Chart of Orthorexia Studies 2002-2019

Dietism Defined – What You Want It To Be

When I looked for a Dietism Definition I struggled to find one. Maybe that’s because it means different things to different people. But in the end, dietism is best avoided.

Dietism and Orthorexia

Remember, I based my first draft of my dietism definition as…

Dietism is an obsession with meal plans that one considers healthy. A condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids any foods that are not included in their diet plan.

Then I Croogled and Scholgled for other references to “dietism” (with or without that annoying hyphen). But I found nothing definitive. But that’s the thing about isms – they’re emotive, often fleeting, and depend on context. For examples see Merriam-Webster’s -ism suffix definition for 11 definitions across 9 meanings in 4 categories: criticism; plagiarism; animalism; racism; sexism; barbarianism; alcoholism; giantism; Buddhism; stoicism; colloquialism.

So why does it matter?

Well, turning back to Pollan, he uses In Defense of Food to berate nutritionism[1]. That is a strike against the food processing industry in a plea to return human-scale food.

My angle is similar. But I seek to educate people who obsess about diets. Often, fad diets start from the food industry. Or to campaign against it. But in the end the obsession with diets – dietism – is just another aspect of orthorexia. However, I believe I’ll get a better response from people if I claim to help them recover from dietism. Rather than helping them recover from orthorexia. Especially since orthorexia nervosa is now recognized as a medical condition – and I have no medical training.

Orthorexia and Nutrition

Speaking of Pollan’s In Defense of Food, I need to confess that I hadn’t read it closely enough to register his references to orthorexia.

Note that Orthorexia is still not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that Pollan refers to. But 78% of health professionals think it should be[2]. Also, there is a rising trend in studies of orthorexia as evidenced by PubMed. So I’m claiming it is a recognized condition. As my Chart of Orthorexia Studies 2002-2019 shows. Orthorexia is increasingly recognized and studied in its own right.

Chart of Orthorexia Studies 2002-2019
Rising Trend of Dietism

Your Dietism Defined

In the end, discussion of definition doesn’t help you if you are diet-obsessed. So consider dietism as a spectrum. In its worst form you suffer from orthorexia and you need professional counselling now. But do you find you’re missing out on favorite foods because you heard you shouldn’t eat them? Or you’re eating foods you dislike because they are in your diet plan?

Then stop. You’ve certainly got dietism. But there might be good reason. Maybe your doctor has told you to eat more of a certain food. Or maybe you have been diagnosed with food intolerances. In those cases, dietism can be a positive force. Because you and your health professionals can work together to create a diet that helps your illness.

Otherwise, just eat food. Just enough. Especially plants.


Dietism Defined References

  1. Pollan, Michael. In defense of food: An eater’s manifesto. Penguin, 2008.
  2. Ryman, Frida Vanja Magdalena, Elena Syurina, Zarah Bood, and Tomris Cesuroglu. “Orthorexia Nervosa: disorder or not? Opinions of Dutch health professionals.” Frontiers in Psychology 10 (2019): 555.