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Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating Hardcover – January 2, 2001

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From the Inside Flap

The first book to identify the eating disorder orthorexia nervosa–an obsession with eating healthfully–and offer expert advice on how to treat it.

As Americans become better informed about health, more and more people have turned to diet as a way to lose weight and keep themselves in peak condition. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa–disorders in which the sufferer focuses on the quantity of food eaten–have been highly documented over the past decade. But as Dr. Steven Bratman asserts in this breakthrough book, for many people, eating "correctly" has become an equally harmful obsession, one that causes them to adopt progressively more rigid diets that not only eliminate crucial nutrients and food groups, but ultimately cost them their overall health, personal relationships, and emotional well-being.

Health Food Junkies is the first book to identify this new eating disorder, orthorexia nervosa, and to offer detailed, practical advice on how to cope with and overcome it. Orthorexia nervosa occurs when the victim becomes obsessed, not with the quantity of food eaten, but the quality of the food. What starts as a devotion to healthy eating can evolve into a pattern of incredibly strict diets; victims become so focused on eating a "pure" diet (usually raw vegetables and grains) that the planning and preparation of food come to play the dominant role in their lives.

Health Food Junkies provides an expert analysis of some of today's most popular diets–from The Zone to macrobiotics, raw-foodism to food allergy elimination–and shows not only how they can lead to orthorexia, but how they are often built on faulty logic rather than sound medical advice. Offering expert insight gleaned from his work with orthorexia patients, Dr. Bratman outlines the symptoms of orthorexia, describes its progression, and shows readers how to diagnose the condition. Finally, Dr. Bratman offers practical suggestions for intervention and treatment, giving readers the tools they need to conquer this painful disorder, rediscover the joys of eating, and reclaim their lives.

About the Author

Dr. Steven Bratman suffered from orthorexia nervosa himself, and, in the process of overcoming it, became the first physician to diagnose the problem. He is currently the medical director for Prima Health, a book publisher, and is the author of The Alternative Medicine Sourcebook. He lives in Colorado.

David Knight is a writer. He lives in Colorado.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; 1 edition (January 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767906306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767906302
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #780,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
People can become obsessed with almost anything, why not healthy eating? Dr. Steven Bratman makes an argument for a new type of psychological disorder based on his own problems and those of his patients in this regard. The book contains a quiz to help you identify if you or someone you know has this issue, along with helpful suggestions for taking it easier in your food habits without abandoning good health practices. The author also outlines the usual causes of the disorder, in order to help those who have it recognize how they might best change.
"Obsession with healthy diet is an illusion, an eating disorder." I didn't take that statement too seriously, until I got to Dr. Bratman's vivid description of the time he left a great conversation at a party to go savor an avocado he had been ripening and day dreaming about. Then I remembered that I have known people who spent 8-10 hours a day shopping for, preparing, and eating very special diets. Aha!
The disorder is a problem when it causes someone to eat a too restrictive diet. The book considers the most popular ones, and generally advises that it is all right to follow it if you just loosen up.
More serious, the food focus can cut off contact with others. They don't "smell" right because they don't eat what you do. Or they eat offensive foods that you cannot stand to be around. Increasingly, you spend time by yourself instead of with other people. This is often a strategy for dealing with a fear of being with other people.
The most common psychological causes are a desire to have total healthy safety, compulsion for complete control, wanting to conform to the "thinness" social ethic, searching for spirituality through food, food puritanism, and using food to create an identity.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I recently had a huge fight with a macrobiotic friend over the "deadly" importance of such alien foods as nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and a few others), dairy products and fresh fruit.
Now, I've been a macrobiotic myself for years and I was not arguing for MacDonalds, just saying that to complement a mostly-vegetarian diet with small amounts of good quality "forbidden" foods is not a "sin".
I was so shocked by the out-of-proportion reaction of this apparently very open friend that I begun questioning my beliefs. And my conclusion was the same as Dr. Bratman: friends, it's all very well to eat healthy food but let's get real, food is food and if we were not so spoiled for choice we would eat whatever was available as our ancestors always did. I'm deeply appreciative of the positive way macrobiotic guidelines have helped me improve my diet but macrobiotic people (me included untill this friend's overzeal shocked me out of it) do tend to become fanatic and semi-religious about food.
Does it seem reasonable to argue that while dairy food is "poisenous" (no matter that being used by humans for millenia) strange (and delicious, but that's not the point) food from Japan is vital for your well-being? Now, does this seem to you to have something to do with Macrobiotics being invented by a Japanese and that dairy food was unknown in Japan before being introduced by us, "barbarians"?
Same applies to fresh fruit: I like fresh fruit and no only do I eat it daily as I eat it raw, the way nature provides us with it. Does this sound a bad habit to you? It would if you were macrobiotic because fresh fruit is too "Yin" in the macrobiotic view and thus creates an inbalance in anyone who eats it.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Julie G. on June 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When author Steven Bratman, M.D., first used the term "orthorexia nervosa" in
a magazine article, he got some confused responses. " 'I would like to use
the orthorexia you describe to cure my knee pain,' one caller said. 'I've
already cut out all deadly-nightshade vegetables, grains, sugar, caffeine,
meat, and nuts. Do you think I should go on a water fast one week each
month?' "

But as most of us can guess from its similarity to anorexia, orthorexia is not
an idealistic dietery theory but rather describes a problem: unhealthy
obsession with healthy diet. "To be perfectly honest, I intended the term
somewhat tongue in cheek, as a kind of sassy way to surprise clients who were
proud of their obsession and make them think twice about it," the author

Dr. Bratman is a conventionally trained M.D. and an alternative medicine
practitioner who himself spent many years adhering to idealistic, healing
diets such as macrobiotics (a complex diet that involves balancing yin and
yang, but you cook the food) and raw foods theory (never eat cooked foods).
Other sections deal with food allergies, the zone diet, candida, supplements,
tablets and magic substances (super blue-green algae, barley magma, sheep
thyroid, pregnenolone, ciwujia, spirulina, kombucha tea, and royal jelly among
many others). He maintains respect for many of these diets. He also says,
"Food allergy treatment can be a powerful healing approach that at times
appears to reduce symptoms dramatically in practically any illness." He does
not believe alternative medicine is a joke, and has success stories to tell
from his practice.
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