Orthorexia VS. Bright Line Eating

A new mental disorder called orthorexia nervosa has recently been making headlines. At first glance, it might seem similar to some of the behaviors we practice in Bright Line Eating™, but let’s take a closer look.


  1. Cecilia

    Listening to what you imagine a person with orthorexia feeling and thinking in a given situation, I was shocked and, frankly, insulted. Have you ever spoken to an orthorexic person?

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  2. ST

    Check out any of the writing or the interview by the man who coined the term, Dr David Bratman. He’s a great guy. Orthorexia describes when a person holds their self-worth in accordance with how strictly they adhere to their chosen diet, and they believe the diet will purify what they hate about themselves. It’s an internal mental drama of self-absorption and self-redemption. Orthorexia can land a person in the hospital because they are trying to “perfect” themselves by eliminating more and more foods until they start to starve.

    Good interview with him here: http://findingourhunger.com/2015/06/24/unclean/

    PS Organic produce has pesticides on it, too. It has organic pesticides, some of which are more dangerous.

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  3. Aletha

    Thank you, Susan. ALthough I cannot justify spending the money to do BrightLine eating program, I pick up so much wisdom from your weekly vlog.
    As of recently, I have actually gained some weight (around 7-8 pounds, because I have stopped the obsessive restrictive patterns of dieting. I am working to get away from that Orthorexic approach to eating and just enjoy life and be fulfilled in other ways. My hope is to get out of the bingeing pattern I found myself in and calm my food patterns down by just focusing on the right things to eat. Instead of eating “low carb”, “high protein”, “paleo”, or other religious like food plans, I am focusing on listening to my body, eating three squares, learning from my mistakes, not counting calories, and filling up on whole foods from nature. For right now, my body is not perfect, as I am not stressing out about what 6, 8, 12, or 15 minute work out I’m going to squeeze into my already busy stressful day, and I know I need to lose about 10 pounds, but I’m focusing more on de-stressing my approach to food, so I’m okay for now in my imperfection.
    If I can get through a stressful day at work without pigging out, I rejoice! And I pat myself on the back for getting away from dysfunctional eating binges, and not sneaking unhealthy choices into my eating plan.
    So thank you for addressing this Orthorexia dx, and putting BrightLine eating into perspective!

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  4. K3Cottage

    Great question! As you know, people with anorexia have a body image distortion in which they think they are fat, no matter how much weight they have lost. People with orthorexia tend to look on their body as impure, no matter how strictly they are trying to eat foods they conceive of as pure. Just as a person with anorexia always feels a need to lose more weight, a person with orthorexia always feels a need to make their body more pure.

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  5. Riadh Ghanma

    Thank you for the great information, that was really an eye opening vlog, each time I watch you, I feel like I attended a valuable class.

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  6. Michelle

    Hi Susan, congratulations on your response to this question! If you take the 3 D’s that you mention and apply them to most people who are overweight and struggling their whole life, I would rather “diagnose” them with orthorexia. For example, I know at least of 3 women who: go on drinking/eating binges and try to hide it (deviant), their health has suffered due to their being overweight (back problems causing difficulty walking and doing the hobbies they love) as well as sleep problems which led to taking sleeping pills which led to a host of other problems (dysfunction). And lastly distress. These women are agonising everyday over their weight and pay crazy amounts of money to programs in the hope of solving their problem. In addition to the agonising, their self confidence is greatly impaired due to this weight problem and impacts on all their relationships.

    Just my opinion…

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  7. Ginny

    Great job explaining this. It was important not to sweep this concern under the rug and to acknowledge that some people might need help if their obsession with how and what they eat becomes so extreme that it interferes with daily functioning and causes distress. Also helpful for those of us following Bright Line Eating to be able to respond effectively to concerns from family and friends that we’re “taking it too far.” I had one friend who really works to be healthy say that when I said we don’t eat sugar. Since she has diabetes, I thought it was a shame that she took it to that conclusion.

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  8. Janell

    Fascial Counterstrain could help. Check out the Jones Institute -find a practitioner.

    The sugar, wheat, dairy, soy and corn, msg, artificial flavors, pesticides actually do affect the fascial stretch reflex, in some people more than others. This technique helps people manage the fascial connection. It is important to address the fascia which affects all systems in the body: endocrine, visceral, musculoskeletal, venous-lymphatic, nervous, and arterial systems. Find a trained practitioner & learn more by going to the website.

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  9. Melissa Kerby

    I so love you.

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  10. Maddi

    I am not doing BLE but follow everything closely and am so grateful for what it has done for our daughter. She has lost 55 lbs and we have our daughter back, no longer dysfunctional and distressed after 14 years of sugar addiction. I cannot tell you how grateful I am especially since as a family we have eaten healthily for 35 years and were considered to be extremely deviant back in 1979! We did it for the kids as they were both on top level medication for asthma until we found a holistic medical practitioner and threw the medication out the same day. Forever! Our daughter had to find out for herself that the lines we had raised her with were the same bright ones she discovered at BLE. Her life is bright again and so are ours. Thank you thank you thank you SPT xox

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  11. Joey

    Great great talk. Well done! I could not agree more. if anything the way mainstream society is eating is deviant because it’s killing them!

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  12. Marian

    Thank you Susan
    Always put in an easy way to give understanding.

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  13. Tricia

    I feel like Bright Line Eating saved me from an eating disorder! Now I’m no longer consumed with worry and thoughts of food. Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

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  14. Nancy

    I just joined the Boot Camp and have only followed BLE for four days. Already I am less dysfuntional and less distressed than before. Thank you SPT and the BLE program!

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  15. Jayne

    So much suffering around food and eating for me
    ! At least BLE is not daily meetings, all the 12 step drama of meetings.
    But the effort of resisting temptations and being so different from all the others around me is a daily dysfunction or frustration. I did not find freedom but take that as my lack, and not that it will not work for others.

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  16. lidia

    thank you! I am new in this comunity,can anybody explain what is bright line eating about ? Thank you

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    1. MARIA

      Lidia, Bright Line Eating, it’s a program to release or gain weight, based in 12 step programs ( for addictions), that gives you a very healthy and nutritive Food Plan to follow, that can be modified specially for you, when needed. 4 main rules to follow and psicological and comunity support, all the time. The purpose of the creator Susan Peirce Thompson, is to help as many people as she can to discover health, happiness and freedom around food in a slender body! A bootcamp where you follow this plan just started! Look for it!

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  17. Margaret

    For me, striving to eat organically is not just about me. It’s a way of supporting and encouraging organic food produces, and doing my bit to preserve biological diversity, protect water sources, and reduce our overall pollution load for the whole community, but especially farm workers. The price tag can be steep, but it is more important to me to support environmental sustainability by keeping organic producers in business, than in giving my money to charities which advocate for health & safety. However, there are times and places where it’s not an option.

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    1. Michelle B

      I agree it’s kind of a made-up illness. Somebody could have an obsessive disorder that happens to include a focus on food. That person is probably obsessing about non-food things too.

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      1. Michelle B

        I prefer not to support the pesticide industry and the farming enterprises that use pesticides.

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  18. Davina

    junkorexia nervosa?

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    1. Shari

      That’s it! Perfect label. 🙂

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  19. Lynn_M

    I think the people that deserve a disorder label are those that continue to eat unhealthily, despite evidence that many elements of SAD diets contribute to illness. It’s a form of self-harm. How about a label that is opposite in meaning to orthorexia nervosa, one that means an obsession with food that is not healthy?

    Are there any wordsmiths out there who can craft such a label?

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  20. Mary Montanye

    I have to admit that I was clearly on the path to deviant, dysfunctional, and distressed eating before I joined Bright Line Eating. I spent HUGE amounts of time reading all the latest information, some of it research based and some of it not. I panicked over what I and others were putting into our mouths, or could be. I was not happy nor free, and far from thin. I was able to slowly give up 99% of this behavior when joining BLE and making the decision to have my bright lines be as Susan lays them out, and dropping most of the other bright lines I’d set for myself. I still will choose organic over conventional. I don’t eat fish or meat so that’s not a concern, but the reason I don’t eat meat is now for ethical reasons, not merely for health reasons. I now understand that people can be perfectly healthy eating moderate amounts of meat and dairy.

    I could probably have been diagnosed with orthorexia before BLE. But no longer. I might be deviant, but I certainly am not dysfunctional or distressed! And if this is deviant, it is a deviance I happily embrace!

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  21. Mark

    Orthorexia Nervosa: The insane mainstream trying to “diagnose” the sane.

    Or – the lie trying to discredit the Truth.

    Either way, I do not give it any energy whatsoever.

    But thank you Susan for giving us a rational explanation and/or defense, in language that the mainstream can understand, to bring to those who use that “disorder” against those of us who desire to eat healthily and heal ourselves.

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  22. Aline

    All of the vlogs are truly enlightening! And I felt that this vlog was brilliant! Absolutely can’t wait for the book so that I can be happy, thin and free once again. After 42 yrs of sobriety, must’ve switched addictions for there are about 50 extra lbs on this poor old bod. Publish soon, please, for those of us who can’t afford the boot camps, but who long for the knowledge you have to offer!!!!!!!

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  23. Julia

    Well, I probably fit the Orthorexia profile.. but I don’t care! I will NOT eat pesticide laden food unless it meant going without eating… I DO limit my restaurant experiences and other social experiences.. I DO go out of my way to make sure I have healthy and nutritious food with me for my Bright Line meals… I do obsess with the latest research on nutrition and listen eagerly to Dr. Greger’s latest and greatest findings…

    And I AM in distress a bit when I travel… or when I think about the bees dying or GMO seeds wiping out heirloom beets…

    BUT… I don’t think it’s a mental illness. I think it’s a healthy reaction to a severely unhealthy culture.

    If this is SICK, then don’t make me well! I’m so very happy eating my organic Bright Line meals… all whole vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds and all kinds of legumes. I do use some salt and a tad of oil, and feel find about that. But being nutrition conscious.. even nutrition obsessive.. has made me happier than I’ve ever been!

    I LOVE YOU, Susan Peirce Thompson… and I love that Bright Line Eating works for ME and also works for people who still eat meat and still eat dairy and still eat GMO veggies or apples with pesticides… I DO keep my eyes on my own plate (and try to influence my husband to eat healthier too)… and it’s all good.

    Thank you for this great Vlog… thank you for your courage in the world… thank you for taking a 12 step program food plan and turning it into something that those of us who would never go do a 12 step program will do… thank you for helping me save my life… down 72 pounds and no longer highly at risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke or diabetes. OXOXOX

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    1. Sandy

      Very well stated!

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  24. Marcia

    Well said, Susan. I appreciate your willingness to always be transparent regarding questions about the BLE program.

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  25. Carol

    While this is certainly an interesting discussion, it might be reassuring to note that: “Orthorexia Nervosa is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, and is not mentioned as an official diagnosis in the widely used DSM or any other such authoritative source”. -Wikipedia

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    1. Julia

      Good! I’m thinking it’s a made-up “illness” by the food companies who don’t want us caring so much about eating actual food vs. faux food.

      I’ve decided to be proud I’m a BIT of an Orthorexia Nervosa!

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  26. Ruby Rubin

    Great topic and well-explained.

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  27. Deborah Genovesi

    Hi Susan! The gist of this vlog is a good one and the 3 Ds you describe to determine if orthorexia is an issue are very helpful. Respectfully, I strongly disagree with a couple of comments. It is NOT a sign of that something is odd (or a psych issue) if you keep up on current research surrounding health and food, or if you avoid pesticides and farmed, polluted unhealthy fish, at restaurants or elsewhere.

    Obviously, we can’t avoid those things 100% of the time but it is certainly possible to choose more wisely when going out and to abstain from foods known to cause issues (like commercially farmed, non-organic meat, non-organic fruit and veggies and farmed fish). When you truly understand the damage these substances cause in your body, you surely do not want to eat them. That’s not obsessive. That’s logical. It makes no sense to say that heeding these warnings is orthorexia but avoiding sugar/flour is not.

    I’ve had great success with BLE and think avoiding sugar and flour is genius. I’m intensely grateful for all you have done to create BLE. It has changed my life! And so has avoiding other unhealthy foods. It makes no sense to have tunnel vision so that only sugar and flour matter, but avoiding pesticides and other unhealthy foods is considered a mental disorder. We have to look at the whole picture when upgrading to healthy eating and there is a calm, reasonable way to do that and not be obsessed.

    Eliminating sugar and flour is a great step but failing to curb other unhealthy foods will not lead to maximum health. I encourage everyone to have a mind of her own and keep up on ALL of the latest research, not just blindly follow any one plan. As helpful as BLE is for all of us, it is not the complete story in healthy eating.

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    1. Joseph

      Hi Deborah! I think you should watch Dr. Thompson’s vlog again because you heard something in there that wasn’t there. She didn’t even imply, let alone state, that it is obsessive to be aware of the factors that you mentioned — she didn’t say that “avoiding pesticides and other unhealthy foods is considered a mental disorder”. She did say that it is different behavior from the norm, while it’s the norm that deviates from the healthy.

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    2. Elizabeth

      I am absolutely with you. Having a toxic food supply should not be normalized.

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  28. Jolie

    Well Done, SPT!

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  29. Claudia

    Well said Susan. I will like to know: After one loses that amount of weight, will he/she have a lot of loose skin hanging? Will he/she need surgery to get rid of loose skin?

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    1. Susan

      I can help answer that question, Claudia. From 10 years ago until 2 years ago, I went from a top weight of 270 pounds down to 125 pounds, which I’ve maintained for a couple years now. For the last 3 years or so, I’ve been taking supplemental beef collagen, about 10 grams a day, and my skin has shrunk nicely. Many people who lose that kind of weight get plastic surgery to remove the excess skin, but I haven’t found that to be necessary. When you give the body what it needs, the body does amazing things.

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  30. Heather J

    Fantastic! Thanks for addressing this.

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  31. Don McMeekin

    Hello Doctor Susan-Is it ever too late to get on a weight lose program as I am 68 and not a spring chicken ? I am on a fixed income as in collecting pension and was wondering if you ever offer a discount price for seniors ! Don

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    1. Joseph

      Hell no Don! It’s never too late. In fact a good case can be made that the older you are the more important it is to get your act together. Why? Because the older you are the less your body is able to absorb the toxicity of harmful living habits. The destruction to our bodies is cumulative, and by the time we reach our 60’s and 70’s, our bodies begin to break down.

      Now I’ll brag. In September I’ll be 76. I do BLE along with PBWF (Plant-based whole foods), and I’m strict about both. The upshot: My waste is under 32″; I’m 5’9.7″ and weigh 144 lbs; the constipation that had plagued me since the 1950’s has completely disappeared (chronic constipation is a huge indicator of disease of horrendous consequence); my digestion is perfect as is my ability to get complete rest every day; my blood work is excellent in every category.

      The second most important thing we can do for ourselves (the first is proper diet) is to exercise thoroughly all muscle groups and consistently, at least 3X every week.

      So, I work out hard on half the days — lift weights and walk up steep hills; My osteoarthritis is in remission — basically disappearing; my heartbeat is 60 bpm; my endurance is bountiful; and my skin is radiant.

      All the best Don!

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      1. cynthia gfford

        You GO Joseph…loved your message. There is no time like the present to do the best you can to make every day count. I am 66 y.o. and think you have every right to “brag” on yourself.
        This is such a great venue for all ages to recognize and support each other.
        Better than yesterday..

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    2. Debra

      Please email the support team to discuss possible ways to pay for this. They have limited scholarships for certain situations.

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  32. Anne

    Wow! Super impressed with the three tier self-inventory on orthorexia! Will be reminding myself and colleagues of these three–is it deviant? Dysfunctional? Distressing? And to what degree? Thanks Susan!

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  33. Janet

    There will always be people that take everything to the extreme, so it would be important to know if that’s what going on in your life. I saw a woman on the street recently , walking with such purpose, seriously exercising, and she looked like a skeleton , anorexic , no question.

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  34. Sarah Hancock

    I love SPT!!!

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  35. Deborah

    I love your reasonable approach in responding to this question. Well done! Thank you Susan!

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    1. Andrea Driscoll

      Excellent response, Susan. I almost can’t believe this was actually a serious question. Let’s face it–just about anything can be taken to extremes but following BLE does not qualify. And this from someone who has taken a year to lose 15 pounds and is working on the remaining 12 or so. I cheat occasionally and have had to cut back on some quantities but I do not obscess. It’s agonizingly slow but I know the plan is super healthy and will eventually work. To say paying attention to what goes into our mouths is an eating disorder is ridiculous and I am personally offended that anyone would label it as such.
      Thanks for setting these people straight!

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      1. Madeline

        I disagree. I think that people that are prone to obsessing about the healthfulness of their food would flock to the taglines in BLE. A program offering simplicity that pointedly says, “Yes, flour and sugar are the problem and if you cut them out, you will feel better.” I’ve been reading daily blogs and podcasts and books on health, nutrition, fitness and weight loss for years. That’s how I found BLE in the first place. After two months, I still struggle with obsessive thoughts. There have been times when I was sure my portions were not right, that I was sabotaging myself. Or that I can achieve faster results if I reduce healthy fats at dinner or starches in the morning.

        I’m sticking to the plan and seeing results towards being thin. Just will take time for happy and free. Thanks Susan!

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        1. Margaret

          Congratulations, Madeline. I completely get it. BLE can attract people with orthorexia, but thankfully, it is GOOD for us/them because it’s healthy, the same as it is for anorexics.

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      2. Sue Cozens

        I agree whole heartedly

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    2. Cardine

      And worrying about people labeling you based on their poor judgements for themselves will then also lead you to another mental disorder, one of depression. Sheesh! Some people really cannot grasp, especially in the last century alone, how ridiculously fake, harmful, & poisonous our foods have been. For that reason people like Susan and few others have to be quite passionate about what they are talking when it comes to getting back a healthy and happy life. They are up against a monstrous entity i.e. the fake food industry.

      Getting used to something does not mean that what you have become used to has turned into a good thing, you have just accepted it as good, that’s all it means but its not good. People are so used to the crap served to them whether on their plates, in commercials, restaurants etc. that when someone approaches them with healthy eating practices and real food,they get scared and annoyed. Its just a defense mechanism. It just goes to show you how much bad foods can cloud your judgement too 🙂

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    3. Joyce

      Great response Susan. As usual, you rock!

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    4. Rachael

      Thank you, Susan. Deviant, dysfunctional and distressed. This was very educational and practical information. So good to know, these 3 markers to a mental health problem–it brings some good understanding to the topic!

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