Jordan Younger

Image: Jordan Younger | Livestrong

As many brands and grocery markets move toward providing natural foods and organic options, consumers have more ways to be healthy. But this focus on health comes with a recently-identified problem: orthorexia, an eating disorder that focuses so much on eating “clean” that it may actually damage a person.

Eating well and staying active are, as everyone knows, important aspects of happy living. But when they’re taken too far, they cause a lot of problems, physically and mentally. The term “orthorexia” was first coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1996 not to categorize a new mental disorder, but to give his patients the language to talk about their suffering. Though orthorexia is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis, many people identify with its symptoms and have learned about better eating through their struggle.

People who suffer from orthorexia are too fixated on eating healthy. Sufferers become consumed by what and how much they eat, place themselves under strict and often damaging dietary restrictions, and obsess about what they’re putting in their bodies. The unhealthy desire to eat extremely healthy can distract sufferers from any other interests they may have and actually damage their bodies.

Jordan Younger, creator of the Balanced Blonde blog, has been open about her own struggle with the eating disorder. She says that the road to recovery has been fulfilling, if long and fraught. In a blog post about her issues, she admits to having been fully consumed by a vegan lifestyle that did not nourish her, though it nourished her anxieties about eating to the point that she was unable to sleep and no longer got her period.

Many people are quick to dash the idea of orthorexia as a “first-world” problem, or as a “cry for attention,” as people so often like to say of problems they’ve never experienced. Younger put a video up on her blog to discuss the problems and signs of orthorexia and to address the concerns of doubters. But even if orthorexia exists primarily in developed countries, that does not invalidate the suffering and loneliness the disorder brings.

The video aims to speak to people who are struggling with the disorder but might not know how to talk about it and to encourage sufferers to consider getting help. Most of all, Younger wants to “remind people who are suffering that they are not alone.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with orthorexia or other eating disorders, talk to a loved one or find someone who can help you.