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Orthorexia

The Orthorexia Quiz

Here's a ten-question quiz to determine if you have orthorexia. If you answer yes to two or three of these questions, you have at least a touch of orthorexia. A score of four or more means that you are in trouble. And if all these statements apply to you, you really need help. You don't have a life - you have a menu!

1) Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about food? (For four hours give yourself two points.)

The time measurement includes cooking, shopping, reading about your diet, discussing (or evangelizing) it with friends, and joining Internet chat groups on the subject. Three hours a day is too much time to think about healthy food. Life is meant for love, joy, passion, and accomplishment. Absorption with righteous food seldom produces any of these things.

2) Do you plan tomorrow's food today?

Orthorexics tend to dwell on upcoming menus. "Today I will eat steamed broccoli, while tomorrow I will boil Swiss chard. The day after that I think I'll make brown rice with adzuki beans." If you get a thrill of pleasure from contemplating a healthy menu the day after tomorrow, something is wrong with your focus.

3) Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?

It's one thing to love to eat, but for an orthrexic it isn't the food itself; it's the idea of the food. You can pump yourself up so giddily with pride that you don't even taste it going down.

4) Have you found that as the quality of your diet has increased, the quality of your life has correspondingly diminished?

The problem with orthorexia is that healthy food doesn't feed your soul. If you spend too much energy on what you put into your mouth, pretty soon the meaning will drain out of the rest of your life.

5) Do you keep getting stricter with yourself?

Like other addictions, orthorexia tends to escalate, demanding increasing vigilance as time passes. The diet of yesterday isn't pure enough for tomorrow. Over time the rules governing healthy eating get more rigid. And if you are an orthrexic, you get a grim pleasure from this.

6) Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the food you believe is right?

Because of it's confused scale of values, orthorexia leads to a crazy allocation of interest. Have you fallen into this trap? Will you turn down an invitation to eat at a friend's house because the food there isn't healthy enough for you? Do you find that obsessive thoughts of healthy food occupy your mind while you watch your child perform in a play at school?

7) Do you feel an increased sense of self-esteem when you are eating healthy food? Do you look down on others who don't?

One of the seductive aspects of orthorexia is that it allows one to feel superior to other people. After all, healthy eating is everywhere extolled. Orthorexia seems to be right up there with good work habits and a clean life. In this, orthorexia has an aspect that can make it harder to shake than other eating disorders: While anorexics and bulimics feel ashamed of their habits, orthorexics strut with pride. "Look at those degenerates," the mind says of everyone else, "hopelessly addicted to junk."

8) Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?

If you are an orthorexic, you feel guilt and shame when you eat foods that don't fit the anointed diet. Your sense of self-esteem is so linked to what you eat that tasting a morsel of forbidden food feels like a sin. The only way to regain self-respect is to recommit yourself to ever-stricter eating, to despise yourself when you stray from the path of food righteousness.

There are times in life when it's worthwhile being ashamed. When I've lost my temper at a child, betrayed a secret, insulted a friend behind his back, I've committed an actual error worthy of actual guilt. But eating pizza is fairly low on the scale of moral lapses. No one on her deathbed looks back and says, "I'm filled with regret that I ate too much ice cream and not enough kale."

9) Does your diet socially isolate you?

Once you've reached a certain point, the rigidity demanded by orthorexia makes it truly difficult for you to eat anywhere but home. Most restaurants don't serve the right foods, and even when they do, you won't trust that it's been prepared correctly. Even your friends inexplicably fail to cater to your personal preferences.

A common strategy is to bring your own food in separate containers and chew it slowly, looking virtuous and soulful while everyone else gulps down garbage. Or, like a solitary alcoholic, you can decline the invitation and dine in the loneliness and comfort of your own home.

10) When eating the way you are supposed to, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control?

Life is complicated, unpredictable, and often scary. It is not always possible to control your life, but you can control what you eat. A heavy-handed domination over what goes onto your fork or spoon can create the comfortable illusion that your life is no longer in danger of veering from the plan.


What is Orthorexia?

This quiz comes from the book, "Health Food Junkies: Overcoming the Obsession With Healthful Eating" by Steven Bratman, MD. He describes orthorexia this way:

"In fact, it is transferring too much of life's meaning onto food that makes orthorexia an eating disorder. If you simply eat healthy food but don't give it more of a place in your life than it's really due, you have a good diet - a laudable goal. But when you use food to drain away the energy from other parts of your life, you are impoverishing your soul. Instead of dealing with your real feelings - your real challenges, interests, desires, and needs - you pretend to find them in food. You transfer anxiety over how your life is going to anxiety over what you are going to eat."

His book is funny and insightful. If you flunked the quiz you should check it out.

Health Food Junkies

Health Food Junkies is out of print now, but you can still buy it used. He also has autographed copies available on his web site:

Orthorexia.com

Another great book for recovering food kooks is:

Intuitive Eating : A Recovery Book for the Chronic Dieter by Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch



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