If you follow “healthy” food trends, then you’re likely familiar with the Food Babe, Vani Hari. Maybe you’ve read her book, seen her on TV, or visited her blog. The Food Babe is famous for being brave enough to take on the big bad food companies, calling them out for their egregious use of chemicals, GMO’s, additives, and the like. Sounds like a valid and purposeful mission, right?
Hari launches attacks on every and all types of foods, and if they don’t meet her criteria, they’re added to her ever growing list of foods to never eat. Hari routinely uses pseudoscience to support her argument and convince her viewers to follow in her footstep and eliminate the food from their diet, too. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you’d likely think Hari’s mission could be considered a kind of public service.
Sadly, though, Hari demonstrates a pretty severe case of Orthorexia Nervosa. Although not currently recognized as a diagnosable disorder in the DSM-V, Orthorexia is characterized by an extreme preoccupation with categorizing foods based on their perceived health status. The term plainly means a fixation on righteous eating.
Hari’s demonstration of an extreme fixation on food safety and health-worthiness are sharply above the anticipated average, which is a solid marker for something more serious than just a hobby or an interest. What’s even more indicative of a true disorder is the manipulation through any means available (pseudoscience, shaming, and glorifying) to scare and then empower not only herself but also her followers. So while the majority of the science, food, and nutrition world is shaming her for her beliefs and actions, I’m encouraging her to seek help for an interest that’s seemed to have spiraled out of control.
This is where I see the silver lining in all of the annoying, irritating, frustrating, and downright wrong things Hari’s done – her actions could very well bring Orthorexia to the front of the eating disorder conversation, shining light on an issue I routinely see in my practice, helping those who are silently suffering seek help.