Honors Blog #3 (Eating Disorders)

Joanna Leski, Reporter





Mayra Hornbacher spends the first half of her book, Wasted, reflecting on her childhood to show that she was actually just like her peers. She was a part of a white middle class family, she had a few friends, she did good in school. She was like an average nine year old besides that she had parents with orthorexia eating habits.

While other kids sat by their TVs with their hands deep in some package of a sugar, calorie, and fat rich snack all young Hornbacher could find in her kitchen cabinets was healthy alternatives to snacks and meals. Whole wheat cheerios, green beans, and whole grain pasta were examples of food that Hornbacher’s parents approved of. These habits rubbed off on Hornbacher and even if she was sleeping at a friends house she would choose to not consume any food that wasn’t “healthy”.

Wasted was published long before orthorexia was classified as an eating disorder. Someone with orthorexia doesn’t obsess over calories like an anorexic would, instead they obsess over food labels. As described in this article about orthorexia in Mercury News, “Eating disorder experts say there is nothing wrong with wanting to eat nutritiously or to eliminate certain foods. But healthy eating becomes harmful when people’s thinking or behavior becomes so “extremely rigid” they jeopardize their physical and mental health and relationships with other people.”

The article I found follows the story of Johnny Righini. After battling anorexia and bulimia, Righini turned to a vegan and raw foods diet to stay healthy but to keep eating as well. He rejected food if it was too “impure”, found it impossible to eat fast food, eat at restaurants, or even eat at people’s houses. If he was eating something unhealthy that his mind didn’t approve of, he would physically start shaking and get a panic attack.

The article also looks into when the term orthorexia originates from. In 1997, a book named “Health Food Junkies” recounted Steve Bratman’s “health food addiction” which he called orthorexia using the Greek word “ortho” meaning “straight, correct or true” and “rexia” referring to appetite. Bratman wrote that self-denial and pure choices made him feel clear headed, strong, and self-righteous. He became obsessed with obtaining meals free of fat, meat, and artificial chemicals. He was lonely and obsessed and he could not even carry on normal conversations without being hindered by the thoughts of healthy foods.

This makes question whether Hornbacher knew began as an orthorexic. She published her book in 1997, therefore she had already battled her disorder before orthorexia was actually defined. Mercury News’s article also cites research showing that 75 percent of people with eating disorders have an underlying anxiety disorder, and 75 percent of those show features of obsessive-compulsive disorder, whose sufferers sometimes are known for their concerns about hygiene and germs.

Some experts claim that orthorexia marks a patient’s first time with an eating disorder.”More often, they have a health issue, and they decide they want to ‘eat healthy,’ ” director of the Eating Recovery Center in Sacramento Lombardi said. “The challenge is that it spirals out of control.” This article connects back to my novel as the symptoms described here are the symptoms Hornbacher had before she became bulimic. I find it interesting that Hornbacher published her book before the term orthorexia was actually coined, but she fit all the symptoms perfectly and this disorder affected her. I am left wondering if Hornbacher knows that she was orthorexic or if she just attributes those healthy food choices to something else and doesn’t classify them as a start of her disorders.