The dangers of "clean eating" and orthorexia

The dangers of "clean eating" and orthorexia

In my last blog post, I talked a lot about diet culture and how that has permeated into our daily lives without us even knowing.

Today, I’d like to talk more about the clean eating movement and how it’s a form of dieting and disordered eating.

According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, “dieting is one of the most common forms of disordered eating. Research shows that dieting is common among people with eating disorders.”

According to Eating Disorders Victoria, a resource and support center based in Australia, “research shows that women who diet severely are eighteen times more likely to develop an eating disorder. Women who diet moderately are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder.”

According to a report from the National Eating Disorders Association titled Eating Disorders on the College Campus, “35% of ‘normal’ dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20–25% progress to partial or full–syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995).”

These can be scary and shocking statistics to consider when dieting has been your go-to norm for many years. A lot of times, people can find comfort and control through dieting, even though 95% of diets don’t work (i.e. don’t allow people to lose weight and keep it off).

Here is the definition of diet: a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight.

Here are the definitions of four common eating disorders in the United States, according to NEDA:

  • Binge eating disorder: Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.

  • Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat. Some people with the disorder also exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives, and/or binge eat.

  • Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

  • Although not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, awareness about orthorexia is on the rise. The term ‘orthorexia’ was coined in 1998 and means an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating. Although being aware of and concerned with the nutritional quality of the food you eat isn’t a problem in and of itself, people with orthorexia become so fixated on so-called ‘healthy eating’ that they actually damage their own well-being.

Restricting what you eat? Compensating for food you’ve eaten or indulged in? An obsession with the nutrition content of the food you’re eating?

A lot of popular diets, and diets in general, promote the main components of eating disorders as ideal ways of living. It’s no wonder that dieting so often leads to disordered eating pattern.

Lately, we’ve seen an increasing trend in the wellness community of a focus on “clean eating.”

What are the warning signs of an eating disorder?

What are the warning signs of an eating disorder?

What is diet culture?

What is diet culture?