The “Alarming Eating Disorder” We Are Already Talking About

Awareness is awareness is awareness is awareness is AWARENESS. Any and all educational information about Orthorexia, its signs and symptoms, is welcome. If you’re a healthcare provider that sees clients at risk for Orthorexia, please say something. If you’re a writer interested in the issue, please write something. Awareness is awareness, and we need more of it.

If you’re a health media outlet who wants to bring attention to orthorexia, please do. But if you’re also part of the reason Orthorexia persists, please be honest about that, too.

POPSUGAR Fitness (PSF) posted a powerful (and potentially triggering) Orthorexia video this week, and I applaud them for that. They called it the “alarming eating disorder no one is talking about,” so I do have one correction: we talk about it a lot. The next step PSF could take? Recognizing their role in diet culture and orthorexia. Endless posts about so-called clean foods, the many things we’re not doing “right” to lose weight, and the lists of “healthy” snacks, meals, low-calorie things, and calorie-burning workouts are part of the problem.

It’s hard to recognize when you are part of the persisting issue of Orthorexia.

There’s a fine line between “healthy” and “obsessed with being healthy.” It can be hard to differentiate a message that promotes healthy eating behaviors from one that promotes an obsession with eating healthy foods. But it’s not impossible.

Recently, some registered dietitians who blog have been very real with you about this recognition (e.g. Kylie at ImmaEATthat and Alexis at Hummusapien). They know that health blogs fuel diet culture, and eating disorders. They know their blogs could once have been a trigger for themselves or their readers. I have my hand-raised here as well. If I dig through the archives, I’m sure I could find examples of my words, recipes, and fitness posts that had good intentions, but lacked substantial ED recovery education. Many of us are guilty of this, and we recognize that.

Orthorexia eating disorder

Then we have PSF, and other click-hungry sites (of which there are many). They want to promote a variety of body types and body acceptance, but their stock photos for most articles suggest otherwise. Their content has improved—I don’t see any mentions of “clean” eating on the homepage, and some of the recent articles include quotes from registered dietitians (two cheers for credible sources). But in less than one scroll, you also see calorie counts, weight loss tips, and a body-positive post juxtaposed next to the “21-day butt challenge.” Last but not least, a PSA: It is unnecessary (and often insensitive) to include transformation photos in posts or videos about eating disorder recovery

Orthorexia is fueled by health media. It’s hard to avoid those messages.

So, if we’re going to talk about it, let’s do it in a helpful way. Let’s bring awareness and recognize how it happened. Call it “alarming,” and then stop the messages and posts that sound those alarms.

Registered dietitians have had a role in this disorder. Our messages have not always been on point. I can (and do) believe that and still be a proud dietitian. Intuitive Eating is a science-backed concept designed by two dietitians. Many of us believe you can be healthy at every size. We’re learning, improving, and honing our messages. Because as soon as we know better, we do better.

Health content sites, media messages, trainers, TV shows, etc. have also fueled the development of Orthorexia. As you browse the internet in search of helpful, not harmful, nutrition information, please do so with a filter. If you read or watch something makes you feel like you’ve done something wrong, need to lose weight, need to feel your thighs burn or your butt lift or your belly flatten, go elsewhere. If the content makes you question your calorie intake, the adequacy of your running, or the satisfying meal you just enjoyed, go elsewhere. Seek information about intuitive eating, body positivity (or neutrality), and evidence-based nutrition (from dietitians or nutrition scientists). Work one on one with a dietitian or eating disorder therapist.

If nothing else, talk about Orthorexia.

The conversation is growing, resources are emerging, education is evolving. Awareness is awareness is awareness. I mean it when I say I’m glad PSF posted this video (not that they need my accolades). It’s a step in the right direction. But there is a long road ahead for the many alarming posts that fuel this disorder on their site, and on myriad others.

We don’t have to leave it to content sites to talk about it, either. Women are sharing their stories with us on the Lane 9 Project blog, dietitians are opening up on their own sites, and eating disorder professionals are studying ways to foster treatment.

It’s alarming, indeed. So, let’s be real about when and where those alarms go off and resist the temptation to keep ringing them. Instead, let’s talk about it and help each other out.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be made public.