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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Eating healthy is a disorder?

Last week some articles posted on the internet explored new eating disorders. I always try to have a glance at these just to see if any pro-animal ag person brings up vegetarianism or veganism as they have in the past.

I was pleased to see that none of them did; however, there was a term I found pretty troublesome: Orthorexia nervosa. Why did it bother me? Partly because most of my friends, myself included, have some measure of this disorder. I worried for them and for me.

And yes, I am being sarcastic.

According to the simplest definition: “What is orthorexia? Identified in 1997 by Colorado physician Steven Bratman, MD, orthorexia is Latin for ‘correct eating.’ Here, too, the focus isn’t on losing weight. Instead, sufferers increasingly restrict their diets to foods they consider pure, natural and healthful. Some researchers say that orthorexia may combine a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder with anxiety and warn that severely limited ‘healthy’ diets may be a stepping stone to anorexia nervosa, the most severe -- and potentially life-threatening -- eating disorder.”

Yup, they said it: healthful eating: -- it isn’t even about losing weight!

But here is the worst part – what they eat:

  • Orthorexics: Those affected may start by eliminating processed foods, anything with artificial colorings or flavorings as well as foods that have come into contact with pesticides. Beyond that, orthorexics may also shun caffeine, alcohol, sugar, salt, wheat and dairy foods. Some limit themselves to raw foods.

Hmmm….now, I can’t completely fit in that category, but, umm….not eating processed foods. Really? I believe it is pretty much universal that we know that eating processed foods is a huge problem with our diets today.

And what? They don’t want to consume chemicals? Now I am sure the chemical industry finds this outrageous and a definite affront to how people in this country should be eating.

I mean, if people who are trying to eat healthy are called Orthorexics, than what are most people in the U.S. called? There is no disorder related to people who consume processed foods, eat at McDonald’s every day and dine on the bones and veins of chickens at KFC? Why is that?

I didn’t bother to look up the doctor who coined the term “Orthorexics,” but I am just absolutely shocked that any doctor would align people who are trying to improve their health with some sort of eating disorder.

The good news, of course, is that this term has been around since 1997 and maybe people haven’t heard of it. The bad news is I have no idea what is happening when a 13-year-old girl who wants to eat healthy because of all that she has learned about process foods, agricultural chemicals in her foods and what happens to animals who are raised for food walks into her doctor’s office and tells her/him of this “disorder.”

Some even refer to this disorder as “righteous eating.” Umm…if that is the case, then I think Food Empowerment Project should be the poster child as we do believe in protecting the rights of those when it comes to food.

Now my understanding is that some people with obsessive compulsive disorder suffer from something like this; however, the media are not doing them or healthy eating a service with the current run of articles on this issue.

In case anyone thinks I am making this up, check out