Orthorexia nervosa, the ‘health food eating disorder’, gets its name from the Greek word ortho, meaning straight, proper or correct.
This exaggerated focus on food can be seen today in some people who follow lifestyle movements such as ‘raw’, ‘clean’ and ‘paleo’.
American doctor Steven Bratman coined the term ‘orthorexia nervosa’ in 1997 some time after his experience in a commune in upstate New York.
It was there he developed an unhealthy obsession with eating ‘proper’ food.
‘All I could think about was food,’ he said. ‘But even when I became aware that my scrabbling in the dirt after raw vegetables and wild plants had become an obsession, I found it terribly difficult to free myself.
‘I had been seduced by righteous eating.’
Bratman’s description draws parallels with many modern dietary fads that promise superior health by restricting whole food groups without a medical reason or even a valid scientific explanation.
Raw food followers might meet regularly to ‘align their bodies, minds and souls’ by feasting on ‘cleansing and immune-boosting’ raw foods.