The Fixation on Healthy Eating

What is Orthorexia Nervosa?

Coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997, Orthorexia Nervosa describes people who have a pathological fixation on eating healthy or “pure” food as a means of losing weight, overcoming chronic illnesses or improving general health.

Although it’s not medically recognized, this particular kind of mental disorder is essentially an unhealthy fixation on eating healthy foods. Bratman believes that Orthorexia Nervosa is similar to the eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. While anorexics and bulimics focus on the quantity of food, an orthorexic fixates on the quality of food.

Common Signs

  • Adopting a diet that is entirely made up of raw food (uncooked raw vegetables, fruits and legumes) or adhering to a fruitarian diet (consuming only fruits, tomatoes and cucumbers)
  • Obsession with healthy eating
  • Lecturing family and friends on the virtues of adopting a “pure diet”
  • Unable to eat meals anywhere else but his or her own home


  • Can lead to isolation, rigidity, and alienation
  • False sense of superiority
  • Emaciated appearance due to a lack of a balanced, nutritional diet

There has been no research done as to whether or not there is a biological cause specific to orthorexia nervosa. The most susceptible sufferers are middle-class, well-educated people who read about food scares in the papers, research them on the Internet and have the time and money to discover what they believe to be better food alternatives. Dr. Bratman believes that treatment for orthorexics is possible through the advocating of alternative diet choices.


Billings, Tom. (1997). Clarifying Orthorexia: Obsession with Dietary Purity as an Eating Disorder. Beyond Vegetarianism.

Bratman, Steven. (2003). Original Essay on Orthorexia. Yoga Magazine.

Alto Medical Foundation. (2005). Eating Disorders. Orthorexia Nervosa.

Spicuzza, Mary. (2003). Are raw-food diets enlightened or inane? Seattle Times. December 8, 2003.

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