True Life: I Have Orthorexia

The episode of True Life: I Have Orthorexia follows three young adults who have very strict control over their diets to the point where it is unhealthy for them. They all have routines for what and when they eat and it completely consumes their lives. One woman, Spring, limits herself to eating the same foods every single day and she will purge if she consumes cooked food. At one point during the episode, it showed an invoice for an online food order costing her $200.20! The second girl, Lauren, limits herself to only 15 different foods and is constantly thinking about her diet and when she can eat. Lauren previously suffered from anorexia nervosa, but had to start eating more to gain weight in order to live. The boy, Andrew, after taking a biology class and learning about the different chemicals used in processed foods, decided to become a vegan. Andrew is very afraid of getting cancer, diabetes, and becoming obese. This episode is both restitution and chaos narratives. It’s restitution because the whole point of the episode is to try to get the individuals to get help, which does happen at the end. It is also chaos because all three individuals suffer socially with their friends, and obviously the audience who watches the show. I believe the point of using both these narratives is to make sure these individuals get the help they need and to educate the audience of the TV program about this disease.

Our culture today is very focused on appearances. If someone sees an obese person walking down the street, the first thing many people will think is that they don’t know how to stop eating and lack self-control. This stigma forces people to be really strict with their eating habits and causes eating disorders such as orthorexia. These people, like the ones in the show, then need to get medical help. These professionals talked to each person in the show and made them realize that what they were doing was not healthy for them. Lauren was the only one that did not add more protein or foods to her diet, but the other two did and saw great improvements. Spring and Lauren both used the sick role to their advantage in order to step out of social responsibilities such as family parties and going out to dinner at restaurants.

Illness narratives are extremely important to all patients, family, and healthcare providers to get insight to how a person sees and feels about their illness. A lot of illnesses are difficult to understand unless you’re going through them yourself, therefore, patient narratives can really come in handy.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Keiana Smith says:

    HI Jacqueline, I think this is a very interesting topic. It is definitely centered around what is happening in our culture today. I don’t think people realize that when they limit themselves to certain diets that it can actually do more harm than help. It is a shame how much emphasis our society puts on weight and image. Could most of us lose a few pounds and eat a little healthier? Sure we can, but I believe that most people in our society also have sense enough for their weight or image to totally consume their lives. Also a lot has to do with peer pressure, especially among the teenage population. However, when feelings of low self-esteem start to arise inside a person’s mind, I think they should talk to someone and receive the proper help and treatment. Tackling diets and exercise by yourself can sometimes be dangerous if you are not properly informed of what works best for you and your body. I could not imagine eating the same things everyday at the same time everyday. This condition may sound crazy and irrational to some people, but it is an illness. Orthorexia is sort of a psychological illness because the brain is literally programmed to control what is be eaten and at what time it is being eaten due to the obsessive compulsive behavior of the sufferer. Another important point to diseases such as Orthorexia and Anorexia Nervosa is it never crosses the individual’s mind that they may not be receiving protein, nutrients, vitamins, blood regulators, etc. to keep the body healthy and organs functioning properly. All they see is “I’m fat” and I need to stop eating or I need to limit what I eat. I am glad to know that Spring and Andrew were able to get help and understand that eating is an essential part of life. I liked your blog and great job!

  2. Karra Larkins says:

    Hi, I agree that this is a very interesting topic and that it is terrible that so few people know about it. I watched a video on youtube of someone’s story about orthorexia nervosa. They have struggled with this and anorexia for years and as a result become depressed and used self-harm to cope. Orhtorexia is compulsively only eating certain foods, often times they do not eat enough of it and it does not provide enough protein and vitamins for a person to live a healthy life. They usually limit themselves to health food specifically. This is similar to the MTV True Life story because one girl first began as an anorexic as well, and in an effort to change that they try to eat more but limit what it was that they ate. In the video I watched she would only eat lettuce for a meal and after only doing that for so long, she was malnourished and was told she could die. Our society today is very health focused. It tells people that they only should eat organic foods and exercise. This can influence people to become orthorexic and to limit their food intake to dangerously low levels. This is an illness that can be prevented and should just by limiting how much society dictated our decisions.

  3. Justin Kenton says:

    I guess it goes to show you that there is a medical condition for everything under the sun! I had never heard of orthorexia before going through the activity posts for this week. I went to YouTube and did some searching on the topic and watched a few videos about it. The first video had a fitness buff just explaining what orthorexia was and some of the issues associated with it. Here is the hyperlink in case you are interested in learning more ( I was able to find another video that had a few individual interviewed from what appears to be the BBC. The title is called health food junkies.

    What I found interesting about the video was that in the first segment I watched, there was no mention of orthorexia even thought it was clear to me that the people had this condition, but were still living normal lives. The few people were obsessed with eating “healthy” and reverting to lifestyles that involve basically only eating vegetables and fresh foods. Absolutely no processed foods are allowed in their diets. It seems like the people featured in the video are still living decent lives and not adversely affected by their eating habits even though it is such a strict diet. When does it become a medical issue though, only when their health is adversely affected? Can such a strict diet still be considered a medical topic? Compared to the people described in the original post, these people don’t necessarily have problems, except for the argument that their diet choices are extreme, to say the least. I think that there is a global cultural trend that somewhat influences these people’s minds and the eating choices they make. This is the link to the health food junkies video. I think you will find it to be really interesting.


    “Health Food Junkies 1,” YouTube, uploaded February 6, 2008,

  4. mackin24 says:

    This blog I recently follows a woman who suffers from orthorexia, like those in the True-Life episode. She despises carbs, simple sugars and fats specifically. This woman explains how she literally had a fear of eating certain foods such as white bread, and dairy products. She describes each day as a challenge to eat less and less calories than the last, and workout more than the day before. Like Andrew in True Life, this woman has a great fear of all the dangerous ingredients in these unhealthy foods. Like Spring in True Life, this woman also takes time to plan her meals the next day. The people in the True Life episode had many friends and family concerned with their health, although they were not. Like those characters, this woman had a friend email her expressing concern with her health and lifestyle. The woman in this blog is seeking help from a nutritionist and seeking support to better her diet. She is also currently seeking the help of a psychiatrist and learning there is more to life than the numbers on the scale. What all these individuals have in common is that the second they give up on this strict dieting lifestyle they feel they have lost all control. Calories are something that these people feel that can control in our chaotic world, but they take it to extreme levels. Although a few of the characters in this episode may not be completely healed they are taking the steps to control their fear of unhealthy foods and extreme control issues.

  5. Molly DeMarr says:

    Jacqueline, I found your episode choice very interesting. After reading your post and watching another film of news coverage on the disease on YouTube, it is apparent to me that our culture plays a huge role in this disease. From the sounds of it, it seems as though this disorder has a lot of things in common with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), so I’m curious if biomedicine has them categorized as such. I find it beneficial that the True Life episode followed both females and a male, as society generally stereotypes females as the only individuals with eating disorders. Like Lauren from the True Life episode, Nuchamon also had previously suffered from anorexia nervosa. I feel that the individuals turn to Orthorexia as it seems to “sound” as a healthier approach. To me, I see it as the OCD of dieting. In the American culture, we focus a lot on appearance. Our culture focuses pressures females to be skinny and males to be trim and muscular, resulting in individuals resorting to different eating disorders. Family can also play a huge role. A family full of athletes may make it incredibly hard for a heavyweight person to feel comfortable in their own skin. Along with culture and family, I think socio-economic status also may play a role in someone resorting to eating disorders. Things like food deserts and a family with unhealthy eating patterns could make it incredibly hard to stick to a healthy diet, therefore once more leaving someone resorting to a disorder like Orthorexia.

    “Orthorexia: Extreme Eating Disorder,” last modified July 6, 2010,

  6. Moe Aqel says:

    Could not agree with you more Jacqueline. I see that the way our society today is definitely going that way and it is very important in someone’s life to maintain that certain look in our culture. It is becoming an unhealthy habit. It is good that one will like to keep tract and maintain a healthy habit, but when you start having it overtaking your life that is where the problem occurs. The video I have linked on here, explains how this young girl, Laura, became too obsessed with what, how and when she ate. It affected her social life and could not go out with her friends and would rather stay at home to avoid consuming unnecessary calories. Then she would need to go to the gym to walk off the calorie intake from the dinner earlier. Its not healthy at the point, its good to eat and maintain a good exercise habit, but when it is to the point that you need to workout to burn the food you ate, that leads to other health issues such as anorexia and other issues, from not consuming the necessary vitamins your body needs on a daily basis. Instead of actually helping yourself, your ruining yourself and it takes a toll on your body and end up worsening the condition. Getting the proper help when needed is very critical to do so early as possible, other wise it will be a lot harder to help oneself.

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