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“Coined by Colorado physician Steven Bratman, M.D., in 1997, orthorexia (Greek for “correct appetite”) nervosa (Latin for “nervous”) is an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Unlike most other eating disorders, it focuses on the quality of food rather than the quantity. Often it starts innocently with the desire to eat “clean,” a ubiquitous term to describe the act of mindfully ingesting only whole foods in their most natural state. But it progressively hardens into a rigid eating style that can crowd out other activities and relationships.
As of now, orthorexia is not formally recognized in the *Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders *(DSM), the handbook used by doctors, so it’s difficult to get precise numbers of those affected. But as clean eating becomes an aspirational, highly Instagrammable, and celebrity-endorsed lifestyle, this will likely change, suggests Paula Quatromoni, D.Sc., an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Boston University, and one of the country’s leading experts on sports nutrition and eating disorders. “It’s probably just a matter of time,” she says. “This is affecting a huge segment of the population.”