Clean Eating Can Be Dangerous: The Rise of Orthorexia

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Young woman on the marketWhen you break it down, a healthy diet seems like a no-brainer: eat fewer processed foods and consume more plant-based foods, like fruits and vegetables. And science supports this simple adage, with recent studies reporting that consuming vegetables and fruits three or more times a day can help to reduce the incidence of stroke and stroke mortality among adults.

But when does healthy eating become dangerous?

As crazy as it sounds, the notion is all too much of a reality for the men and women suffering from orthorexia nervosa, an eating disorder categorized by an unhealthy obsession with healthy or “clean” eating.

Although not yet recognized as a DSM-V clinical diagnosis, MD Steven Bratman introduced the term in the late 1990s. The disorder differs from anorexia and bulimima in the sense that the sufferer’s obsession lays on healthy eating itself, rather than desired weight or aesthetic value.

Jordan Younger, blogger and author of “Breaking Vegan,” experienced digestive issues throughout her life. In an attempt to cure her stomach problems, Younger looked to a clean lifestyle, eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

But as her digestive issues persisted, her restrictions became more extreme.

“I started cutting out a lot of different types of fruits and then different types of nuts, and then quinoa and all kinds of grains. At one point I was just eating green vegetables,” said Younger.

As a result, Younger’s diet lacked key nutrients that are necessary to function properly. In time, she began losing her hair and started experiencing feelings of fatigue. Additionally, Younger’s social life began to wane, as she avoided going out with friends in order to adhere to her strict clean eating regimen.

“It was hard on everyone around me because we couldn’t just go to a restaurant and enjoy the night and go out from there. It was like, ‘Can Jordan eat anything here? Probably not,'” Younger said.

But with counseling, Younger was able to combat her orthorexia nervosa and is now an advocate of awareness for the less-common eating disorder.

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