Orthorexia Nervosa – A New Eating Disorder

By Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LD/N

Posted on nationaleatingdisorders.org

Orthorexia nervosa is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5, but many people struggle with symptoms associated with this term.

Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”  Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.  They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”  An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style.  Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise).  Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.

Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.  Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.

Is Orthorexia An Eating Disorder?

Orthorexia is a term coined by Steven Bratman, MD to describe his own experience with food and eating.  It is not an officially recognized disorder in the DSM-5, but is similar to other eating disorders – those with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa obsess about calories and weight while orthorexics obsess about healthy eating (not about being “thin” and losing weight).

Why Does Someone Get Orthorexia?

Orthorexia appears to be motivated by health, but there are underlying motivations, which can include safety from poor health, compulsion for complete control, escape from fears, wanting to be thin, improving self-esteem, searching for spirituality through food, and using food to create an identity.

Do I Have Orthorexia?

Consider the following questions.  The more questions you respond “yes” to, the more likely you are dealing with orthorexia.

  • Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
  • Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
  • Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else – one single meal – and not try to control what is served?
  • Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
  • Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
  • Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
  • Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat?

So What’s The Big Deal?

The diet of orthorexics can actually be unhealthy, with nutritional deficits specific to the diet they have imposed upon themselves.  These nutritional issues may not always be apparent. Social problems are more obvious.  Orthorexics may be socially isolated, often because they plan their life around food.  They may have little room in life for anything other than thinking about and planning food intake.  Orthorexics lose the ability to eat intuitively – to know when they are hungry, how much they need, and when they are full.   Instead of eating naturally they are destined to keep “falling off the wagon,” resulting in a feeling of failure familiar to followers of any diet.

When Orthorexia Becomes All Consuming

Dr. Bratman, who recovered from orthorexia, states “I pursued wellness through healthy eating for years, but gradually I began to sense that something was going wrong.  The poetry of my life was disappearing.  My ability to carry on normal conversations was hindered by intrusive thoughts of food.  The need to obtain meals free of meat, fat, and artificial chemicals had put nearly all social forms of eating beyond my reach.  I was lonely and obsessed. … I found it terribly difficult to free myself.  I had been seduced by righteous eating.  The problem of my life’s meaning had been transferred inexorably to food, and I could not reclaim it.”  (Source:www.orthorexia.com)

Are You Telling Me it is Unhealthy to Follow a Healthy Diet?

Following a healthy diet does not mean you are orthorexic, and nothing is wrong with eating healthfully.  Unless, however, 1) it is taking up an inordinate amount of time and attention in your life; 2) deviating from that diet is met with guilt and self-loathing; and/or 3) it is used to avoid life issues and leaves you separate and alone.

What Is The Treatment for Orthorexia?

Society pushes healthy eating and thinness, so it is easy for many to not realize how problematic this behavior can become.  Even more difficult is that the person doing the healthy eating can hide behind the thought that they are simply eating well (and that others are not).  Further complicating treatment is the fact that motivation behind orthorexia is multi-faceted.  First, the orthorexic must admit there is a problem, then identify what caused the obsession.  She or he  must also become more flexible and less dogmatic about eating.   Working through underlying emotional issues will make the transition to normal eating easier.

While orthorexia is not a condition your doctor will diagnose, recovery can require professional help.  A practitioner skilled at treating eating disorders is the best choice.  This handout can be used to help the professional understand orthorexia.


Recovered orthorexics will still eat healthfully, but there will be a different understanding of what healthy eating is.  They will realize that food will not make them a better person and that basing their self-esteem on the quality of their diet is irrational.  Their identity will shift from “the person who eats health food” to a broader definition of who they are – a person who loves, who works, who is fun.  They will find that while food is important, it is one small aspect of life, and that often other things  are more important!


by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD Published: May 26, 2015 on Roots Of Action

If you are searching for community service ideas for children, you may be hoping to help them:  1) Meet school or scouting service requirements; 2) Build positive resumes for college; and/or 3) Develop into more empathetic and caring young people.

Whatever the reasons, it’s helpful to understand why learning to give back to others is vital for positive youth development and how parents, schools, and communities play an important role. With the right community service opportunities from kindergarten through high school, young people can grow from an understanding of how they fit into society to how they can help solve societal problems. This developmental process grows empathy and fosters children’s identities as engaged citizens.

How do young people learn to make community service a way of life rather than something expected or required of them? The three most important ways children and teens learn to express their caring for others and evolve toward active citizenship is through:

  • Responsible actions
  • Leadership
  • Innovative thinking

These three ways of caring develop over time—from elementary through high school. This article explains each developmental phase and provides links to community service ideas, resources, and programs that can help you find the right fit for your child, class project, or service club.

Elementary School:  Learning to be Responsible

In these early years, we lay the foundation for responsible citizenship. Children learn kindness, respect, and empathy—internal strengths that connect them to others. You can’t just talk about these feelings and expect understanding; kids need to experience them. Many programs like scouts, church groups, and service clubs are places children learn and experience these positive values. But these ideas also need to be reinforced at home. How to Instill Compassion in Children describes ways parents foster these internal strengths through practicing compassion and teaching kids how to cope with anger.

Character education in the early years helps build strengths like honesty, responsibility, fairness, and compassion— internal assets that lead to happiness and well-being. These are the kinds of human qualities that foster responsible citizens, children who grow up to donate to food drives, recycle their trash, or help during a crisis.

Middle Years: Learning to Improve the Community

In order for communities to grow and thrive, people must step up and take leadership roles. Many children as young as ten have the capacity to inspire and mobilize others. Consider the story of Eden Eskaros, who on a visit to Mexico noticed children were not wearing shoes. When she returned home, this ten-year-old enlisted the aid of her community and sent over 1,000 pairs of shoes to her new friends south of the border.

When children learn to improve their communities, they develop the capacity to organize others. They acquire problem-solving, planning, time management, and marketing skills. They learn about community agencies and how local governments work. Experiences that involve teamwork, collaboration, and interaction are training grounds for future organized citizens, people who set goals, work within established systems, and motivate others to help. These kinds of citizens coordinate food drives, develop recycling programs, or take part in community-action committees. In the middle years, children can learn the organizational and leadership skills that enable them to take more active roles in their communities as young adults.

The Teen Years: Learning to Solve Societal Problems

Just as businesses require innovation and the ability to respond to change, so do communities and nations. By the time children reach adolescence, their brains are capable of understanding complex issues and exploring the root causes of problems. In order for democracies to thrive, citizens must question and respectfully debate how to improve society – how to change established systems that are inefficient or unjust.

Service-learning, particularly in the high school years, offers young people unique opportunities to link what they learn in the classroom to real world situations in their communities. Often, these experiences push them out of their comfort zones to see the world in new ways. But service-learning need not be confined to classrooms. In fact, opportunities abound for families to learn and serve together. These experiences are often transformative for teens and teach them how to think critically about the world around them. How Teenagers Become Passionate About Giving  describes this transformative process that involves confronting moral dilemmas and reflecting on the values instilled during childhood.

Community service experiences during adolescence train teens to become innovative citizens, people who see beyond surface causes and effect change in their communities and beyond. These kinds of citizens question why some people face hunger, debate solutions to clean energy, or investigate the relationship between race and poverty.

No matter how young or old, everyone benefits by participating in community service. We have the capacity to help children and teenagers become GREAT citizens —  compassionate people who are responsible, organized, and innovative. Not only will they serve the good of the nation, but they will become tomorrow’s ethical business leaders, parents, and workers.

Parents, educators, and community leaders can help kids become part of a new generation of young people prepared to take responsibility, lead others, and tackle tomorrow’s social and environmental challenges. It’s just a click or a phone call away.


Westheimer, J., & Kahne, J. (2004). What kind of citizen? The politics of educating for democracy. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 237-269.

About the Author

Founder of Roots of Action and The Compass Advantage™, Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, is a developmental psychologist and Fellow at the Fielding Institute for Social Innovation. She writes for Psychology Today and Edutopia on positive youth development, K-12 education, and family-school-community partnerships.
Website // @DrPriceMitchell // Facebook

A Simple Way To Change The World

by Parcsen Loke

My O Level results were not good enough (even though I had straight B’s) to qualify me for admission into any of the polytechnics, so I ended up the Vocational Institution (or VITB), the fore-runner of the ITE. It wasn’t a glamorous place to be especially for those with pride and ambition. This is how I would describe my classmates and I.

Having something to prove – that we were not “gone case” – we all worked very hard; my classmates more than I. At the beginning, I always found myself alone during break times. While I was taking a breather with a cuppa, my peers were burying themselves in their books, trying to stay ahead. I don’t blame them. Add I have said, we all had something to prove. But I also felt that their striving would not be good for them in the long run. It is good to stop and smell the roses once in a while. So I embarked on a campaign to persuade them to go for breaks when it was time for one.

There were Facebook or Twitter back then. Not even Whatsapp. Activism or advocacy had to be done either face to face or by Word of mouth, one person at a time (one class at a time, in my case).

I didn’t want them to neglect their studies. I just wanted then to know that there are other things they should pay attention to at the same time, such as their health. It is a fact that many of the aliments of modern man is stress-induced. If we allow ourselves get caught up in the rat-race, we might win but we will be one sick rat. It isn’t worth it, is it?

“Your health is important!” was my rallying cry. Twice a day (we had two breaks in a day) I would remind my classmates. For the first two months no one heeded my call. Undeterred, I persisted in my crusade, determined to win the hearts and minds of (by now) friends.

In the third month, two of them joined me during the break. Then two became four. At this point, I was not the only one chanting “Your health is important”. We had a quartet and I was their conductor. Very soon, the whole class joined in, all twenty five of us. We became inseparable, except till graduation. All of us did well and went on to study in the polytechnic.

What I have just described to you was the way you can change the world – starting with the world around you. Without knowing it then, I was taping into the power of something called Dominant Discourse.

Dominant Discourse is usually a tool (or weapon,  depending how you look at it) welded by the rich and powerful who have the ability to influence trends and policies and… prices. But I believe, and have demonstrated to you, that any one can exert influence too. You only need to believe in your message and never give up talking about it.

Get Some Shut-eye

Posted on YouthCounselling on 6 March, 2015

With the advent of artificial light, we can now continue to party and work late into the night (woohoo!) and although that has had its benefits on mankind, it has really thrown our circadian rhythm out of whack. What researchers have found is that when we continue fiddling with our phones, tablets or laptops late into the night, the short wave blue light emitted from these devices fool our body into believing that it’s still day time and keeps the pineal gland from releasing melatonin. Without melatonin, we don’t feel sleepy (which explains why some people continue to feel wired and hyped up late into the night) and as a result our sleep really suffers. When our sleep suffers, we can’t focus and stay alert in the day for school and exams (A level exams at 8am anyone?) when we’re supposed to and we can even end up with chronic health issues like diabetes, obesity and heart diseases as outlined in this Harvard health article when we’re chronically sleep deprived.

So what can you do if you want to improve the quality of your sleep? There are a few ways I can think of:-

1. Put away blue light emitting devices at least an hour before bed time. I’ve experimented with this on myself – stowed away the phone and ipad, switched off the TV, turned down the room lights at 9pm and started reading a book instead while waiting for my melatonin to kick in and make me sleepy enough by 10pm. Usually it doesn’t even take that long. I’m comatose by 9.30pm.


2. Install F.lux (completely free of charge) which is a software that tracks the timings when the sun rises and sets and adjusts the lighting of the laptop accordingly to cut out as much disturbing blue light as possible (see picture on left).

3. Avoid sleeping with the phone next to you so you don’t get disturbed when you get random messages in the night and the phone lights up the entire room. Set it to silent and stuff it in the darkest abyss of your bag. If your friend can’t wait for you to reply when you’re awake, then this friend probably has issues.

Hope this helps you to sleep like a baby and come to school with a razor sharp mind. Razor. sharp.

Understanding the Difference Between Dating And Courtship

by Parcsen Loke

Courtship is over, and it has been replaced with dating. Inadvertently, the sacred act of choosing a life partner has been reduced to a process of elimination through test relationships that resemble a marriage where co-habitation features most prominently. Couples date then live together as pseudo-husbands and wives. This is how they will usually remain until they find a compelling reason to break up. Often, the reason is convenient because either one or both has fallen in love with someone else. Some might tie the knot sooner than later, but this in itself does not immunise the marriage from ending in divorce. Sooner or later, they will find a reason why it will not work.

Is this why divorce rates are so high nowadays? I believe so. Bear in mind that the stats could have been bleaker if the number of break-ups among co-habitating couples were also counted. To correct this trend, I suggest that we relook at what dating is.

Modern Dating

Modern dating is an emotionally charged event, or series of events, where a girl and a guy is reacting to each other. Decisions on whether there will be a second and third and fourth date is based on what emotions were being conjured during their last date. The problem is that it is so easy, for the guys especially, to put forth a false front.

With the rapid development of telecommunications and computer technologies comes a deluge of online dating services. This has led to the creation of a new phenomenon called “pre-dates” whereby individuals of the opposite sex meet, chat, and exchange bio-data with the hope of finding a life mate. A disadvantage is that, with no initial personal interview by a traditional dating agency head, Internet daters are free to exaggerate or lie about their characteristics.

Over time, the goal of a date is to “score”. That is, to have a sexual encounter. Today, young people prefer to cut to the chase and get on with it. Hence, dating, like it’s predecessor, courtship, has been replaced with “hook-ups”. “Let’s get to know each other” has given way to “Let’s get into bed together”. In his book “Hooking Up”, Tom Wolfe relates the shocking reality:

“From age thirteen, American girls were under pressure to maintain a façade of sexual experience and sophistication. Among girls, ‘virgin’ was a term of contempt.”

“Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date” (The New York Times).

In the light of all this, I think you will agree with me that it is time go return to the good old ways…but with a difference.

Traditional Dating

How did couples date in the good old days? They would have a meal, or a drink, or a picnic in the fields, just the two of. They would talk and learn more about each other. But that was when people were more honest. The same cannot be said about people today. To see the true side of a person, it is perhaps best to observe them (from a safe distance) in a group.

Jessica Massa, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a degree in psychology and whose work has been featured in high profile publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, wrote in a special to CNN that, “The happy couples I talked to had not met and immediately started dating. Instead, they connected in more natural — and yes, ambiguous — settings. They played on the same volleyball team or were co-workers on a political campaign. Or they hung out in the same social group or were friends for years before getting intimately involved or got intimately involved right off the bat with no initial relationship plans. Or they met each other while living in different parts of the country and got to know each other via Facebook or Gchat before committing to full-on romances.

Instead of going on explicit dates, they had tested the romantic waters, moved in and out of gray areas, and used technology to explore the various aspects of their connection before putting labels or expectations on their relationship.”

This form dating can go on for some time. This is necessary as if it the time when the woman will be wooed by the man.

Janet Ong Zimmerman, a Dating and Relationship Coach based in Irving, California tells girls and women everywhere that it is their choice whether they want to date or be courted. She speaks from personal experience when she says, “Try letting a man woo you instead of date you.” “It means letting him open doors for you, plan dates, pay for your meals, keep his word, give you flowers, etc. It means treating him with respect and trust, and accepting him for who he is.” In the article she discloses, saying, “I casually dated through most of my single years, not realizing that I actually wanted to be courted, until I met my current husband. In hindsight, dating for me was about reacting to the men I met. This led me to feel uncertain and settle for less. Courtship is more about responding based on what’s important to you.” Do you know what is important to you?


Don’t be in a hurry to start courtship, and don’t let anyone push you into it before you are ready either. Wait until you are ready to get married before pursuing a romantic relationship (also known as courtship). The purpose of courtship is marriage.

In courtship, the guy and girl take the time to get to know and care for each other and develop trust. They are both more vested in the relationship because of the time and effort they have put into each other.

Courtship takes more courage because you will have to be authentic, open, and vulnerable. But you will be willing because you have spent time observing the other person.

Jessica Messa. Why Traditional Dating Is Dead. 13 February, 2013. CNN.com
Janet Ong Zimmerman. Why Courtship Is Better Than Dating: Let Yourself Be Wooed. yourtango.com

Parcsen Loke is the Deputy Director of Family Life First. He has been serving people and communities for more than 20 years, both locally and abroad. His is married to his wife Kelly and has three children ages 23, 21 and 10.

Book Treat Tuition Programme

Our Book Treat Tuition Programme which we started last year has helped children from low-income families to improve in their academic subjects. With the help of the programme, all the students passed their examinations and we were happy to see 2 of them received their bursary awards during the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC CCC Bursary event in January this year.

We have 14 students this year ranging from Lower Primary to Lower Secondary and we are seeking for more volunteer tutors to help give English/Maths/Science tuition.

The tuition is held every Tuesday nights from 7.00pm-9.00pm at Blk 63 Lorong 5 RC centre Singapore 310063. For those who are interested to give tuition, you can contact us at 68484735 or admin@familylifefirst.org

The tutors and the students met for their first session this week and celebrated one of the tutor’s birthday and had a good time of food and fun! The students are excited and are looking forward to their upcoming tuition sessions!

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(Don’t Just) Follow Your Passion – A Word to Generation Y


Generation Y refer to those who were born between 1983 and 2000. Gen Y have been characterised in different ways by different ones. It has been called a generation that is “lazy”, “papered”, “high-maintenance”. New York Post calls it “the worst generation ever”. It is an “entitiled” generation. It comes from the fact that they have been told by their parents to follow their passion.

By all means, follow your passion. But remember a couple of things along the way

1. Work hard. Your passion does not necessarily have to be your work.

2. Passion is a privilege (not an entitlement). Be grateful for opportunities to follow your passion.

3. Use your passion to serve others. It does not mean anything to follow your passion if it isn’t in the service of others. “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” Frederick Buechner