Raw Newbie

    Or fear in general, feeling out of control.
    Taking in the wrong messages from other people, or feeling other people are controlling your life, I felt like that for a long time because of family issues, someone saying stuff under their breath, not really being clear, being preyed upon by others, feeling bad about it. It effects the psyche. My stepfather used to stand at my doorway in the morning and mutter stuff about my life and my future and I didn’t realize until later because I was naive to that in people-now does that make sense?

    I just want to say life control, self esteem and sexual issues seem to be the biggest reasons for food related problems, from what I see now.

    I want to think how ‘good and healthy supper’ is too.

  • shawnieshawnie Raw Newbie

    I think a lot of us here have an obsession with food. Personally, most of my thoughts have to do with food. I just LOVE it so much! It gives me so much pleasure to look at it, prepare it and eat. I probably scored the “worst” on the quiz posted, and it did make me nervous for a minute. But I know I have a great relationship with food, and no new labels are going to change that.

    I agree with a lot of the opinions expressed here.

  • heathermarsbombheathermarsbomb Raw Newbie

    Ive read the book, it’s great, it made me think a lot

  • After going raw my roommate become so overly excited and said I just HAD to read this book because I’d be able to associate so well with it. I did and let me tell you… it opened my eyes a lot. To what I was feeling mentally and what it means to follow your path. Eating more simply is only part of the picture. They even made a movie out of the book but it does not do it justice (tho I still recommend seeing it). The book is called “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” by Dan Millman.

    To those that haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. Enjoy!

  • lzhptlzhpt Raw Newbie

    I’d like to bring others into this forum again. Do Raw foodists acknowledge this Othorexia exists? I’m beginning to think yes. I’ve been raw for 2.5 years and recently i have experienced tremendous social isolation, criticizing others for not eating as pure as myself and engaging in self-loathing when i fall off the raw path to which I always return. Hmmm…raw food for thought. i could never go out for regular pizza with friends unless i showed up with my own food. Sushi, yes. Ice cream maybe. Out for drinks is a terrifying thought. I’m interested in your input as long term raw foodists.

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