No, Veganism Is Not Orthorexia

I’m seeing this a lot lately. This being folks turning to veganism as a way to hide or legitimize an eating disorder. Now, this might not actually be the case, but it has me worried enough that I want to talk about it. As I’ve said a gobzillion times before, the definition of veganism is getting muddied by people who don’t give a shit about what veganism is actually all about.

This matters to me and I’ll keep ranting on about it like a lost man in the wilderness, yelling at all who might hear. But let’s get down to the real issue here which for today is orthorexia nervosa. It is not a recognized eating disorder at this point, but I’m sure it’ll become one in time.

What is orthorexia? It is an unhealthy excessive or extreme preoccupation with eating only ‘perceived’ healthy foods and avoiding, at great lengths, ‘perceived’ unhealthy foods. You can see how veganism gets co-opted into this I’m sure. Orthorexia comes from the Greek words ‘ortho-‘ which means ‘right’ and ‘orexis’ which means appetite. So basically, orthorexia is right appetite or more specifically nowadays ‘right diet’. It’s a relatively recently noticed issue that was coined by Steve Bratman MD.

Unlike, anorexia and bullimia which have to do with the amount or quantity of food eaten, orthorexia rather is focused on the ‘rightness’ or ‘purety’ of the food eaten.

Here’s an example of one woman1 who was once ‘vegan’ but was really just using a strict vegetarian diet as a coverup for orthorexia2. And whats with bloggers using the internet as personal confessional… I digress, that’s a post for another blog at another time.

In any event, I took a look at the above mentioned website. The woman was never vegan, she toyed with a plant based ‘vegan’ diet, which is really just a plant based diet which should never have had the word ‘vegan’ attached to it.

Additionally, she mentions that her plant based ‘vegan’ diet triggered her orthorexia. That’s just bullshit, I reckon it was likely her mental illness, that triggered it and had her trying a restrictive diet. In any event, this is not about a specific person and their mental health issues. It’s about veganism being victimized unfairly.

But that was just one quick example I came up with. Incidentally, from the research I did, it seems that more men than women seem to be affected by orthorexia, which seems strange to me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is women generally receive more societal pressure to look a certain way. But wtf do I know 😉

Anyway, the MD who came up with this mental illness has a handy 2 question self diagnostic test to see if you too are orthorexic. Here are the 2 questions:

1) Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?3 Hells yeah.

Virtue for those who might not know has to do with holding high morals, and I’d argue that not willing to have or to kill animals for pleasure is a virtue. So I’m already f*cked, but maybe I’ll get off on the other question which is:

2) Does your diet socially isolate you?3 Winner, winner, Tofurky dinner.

Whose vegan diet doesn’t affect them socially, at least on occasion. Seems like you can diagnose anyone with a mental illness nowadays. Again, that’s another post for a different blog on another day.

But, and this is what I’m really trying to get at. Veganism is not just a dietary approach, which is where the confusion lies. Veganism is a lifestyle choice that excludes the use of animal products because it is predicated on the ethical foundation of trying to cause as little suffering to sentient beings as possible. Diet is included, obviously, but so are other lifestyle choices like entertainment, clothing and personal grooming products.

So please, if you think you might be orthorexic then get the help you need. Veganism is not your savior and furthermore you’re just not vegan in any event. The best I can suggest is that you’re following a strict vegetarian diet.

You might be wondering why I’m ranting about this again? Yeah, I feel bad for you son, but I got 99 problems and that ain’t one of them.

Veganism is having a lot of difficulty getting traction and the last thing we need is to have it watered down into some soylent mix of solely dietary pablum. Veganism is fighting to try and liberate animal agriculture and abuse. It’s a long war and we’re barely winning any battles on the forefront, what with most folks working towards welfare rather than abolitionism.

And another thing. If we continue to allow veganism to become associated with orthorexia, then we’re in Dante’s ninth circle of hell, which incidentally is treachery, where it’ll be a cold day when we get to resurrect the cause and climb out of the inferno we’ve been cast into, like the mental demons of orthorexics.

Lastly, everybody loves a loser, and most of the vegans dropping out of the cause like flies are these folks who ain’t really ‘vegan’. The sooner we straighten this out the better. Real vegans aren’t likely to bale at the first sign of dietary trouble.


1 – http://www.fastcompany.com/3041330/body-week/the-newest-eating-disorder-to-maybe-enter-dsm-orthorexia
2 – http://www.theblondevegan.com/
3 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthorexia_nervosa#Diagnostic_criteria