I Have Orthorexia

For 22 year-old model and actress, Spring, Orthorexia, or a severely limited diet, is her way of staying slim for the cameras. She reports how expensive it is for her to eat the way she does, and how hard maintaining her diet is around her husband, daughter, and extended family. Her narrative represents a chaos narrative (1). For her, no end goal exists where she will stop eating only raw food. She suffers socially because she cannot go to parties since she doesn’t like her diet being questioned by friends and family. Andrew’s narrative represents a quest. He eats a vegan diet to prevent cancer later in his life. “This hopefully will have a healthy-life payoff, but that’s something we’ll see down the line” (2). Both of them use their narrative as a way to explain how they feel to their families. At multiple times during the episode they say things like, “I just wish they knew how I feel.” The narrative potentially offers a way to show them.

On one hand, popular food culture encourages the consumption of highly processed, unhealthy foods. On the otherhand, popular social media has a large focus on appearance that may encourage unhealthy eating patterns. Although this isn’t directly mentioned in the episode, it might play into their psyches subconsciously. Although the cultural stigma towards eating disorders is negative, culture stresses the importance of giving the person affected psychiatric attention. Therapists that specialize in eating disorders can help people suffering from orthorexia.

In order to assume the role of orthorexia, the affected must maintain to a very strict diet, in private and in public. This is recounted as emotionally demanding by the affected kids in the video. Narratives are useful to the people that are trying to help the person that is suffering from illness because they can offer a poignant perspective. This may help them understand the illness in a way that they can help the ill.

(1) Department of Anthropology. “Medical Anthropology Illness Narraives.” Michigan State University. PowerPoint. Viewed July 20, 2014.

(2) True Life. “I Have Orthorexia.” MTV. Posted April 19, 2012. Viewed July 23, 2014. <http://www.mtv.com/shows/truelife/true-life-i-have-orthorexia/1683486/playlist/#id=1683486>.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Haley Macko says:

    I found an interesting blog about a young college student named Emily with Orthorexia nervosa. Her obsession with avoiding unhealthy foods arose as a result of her quest to be healthy, rather than the demands required by a career, as it was for Spring, or as a preventative measure to developing health complications, as it was for Andrew. Emily began restricting her food choices around the same time she was feeling depressed and isolated whereas Spring became lonely and unhappy after she started consuming only raw foods. For Emily it was family and social factors that led to her spiraling downwards and eliminating all the foods that nutritionists labeled as posing a danger to us; things like having problems with her roommates, feeling cut off from her friends, being rejected by a boy and losing a family member. She writes how she was unable to control those things but she could control how many calories she ate and miles she ran. Every waking moment she found herself fixating on how to consume less foods and exercise more productively. But for Spring it was her induction into motherhood that triggered her change in eating habits, wanting only the best nutrition for her daughter. However, social medias emphasis on attractiveness and thinness was a significant influence for Spring to continue this behavior. Both Emily and Spring suffered socially because they didn’t want to put themselves in the predicament of being around unhealthy food and of having to deflect questions about their diets. The original post doesn’t elaborate on how the eating behaviors of both Spring and Andrew may have changed towards the end of the episode, but Emily with the support and influence of her friend was able to seek help from both a nutritionist and psychologist. The awareness of eating disorders in our society empowered her friend to recognize Emily’s dietary habits as a possible eating disorder and to get her help. And because our culture stresses the importance of those suffering from eating disorders to receive counseling Emily was able to little by little relinquish her control and add more foods to her diet. Emily is now healthier and happier than when she was on a controlled diet.

    Glover, Emily. “It Happened To Me: I’m Orthorexic.” XoJane. 14 May 2012.

  2. Colleen Drabek says:

    The experience with Orthorexia that the young lady had in the YouTube video I watched seemed to be a little different that the experiences that the people had in True Life. The girl on YouTube had actually been an anorexic for a long time and was very proactive about recovering from anorexia. She then slipped into orthorexia. She wanted to start eating more in order to gain weight but became obsessed with what she was eating. She would only eat food with one ingredient. It got to the point where she wouldn’t even buy fruits/veggies as the supermarket because she feared that they had been sprayed with pesticides.
    Compared with the people in True Life, the girl in the YouTube video saw orthorexia as a way to recover from anorexia. This is contrary to the people in True Life who saw it as a way to stay thin and cancer free. I think culture and gender are huge factors for girls when it comes to orthorexia. Both the girl in True Life who was trying to stay thing, and the girl in the YouTube video who originally had anorexia both were trying to adapt to the cultural image of beauty. The man in True Life was more concerned about not getting cancer. This could be related to family because his family had been affected by cancer and he wanted to do everything possible to stay healthy.
    When it comes to socio-economic status, having orthorexia is not cheap. I’ve found out first hand how expensive it is to be vegan! Therefore, it seemed that the people in True Life and the girl in the YouTube video I watched were all well off when it comes to socio-economic status.

    “Orthorexia,” YouTube video, 8:44, posted by “AnorexiaRecovery,” July, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNfgsyDcCHw

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