7/24/02 - Orthorexia Nervosa

America is obsessed with being thin. Plenty of health foods are on the market for people watching their weight, but some people think this may lead to the eating disorder of the new millennium. It's called orthorexia nervosa. It's a lot like anorexia, but anorexics don't eat. People with orthorexia eat healthy, but they eat too much.

Today most of us are trying to eat a bit healthier, having fruit instead of french-fries, filet of fish instead of filet mignon. But for some people eating good food has simply gone too far and they've become health food junkies. Registered dietician Andrea Morganstein says, "orthorexia is becoming an eating disorder where people are obsessed with eating healthy."

Perhaps the healthiest of unhealthy habits, orthorexia nervosa is not classified as an eating disorder yet, but it's pretty easy to spot in gyms and juice bars across the country. They're the no dessert, salad dressing on the side crowd and for them, the calorie count has become compulsion. "some of them are aware of it, some of them are not," Morganstein says. "I've seen extents where it's their birthday and they won't even eat a piece of birthday cake cause it's not on their diet."

The condition has a lot in common with anorexia nervosa, like a distorted body image, excessive exercise, little moderation, and a lot of guilt. But unlike anorexia, which most commonly affects young girls and teens, orthorexia seems to predominantly affect adults, both men and women equally.

Tim Nichols is a life-long athlete and an unashamed orthorexic, counting calories and fat at all costs. "If I have a Powerbar that's 280 calories, that's about a 2-1/2 mile run," Nichols says. The condition doesn't seem to be as dangerous as anorexia nervosa. And some orthorexics say they're not thinking too much about food, the rest of us are thinking too little. But experts agree, any obsession, even if it's health food, is inherently unhealthy.

To see if you or anyone you know is orthorexic, try taking this quiz.

Do you think about food more than three hours a day?

Do you plan tomorrow's meals today?

Do you look down on others who don't eat healthy food?

Has your diet gotten progressively more strict?

Do you feel overly guilty when you stray from your diet?

Does controlling your diet give you a sense of control in life?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have a touch of orthorexia.