Clean food and unhealthy obsessions

Orthorexia is not officially recognised as a clinical diagnosis but it is a term frequently cropping up in the media. It refers to an unhealthy obsession with healthy food, and was coined by US doctor Steve Bratman who found some of his patients’ pursuit of a healthy lifestyle was making them nutritionally ill.

Clean eating is big news on social media. Instagram has 16m posts using the tag #cleaneating. Bloggers and healthy eating gurus are successful publishers of a range of cookery books, and I have worked with some to help them bring their lifestyle to more people.

While I’m not suggesting that proponents of a healthy, clean lifestyle full of natural food choices are promoting a dangerous healthfood obsession, it can occasionally result in harmful behaviours in some too, especially young women.

Instagram has 59,000 posts using the hashtag #orthorexia. Food blogger Jordan Younger who founded the popular blog The Blonde Vegan, revealed that she was actually battling health problems associated with her diet and had since reintroduced a more balanced one.

Spectator article exploring the issue touched on the fact that some popular health gurus had neither a rigorous grounding in nutrition nor the experience of treating others. Therefore, critics would argue, pursuing an approach that is good for one is not necessarily right for all.

The message from the dieticians is one of balance, and clean/healthy eating champions and companies do need to be aware of promoting the importance of a varied diet too just as we consumers need to be aware of balancing what’s good for us with our desires to indulge. Let’s not forget that obesity is still the far bigger problem consuming us today.

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