Name: Katelyn ...
From: Birmingham , Alabama
School: Auburn University
Orthorexia: The Addiction that Comes as an Angel of Light
When one hears the word “addiction”, what first comes to mind for most people are drugs and alcohol. These are, according to the American Addictions Center, forms of substance addiction. However, just as common as drug and alcohol abuse is another kind of addiction: behavioral addictions. Behavioral addictions are especially insidious because unlike substance addictions, there is no “thing” the person is addicted to. The immaterial nature of this addiction adds a layer of complexity to the issue. The addict is enslaved to a behavior, a lifestyle, a mode of being- instead of a bottle of pills on the counter.
One often overlooked type of behavioral addiction is Orthorexia. Othorexia is an eating disorder in which a person becomes so fixated on “healthy eating” that it actually destroys their physical and mental health (NationalEatingDisorders.com).
Some may think that a disciplined “healthy” lifestyle could only be a good thing. However, the consequences of this addiction run deep- breaking hearts and even taking young lives.
One woman, Kristie Rutzel, shared how her fight with orthorexia nearly cost her her life. She said that she frequently put herself on a new diet or eating plan. Her life revolved around counting calories, restricting herself, and agonizing over what she could and could not eat. Restaurant-going became a thing of the past; family festivities became a source of great fear. Soon she had lost half of her body weight- weighing only a glaring 60 pounds- and her family was told to prepare for her funeral.
This is the reality for many people with Orthorexia. It is an addiction to food- not in the way we have been trained to think about it (i.e., Gluttony)- but in the sense of being addicted to the feeling of control over your food. Thankfully, through treatment and support from her family and friends, Kristi overcame her addiction. She had to challenge herself to break her own old food rules, and it quite literally saved her life (abcnews.com).
Why is this addiction becoming more prevalent? I think the culprit is too much time spent on social media, as well as engaging in what experts refer to as “fat talk”. Social media presents many unrealistic, or even outright unhealthy, approaches to health and fitness. Many people are bombarded with these images and ideals, and it leads to rumination, poor self-esteem, and obsessive tendencies (BBC.com). Likewise, what experts refer to as “fat talk” also contributes to this addiction. The National Communication Association says that “fat talk” “refers to the ritualistic conversations about their own and others’ bodies”. These are the conversions we hear every day when some laments their body, or talks about the new juice cleanse they just started. These conversations have a very negative affect on our brains and our perception of food and our own bodies.
One question remains to be answered: “What must be done?” First thing is first: we must be conscious of our social media intake. Unfollow those who lead you to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Choose not to engage in those kinds of thoughts. Likewise, the same must be done in our real-life conversations. Be aware of the words you say- both for your own sake and the sake of those around you. Understand that at the end of the day, no good thing can come out of “fat talk”.
Lastly, we must spread awareness. As you can see, the most dangerous part of this addiction is that it comes under the guise of “good”. Who doesn’t want to be healthy? But the very thing that promises us a life of joy is the same thing that holds un in chains. We must learn to have discerning eyes to tell what is actually healthy, what is not, and what is healthy but simply going too far.
Orthorexia is an eating disorder that must be recognized as the harmful addiction it truly is. It is an addiction that comes as an angel of light- but it is also an addiction that can be fought and won over.
Arroyo, Analisa. “‘I’m so Fat!”: The Negative Outcomes of Fat Talk.” National Communication Association, 21 Mar. 2017,
Clarke, Suzan. “Obsession with ‘Pure’ Food Leads to Eating Disorder.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 23 Mar. 2010, 5:55 pm,
Edited by Editorial StaffLast Updated: February 3, 2020. “What Is Process Addiction & Types of Addictive Behaviors?” American Addiction Centers, 3 Feb. 2020, americanaddictioncenters.org/behavioral-addictions.
Oakes, Kelly. “The Complicated Truth about Social Media and Body Image.” BBC Future, BBC, 12 Mar. 2019, www.bbc.com/future/article/20190311-how-social-media-affects-body-image.
“Orthorexia.” National Eating Disorders Association, 13 Dec. 2019, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/other/orthorexia.