James Lamper on BBC Radio on Orthorexia


James Lamper, founder of WeightMatters, Eating Behavioural Therapist and expert in disordered eating, recently talked to BBC Radio Stoke commenting on the rise of the eating disorder orthorexia, a lesser known condition characterised by an obsession with healthy food.


Orthorexia may slip under the radar as sufferers look healthy and only choose healthy foods; however more needs to be done to raise awareness of this condition as it can cause a number of health problems.


James said: “We live in a world where most people believe that ‘thin is good’ and ‘fat is bad’”. He continued: “We have an ever increasing social pressure from the digital world we live in.”


The constant media commentary about overweight celebrities and the association of thinness with success and mass appeal means that we buy into this mentality and we want to fit in and be accepted. If only celebrities that are looking slim and glamorous in magazines attract contracts, projects, admiration and column inches, we need to ask ourselves what impact this can have on people.


“The more we buy into the pursuit of health and fitness the more we feel like failure” said James, who pointed out that obsessive dieting can be “a wonderful distraction from the humdrum of life”.


It is the positive recognition that we receive when we are thin and the compliments on how great we look that can have an impact on the psyche and that is how obsessive eating behaviours may start. The danger of orthorexia is that sufferers tend to feel good, get many compliments and their obsession become easily reinforced.


Orthorexia is a serious problem and GPs need to know about it.


“There’s a classification of ‘eating disorders not otherwise specified’” said James: orthorexia is one of such conditions whereas anorexia and bulimia are classified and are known by the general public.


Health professionals need to be able to assess the signs of disordered eating and eating obsessions to see how people’s mental health can become damaged through limiting beliefs about dieting and thinness.


“Finding a balanced way that we can enjoy food that allows us to look after our health and allows us to be social without having these strong limiting, critical beliefs in our heads” stated James.


Health professionals need more guidance when people display signs of disordered eating. Obsession can become dangerous – restriction of nutritional content may end up lowering bone density, and a low carbs diet may cause anxiety.


There’s also the issue of social withdrawal: people suffering from orthorexia will avoid family gatherings and other social events because they need to adhere to their strict eating regimes.


You can get help if your obsessive eating is getting out of control here at WeightMatters: please email us at info@weightmatters.co.uk for a confidential consultation.

James Lamper is available to provide expert comments on the latest health news – see James’ profile. Listen to James’ full interview on BBC Radio.