Recently, popular blogger The Blonde Vegan, Jordan Younger, announced that she is suffering from an eating disorder known as Orthorexia Nervosa. Although not necessarily linked to vegan diets, this illness is an obsession with healthy eating and Jordan has said that her own experience with it has led her to ditch her veganism. Here's more about Orthorexia and why it’s so harmful.
You might think that there can’t really be a danger associated with eating healthy because, after all, you’re putting only good things into your body. But the truth is to the contrary.
People who suffer from Ortherexia fixate on eating only certain foods that make them feel as though they are healthy. For example, they might cut foods from their diet that contain animal products, fat, sugar, salt, pesticides, artificial colors, and/or preservatives. If you read that list and thought, 'Well what's wrong with that?,' you’re not alone. However, the real issue with Orthorexia is more related to the thinking or psychology behind one’s food choices, rather than what one is actually eating.
For instance, Orthorexics might spend a lot of time in their day thinking and obsessing about food or planning their meals. They could be prone to anxiety, or depression due to obsessive thoughts. This concern over food could negatively impact various aspects of their lifestyle, such as their social life. They might avoid eating out because they are unsure of how food will be prepared, or they might distance themselves from loved ones who do not share their food views. There is also a physical danger involved. Orthorexia sounds so much like Anorexia in part because they share similar symptoms. A person suffering from Orthorexia continues to nurture an obsession with health that can cause them to decrease the amount of calories they consume because they don’t think the food they have to eat is good enough for them. This can cause severe weight loss, simillar to weight loss which accompanies Anorexia.
In the case of Jordan’s story, although she was following a healthy vegan diet, she had set too many rules for herself, which didn't give her body the chance to gain important nutrients it needed to function at its best.
However, it’s important to realize that veganism is not synonymous with Orthorexia. Although some of Jordan’s followers were irate at her choice to lose her vegan lifestyle, it’s important to realize that every single diet one pursues has to be balanced and healthy, whether it’s by being vegan, vegetarian or something else. Read her blog post, Why I'm Transitioning Away From Veganism, to learn more about her story.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.