The Authorized Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test

Are you an enthusiast for healthy food? That’s wonderful.

However, for some people, interest in healthy food can transform into an eating disorder. The following self-test is designed to help you determine whether you have come close to, or have already crossed, that line.

The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test*

If you are a healthy-diet enthusiast, and you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may be developing orthorexia nervosa:

(1) I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.

(2) When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods.

(3) My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.

(4) Sometimes I would like to relax my self-imposed “good food” rules for a special occasion, such as a wedding or a meal with family or friends, but I find that I cannot. (Note: If you have a medical condition in which it is unsafe for you to make ANY exception to your diet, then this item does not apply.)

(5) Over time, I have steadily eliminated more foods and expanded my list of food rules in an attempt to maintain or enhance health benefits; sometimes, I may take an existing food theory and add to it with beliefs of my own.

(6) Following my theory of healthy eating has caused me to lose more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, loss of menstruation or skin problems.


*There are a number of orthorexia self-tests on the Internet, including several that are purportedly designed by me.  However, this is the only self-test that I actually authorize and approve. I freely make it available to anyone who wishes to use it.

14 thoughts on “The Authorized Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test

  1. I just learned about orthorexia last week, and am convinced I’m suffering from it. I’m so relieved that there’s a word to describe what I’m going through, and I want to share my story:
    I’ve been following a lacto-vegetarian diet for almost 20 years, and still regard it as one of the best lifestyle choices I have ever made. I did lots of research, educating myself on topics such as nutritional density, food additives, plant sources of protein, etc. (with a side of media literacy … there’s a lot of propaganda to sift through ). Result – I was healthy and able to thrive without any meats or eggs.
    The problems started a few years ago, following significant life changes (a major surgery that diminished my ability to work ). I began to have increasing anxiety about food, stemming from the belief that eating the ‘wrong’ foods would somehow harm me, and any health problem would be ‘my own fault’. I was so afraid, I really thought, “if I can’t eat right, it’s safer not to eat at all”.
    I asked my doctors over and over, “am I anorexic?” and they said no; because I was not concerned with weight or body image, just health. Eventually, I was referred to mental health treatment for anxiety.
    In therapy, I learned that malnourishment and low blood sugar can be underlying causes of anxiety; starvation does more harm than cheetos and pizza ever could!
    I still have a long way to go on my journey to recovery … thank you for providing language that will help me get there.

  2. Dr.Bratman,

    Thank for all the work you are doing on this real disorder. I could attempt to have my wife take this quiz – but it owuld only lead to a huge rancorous fight. But, if she did take the quiz, at her very most-introspective best, her answers would be very similar to Cheryl’s above.

    While my 62 year old wife certainly has a low BMI – borderline underweight, the biggest impacts are social, relational, and especially financial. We never eat together at home and we are down to just a couple restaurants she find acceptable and even then she pesters the wait poeple in an embarrassing manner. Upon getting back from work, she spends hours in the kitchen preparing her green smoothies and the like. I might finally be able to get into the kitchen to fix something around 11:00 pm. We can no longer travel or go on vacations because of the logistics of finding (or taking with us) appropriate food. She pesters me about the things I eat (especially white bread – she believes that gluten is poison), and my brother does not want her around his home because she pesters him about his discount supermarket diet (the only one he and his partner can afford) in expensive Toronto.

    And there is the financial impacts – our would-be comfortable income (bit over 100K gross combined – more ) is a paycheck-to paycheck existence due to the exotic organic natural foods she buys, and the “alternative practice” doctors and dentists she sees. I never see where the money from her job goes. I dont know what we are going to do when I retire and we are living on about half as much.

    Also, is hoarding disorder a related issue? She refuses to throw anything away and our house is a mess (and a potential fore hazard) with all the junk she refuses to throw away.

    Yes, I know, I should move out – but I can’t afford that. What other advice do you have?

  3. Dear Dr. Bratman:

    I’m wondering if my mother suffers from Orthorexia. She has reduced her food intake to just a few organic items: white rice, lean veal or chicken, carrots, peas, and bok choy. She claims that any other foods cause soars in her mouth, her throat to tickle, and ultimately an upset stomach. She is not obsessed with healthy eating per se, but is most certainly restricting her calories to the point of having lost too much weight and looking visibly unhealthy. Needless to say, she will not eat what others cook for her, nor does she eat out, nor is she able to travel.

    What kind of help should I seek for her?

    I thank you in advance for your help.

  4. I truly appreciate all your work in this field! I was briefly taught about ‘orthorexia’ while studying to become a holistic nutritionist but the source and story behind the term was never discussed and it was talked about on the same day that we learnt that eating barbecued food will ‘kill you’.
    When I started waking up to the nonsensical, fraudulent, and feeble backbone of the wellness world I came across your ‘Holistic Harry’ story relatively quickly and at the perfect time. As I make my journey to leave the church –I am quantifying my experience as similar to one that an evangelical worshipper may undergo when their core beliefs and have been shattered and they are about to alienate themselves from their community, friends, and career– your work has been an amazing support system.
    Keep fighting the good fight! Even after all these years everything you are doing is still helping change people’s lives.

  5. I’m so relieved there’s a term for this…I didn’t know what I was doing was eating-disordered (it was actually a doctor’s advice that set me off), but in retrospect it obviously was. I started out reducing sugar to help with anxiety and depression; then “white” carbs, then all carbs (the doctor was a Paleo fanatic who knew nothing about my individual situation), then beans, then fruit, all while megadosing on lean protein with no clue about healthy fats…I’m grateful I didn’t do serious damage to myself. By the end I was basically eating lentils and water, had jaundice, and OCD so bad I couldn’t leave the house without “checking” to make sure everything was 100% ok via bizarre voices in my head. Needless to say, this didn’t make me less anxious or depressed.

    I got better after a while, but kept falling back into “if I just cut out Thing X, I won’t be unhappy any more…” which of course is a totally addictive thought pattern because it’s randomly reinforced whenever you DO start to feel better, then taken away as you inevitably feel bad again. It’s magical thinking, basically, and a terrible way to live.

  6. Dear Dr. Bratman:

    I’ve only just now heard the term Orthorexia on a show called Curious and Unusual Deaths where a health nut died due to an overdose of vitamin A. When I looked it up online, I found this site and took your test. I’m undecided about the results of the test because my reasons are so valid for every time I answered “yes”. My answers to each question are as follows:

    1. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about and choosing food because I don’t have that wide a selection to ponder. I am strict vegan because vegetables are healthier than animals and animal derivatives, only 90% organic because not all of my vitamins and supplements are produced organically, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free due to food intolerances, nightshade-free because nightshades cause arthritis, which runs in my family, and sugar-free (including fruit) because cancer thrives on sugar. So basically my diet consists of a limited variety of steamed vegetables, protein shakes mixed with green powders, oatmeal, occasionally brown rice, and my biggest dietary vice — popcorn.

    2. About a week ago I consumed a conventional (non-organic) crab apple without a substantial amount of guilt. And I have been judgmental of others who have certain health conditions and who blatantly disregard either their doctors orders in regard to food, or who fail to exercise general common sense when making food choices. Also those who moan and complain about their health issues, and are willing to try various medications to help themselves, but who refuse to alleviate their symptoms by modifying their eating habits.

    3. Yes — but only because I have a syndrome which makes me 10 times more likely than average to get cancer. My happiness is closely linked with my health (and by association, my eating habits.)

    4. Doesn’t apply.

    5. Yes — but once you become aware that a food is unhealthy for you, that’s what you’re supposed to do — eliminate it from your diet!

    6. I stand at 5’-7”, 129 lbs, so I’m average according to the height-weight chart. Yes, I do have issues with hair, menstruation, and skin, but this is more likely due to a hormonal disorder than dietary issues.

    As you can see, I eat an extremely healthy diet, and wherever I answered “yes” to your test, I had very good reasons for doing so. That’s why I’m undecided whether I actually fall into the orthorexic category or not.

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