So what’s the cure for orthorexia?
Wait, what IS orthorexia?
Orthorexia is a term that’s been running around food and diet circles in recent years. It refers to the extreme health-food types who have tied themselves so completely to their food consumption habits that they’ve gotten a bit nuts about what they eat.
On my recent post Why You Should Say Goodbye to Immortal Food, my friend Steven Edholm made an excellent comment. In part, he wrote:
“I’m still always surprised when I realize people eat junk food. It seems so obvious that we shouldn’t eat food that contains non-food ingredients. I mean the occasional indulgence when doing as the Romans do is one thing, but to buy the stuff and keep it in your house is entirely different. I think of it as creating a food environment. It’s often difficult to get good food on the fly in town, but the stuff we buy and keep on hand or grow or process ourselves is a real choice. I eat more or less instinctively. If I build a food environment consisting of quality food, then that is what I’ll eat. If there is junk available I’ll end up eating junk. So that is the base to me. I basically don’t buy anything with any preservatives, artificial dyes or anything that is obviously not food. I also very rarely buy anything with corn syrup, though I’m not absolutely strict if there is a tiny bit as a minor ingredient or something.
People should be aware though that there is another unhealthy, very real and growing extreme, orthorexia. I’ve been there and it’s a very un-fun place to be. Orthorexia is the unhealthy fear of food that is perceived to be unhealthy. Like a lot of neuroses and behavioral conditions, it’s basically judged to be pathological when it affects your life negatively. If someone is starving for “health” reasons, they are often applauded, while if it’s to lose weight we call it anorexia, but there is little difference if the result is the same. Usually it’s from consuming a ton of diet related information, adopting a diet ideology and then overthinking food choices to the point of developing anxieties about food and eating more cerebrally than by instinct. We are not smart enough to outguess our bodies and what they need. We are made to run without huge amounts of information about what to eat. To make almost all of our food choices based on information is dangerous. Besides, no one agrees anyway.”
I greatly appreciate Steven’s input. He’s one of the brightest people I know and helped me lose my irrational fear of grafting (Graftorexia nervosa?) a while back.
So – What is “Orthorexia?”
According to eatingdisordershelpguide.com:
“‘Orthorexia’ is defined as an obsession with “healthy or righteous eating”. The phrase was first created in 1997 by California doctor Steven Bratman, and refers to people who create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating. It often begins with someone’s simple and genuine desire to live a healthy lifestyle. The person may choose to stop eating red meat, but eventually cuts out all meat; then all processed foods, and will eventually eat only specific foods that are prepared in very specific ways.
Some psychologists have noticed a change in attitude towards people who have “quirky” eating habits, which may contribute to the rising trend of orthorexic-type diets. Systems like the Atkins Diet – which limits the intake of carbohydrates – have made out-of-the-ordinary dietary restrictions seem normal. And many bookstore shelves are replete with this type of material.
“Where ‘that quirkiness used to reduce your status’, says Deanne Jade, a psychologist and founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders in Britain, ‘the attachment to strange eating systems and theories is now supported by a thriving industry and gives people a sense of status.'”1
For nearly a decade, orthorexia wasn’t recognized as an eating disorder, and there’s still some confusion as to whether or not it should be. Some medical experts believe it’s actually another form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, citing the fact that “less intense” forms of orthorexic behavior aren’t dangerous. Where orthorexia is similar is in its obsessive nature. It is based on an obsessive fixation on food, just as with anorexia or bulimia.”
Yeah, that’s obviously not good. It does seem to be a type of obsessive-compulsive issue. I once knew a person who was an extreme Vegan. She’d only eat one raw vegetable or fruit at a time for an entire meal and had some health issues I’m convinced were linked to that pattern.
That said, I was really impressed with her self-control.
One argument you’ll often hear from people who complain about “fat-shaming” is that those who don’t embrace the idea that all body types (including obese out of shape bodies) are equally beautiful and/or healthy will push people towards anorexia.
Let’s look at the leading causes of death according to the CDC:
- Heart disease: 611,105
- Cancer: 584,881
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
- Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
- Diabetes: 75,578
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149
More than one of those mortality statistics can be linked with obesity, in particular heart disease and diabetes.
The deaths per year from Anorexia in particular were reported in one study as follows:
“Overall, the weighted annual mortality for AN was 5.10 deaths (95% CI, 3.99-6.14) per 1000 person-years (Figure 2), of which 1.3 deaths resulted from suicide.”
Very sad, but nowhere near the deaths caused by obesity-related illnesses.
Claiming that mentioning the ill effects of poor eating habits or encouraging someone to fight their slide into obesity is likely to doom them to death by self-starvation is similar to claiming that telling your children not to play in the street is likely to cause them acute depression and future suicide because their life choices were not affirmed.
The worst case I remember hearing on this front was when I was listening to a pop psychologist type on Christian radio one day and he stated something along the lines of “Dads… never, ever mention your daughter’s weight, no matter what. You could drive her into a tailspin.”
Wait a minute. Aren’t we supposed to “talk to our children about drugs?” And help keep them from making dangerous life choices? And make sure they get a good solid education?
I understand the thought, of course. You really could be a jerk and hurt your kids feelings. Lots of moms and dads have screwed up their offspring with harsh words, cutting comments and bad choices. Yet if you really love someone, and they know you love them, would you let them drift into unhealthy patterns that might shorten their lives and cause them ongoing problems and self-esteem issues?
It would be a hard talk, I’m sure, but I think you’d probably just have to bite the bullet and do it. Before someone else does on the internet… in a much meaner way.
And of course, if you’ve modeled moderation and healthy eating at home already, you’ll probably never have to have that conversation to begin with. Many of us are prone to giving our kids “treats” because we want them to be happy… and those treats can turn into lifestyles and habits that are hard to break later on, if they’re not given in moderation.
It’s taken me years to break some of my bad habits. I still fight with some of them, such as tortilla chips and cheese dip.
Cheese dip is my Vietnam.
Discipline, Obsession and Quackery
This isn’t really about the outside pressures such as the abundance of bad foods, or our culture, or our parents.
Eating issues come from problems inside of us. Orthorexia may become a problem because we focus on food. Obesity may happen because we lack discipline. Anorexia could happen because we hate ourselves or have focused outwardly and think others hate us.
Most of the time, though, I think it’s more of a lack of discipline combined with information overload.
You try a diet for a while, lose some weight, then drift back into old eating habits. Then another diet comes along and you starve yourself for a while and go jogging, then eventually (as P. D. Mangan says in his book Top Ten Reasons We’re Fat) the hunger wins, we binge, and we gain back what we’ve lost.
It’s easy to get caught up looking for the magic bullet for our health (or magic bullets). Maybe we’re high in heavy metals? Maybe we’re dealing with low-level allergies? Maybe a zinc supplement, or eating raw, or getting more Vitamin D or fixing our gut with expensive probiotics?
Sure, try some of those things and see… but you may end up spending all of your life’s savings buying supplements.
I’ve made sauerkraut and kimchi and kombucha and kefir at various points over the years. When a doctor told me a week ago that I may need more probiotics in my gut, I looked at supplements and had this one recommended to me as being really good.
But it’s expensive, so I thought: hey, why not just eat dirt instead?
I then proceeded to pack some compost-rich food forest soil into capsules. As I wrote in my recent newsletter (you can sign up here), there’s some good science behind ingesting soil organisms.
Heck, I think I’ll market mine. How’s this?
I’ve already had one reader write and say they’d buy them.
Chasing down health via the diet and supplement route can get expensive quickly and there’s a lot of quackery out there.
Listen to your body first. If you feel lousy when you drink, don’t. If you’re sluggish after eating a sub sandwich for lunch, ask why. If you can’t chew a can of Skoal a day, well… shame on you.
You get the idea.
Some of us have to say “I will never again eat this particular food,” and then stick to it, AA style. Others may find a good balance over time because they’re not driven to extremes. Personality type makes a big difference. There are people like my dad who can simply make a choice and stick to it forever. Then there are people like me who have to fight to stay focused because there’s always something else out there to tempt or distract us from our resolutions.
The many crazy diets and alternatives may make us eventually throw up our hands and give up. Far from worrying about a cure for othorexia, we don’t even get to the point where we follow anything at all.
“What is truth,” we say, washing our hands of responsibility like the villainous Pilate as we pull in to the Golden Corral.
You know as well as I that you’re going to feel lousy after making those choices, so don’t make them. Listen to your bubbling stomach, then do some reading, which leads me to my final point.
The Cure for Orthorexia?
I think Steven nailed it in the quote from the beginning: “We are not smart enough to outguess our bodies and what they need. We are made to run without huge amounts of information about what to eat.”
I went through a period of time where I tried vegetarianism. I gained weight, felt poorly and had multiple issues crop up. I also tried eating more whole grains and healthy carbs… and gained weight. I dealt with joint pain, heartburn, minor heart issues, high blood pressure and too much weight around my middle. You wouldn’t know it from seeing me now, but there was a time when I was a good 25lbs overweight. That’s not a lot compared to what many face – but I was eating healthy (or so I thought).
I had quit soda long before, I rarely ate any fast food, we were eating homemade bread, Rachel cooked most meals from scratch… and there I was, feeling lousy.
It wasn’t until I tried fixing my heartburn by systematically quitting various foods that I discovered my main enemy.
I stopped eating spicy foods: no effect.
I stopped drinking alcohol: no effect
I quit coffee: no effect (except for a day-long headache)
And then one morning as I sat at breakfast, I ate a piece of toast and started to feel my heartburn cropping up. Incredulously, I looked at the toast. “You? You did this to me? A piece of TOAST?”
Googling heartburn and bread led me down the rabbit hole and to the writing of Mark Sisson and his book The Primal Blueprint.
Yep. I went “paleo” with a vengeance. I utterly quit all grains, potatoes and processed stuff and ate meat, fat, and vegetables. Within 2 months I dropped from 185 or so lbs down to 153lbs… which was actually rather low, considering my height (6′ 1″). But I felt great and started to gain weight back as I exercised and balanced out.
My heartburn disappeared the first day. My joint pain disappeared after about a month and a half. My heart issues quit being a problem. And my gut was gone.
It happened because I figured out bread made me feel lousy… and that got me chasing the reason why. I seem to have some issues with wheat and I now know it’s one of the most inflammatory foods we eat. It’s also been called a “supercarbohydrate” and is known to cause many of us to pack on the pounds.
After a few months, I let some carbs back into my diet but I stay mostly away from the ones that make me feel lousy. If I go to someone’s house for dinner, I’ll eat what they serve (though I usually skip dessert) and not turn the dinner table into a debate over diet – that’s just rude, though sometimes it’s hard to resist when you think you have some Great Information They Totally Need To Hear.
Paleo is what worked for me. There may be another solution for you.
But first you need to listen to what your body tells you, then act on it in a disciplined way without turning into a food Nazi (unless that’s the only way you can make yourself get fit… in that case, I understand).
Being obsessed with what we eat isn’t healthy, so orthorexia isn’t a good place to hang out… though, weighing it all in the scale, it’s much more likely that the alternative – eating all the junk you want – is much more of a risk for us in the grand scheme of things.
I know far fewer disciplined individuals than I do undisciplined ones. I generally fall into the latter category and must stay on track by keeping trashy food out of the house or I will eat it. I also find that I need to eat good food when I’m hungry or I’ll pig out on trash food when I feel like I’m starving.
I posit that the cure for orthorexia, as it seems to be for many other disorders, is to fix what’s wrong inside of ourselves first and know our limitations. Know what makes you feel lousy and avoid it – but also know, that if you’re prone to compulsive behaviors, that you need to moderate that as well.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
*(Lead image at top credit Samantha Forsberg)
I’m in the same boat you are with the carbs. I was having bad acid reflux and discovered I was eating way too many carbs at breakfast—that huge bowl of whole grain cereal was doing me in. Now, I have a little cereal with my homemade goat’s milk yogurt, and the acid reflux is GONE. Fewer carbs, more raw fruit and fresh veggies, plus 4 servings of protein per day and I am down 7 pounds in 5 weeks. More importantly, I am waking up my muscles each day with a good 30-minute workout. Regaining some muscle tone in my 50s is renewing my energy level and making me feel not-so-old!
That’s fantastic. My wife started doing deadlifts, squats, presses and rows with an increasing amount of weight and her strength has gone way up over the last six months. It’s rarely “too late” to change your life for the better.
Great article! this is something i have been looking for, I will give this a shot and see if it works for me. I have recently started taking probiotics, and some anti inflammatory stuff and my pain has decreased, I will give up grains for a while now. I have noticed that gluten free is much better for me, gluten really is horrible. My daughter was diagnosed with Precancerous ovarian syndrome(PCOS), was having all sorts of female problems, and the health dept. wanted to do exploratory surgery. Guinea pig probing if you ask me. I took her to a holistic ARNPI know and after some blood work she recommended a gluten free diet and vitamin D-3 supplement. Today, no PCOS, no female problems, she is back to as normal as she can be! Listen, Be Healthy! Thanks David
Wheat kills me. That’s great to hear about your daughter. Good for you for exploring other options!
I’ve read two books that were fantastic:
Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill
Eat Right For Your Blood Type
I quit eating wheat and went from 198 to 180 with ZERO change in exercise routine. That’s the only thing I changed. Now, do I have Celiac’s? I have no idea since I don’t go to the doctors unless hurt. But I don’t care. When I eat wheat, my ass is on fire when I poop and I get sluggish. That’s all I need to know.
18lbs lost – that’s awesome.
I haven’t read either of those books, though I think I skimmed “Eat Right for Your Blood Type” in the past.
If it feels terrible, don’t do it. Flaming posteriors definitely qualify in that regard.
Well written. I was just talking with my sister about how ridiculous it is that “body shaming” has been confused with honest discussions about health and obesity. I struggle with a serious sweet tooth and eating snack foods instead of taking the time to prepare something healthful. I don’t want my kids to have the same struggles and to be prepared when they have to make their own decisions. So, as with any other part of parenting, I try to give them the tools they need to make good decisions. I take them grocery shopping with me and when they ask why we aren’t buying Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms, I explain about too much sugar and artificial food dyes. Even a four year old can’t understand why someone would put fake colors into foods! And they now understand if I say “no more apple juice, it’s time for water” because I’ve taught them to limit sugar.
You’re a good mom, Erin. As a kid I always appreciated when my parents shared the “whys” and “why nots” of our family rules instead of just letting everything slide.
In my food courses in college in the late 60’s it was rare to have discussions about celiac as very few people suffered from it. Fast forward 35 years and many people have wheat/gluten problems. In my opinion it because our bodies no longer recognize wheat – it has been hybridized to the nth degree.
Sugar is a problem. A simple way to decide how much sugar is too much is to look at the nutrition panel. 4 grams of sugar is the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar. Ingredients are listed by weight. Remember that naturally occurring sugar is also counted – example plain yogurt will have sugar listed as milk has lactose.
Okay, I started this at about 4:00 am this morning and it’s just out of control! I can’t finish it or say everything I want to say and 1 people in 100 will probably actually read it all, but it would actually require multiple blog posts and videos to cover reasonably well, so whatever, heres this much anyway. Not sure I really addressed a lot of your post, but my brain is all over the map on related topics.
I’ve been intending to make some posts or videos about some of the subjects touched on here. I could spend a day or two writing here in the comments. Having dealt with chronic, often debilitating health issues for over 15 years and really even before that, I have been forced to look for answers all over the place. Diet choices are the new panacea. The attitude now is often “look at what you’re eating dummy!” This is a natural thing to think, because we can see some causal relationship between what we eat and what we look and feel like. But it is vastly more complicated than it might appear, or possibly more to the point, how we wish it to appear. Dietary restrictions are very much in vogue. The information age is creating, or exacerbating, a problem. We are constantly bombarded with information on diet, do eat this, don’t eat that. The vegans will say you’re an idiot for eating animal products, the paleo people think it’s the carbs, the anti-fat people think it’s the fat. All of them have literature that seem to prove their points, but none of them are supportable by common sense. I’m not saying they don’t work for anyone, just that they are not the answer to everything, and for the most part, radical eating should not be necessary in a “normal” context.
Nope, I don’t buy the not so tidy diet theories of human health. I think everyone should read Weston Prices Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. It is fascinating if for nothing else than the most obvious facts he presents on what we are capable of maturing into given the right environment. We are walking subjects of poor environmental conditions. Usually genetics is blamed for our troubles, but I believe that is mostly a red herring. Prices conclusions, almost entirely centered on fat soluble vitamins, I don’t accept entirely, though they are pretty compelling. It is easy to read something like his book though and become food obsessed. The Weston Price Foundation is a good example. They took Weston Price’s findings and expanded it into something more paranoid and probably over worship certain foods. But there is another message in Weston Prices work that is more compelling. His people ate all sorts of different diets. He waxes poetic about the health of people who live mostly on dairy and bread. People who lived on fish and grain, People who lived mostly on meats and fats. People who macked out on fruits and other carbs. There is a huge range of diets in there. So, the next common argument is that those people were adapted to those diets genetically and we have to find the right one. Well, I’m probably mostly Irish and northern European mutt. My people were living on Carbs, including lots of grains and drinking like fish for a long time without developing the epidemics of obesity and supposedly “related” diseases we are seeing on a rapid rise. So, suddenly I should revert to a caveman diet because that is what my body is actually evolved to consume? Or a vegan diet, or anything radical that vilifies certain foods and exalts others? Nope, illogical, does not compute. My people didn’t work all day in the fields or run around conquering the world because carbs or meat were killing them.
And wheat? The staff of life, is the new super villain. Yes, we are reacting to it, but that has not always been the case. Our lives are gauntlet of insults from a hostile environment. We have a tube running through our body that is essentially open to the outside world. We stuff things in there and the battle begins. Eating, life, food, sun, organisms, it’s not as though there is some master plan of perfect harmony and balance that if we do it right our lives are going to be all eden-esq. A healthy organism is not the result of all the perfect inputs perfectly managed, thinking that is a mistake that is made to easily and has been for a long time. It is the wrong point of focus and has lead to all sorts health nut-ism through the ages. The healthy organism is RESILIENT to insults. Wheat may very well be a relatively potent insult, but so is cold, exposure to disease organisms, extreme tests of endurance, stress (another favorite super villain). What we are losing is our resilience, where a piece of toast for most people should not even be a scratch, it’s suddenly debilitating. By all means, we should look for answers and things that help us in the short term, but foods can definitely be a red herring distracting us from true basal causes of our problems. Eliminating foods, while possibly sometimes necessary and possibly necessary for genetic reasons, is mostly a distraction. It is not a victory, it’s a defeat. It’s like saying that my car used to run well on whatever fuel, but now I found it only runs good on shell or chevron supreme, isn’t that great, halleluja, I found the answer to my problems! No, you now spend more on gas and can’t just get gas anywhere, that’s lame, bummer man. And what’s next, what if you car runs well on only one gas, and then doesn’t run well no matter what you put in it? Not a perfect analogy, but I hope you see my point.
We are changing in ways we don’t yet understand and that are not entirely related to food, even junky food. The problem I have with interacting with people on these subjects is that I’m not coming from a standard american diet perspective like so many people are. Yes, junky, crappy snack food is just that. We call it junk food for a reason. By all means, eliminate true garbage food from your food environment and build one that is based pretty much on real food, though that can be taken to probably unnecessary extremes which is a whole other subject. I’ll just say that because of the increasing prevalence of extreme diet cultural stuff, what is and isn’t junk food becomes really bizzare and is based more on dummy rules and prejudice than reality, pizza and ice cream being great examples. But all is not caused or cured by the food we eat. How our bodies react to that food and how we are, or are not able to take those resources and put them to use is probably as much or more relevant. And we are reacting poorly to increasing numbers of foods. I can’t throw a rock without hitting someone on a restricted diet. Many people start out sensitive to one thing and keep adding more, some perceived and some real. This is a very real problem, and very few people are even looking at the problem as a problem of loss of resilience and trying to figure out why.
Whatever the true causes are, these “obesity related” diseases probably often have more in common than not. That at least is my working assumption. I think if you were to dig deep into the unpopular literature on the subject that you’d find the arguments of the obesity-centric thinking that is prevalent today is not so tidy and clearcut as it is often presented. Body composition is not something that we can always just control by free will. Many of the things people do in an attempt to control it are also unhealthy and continually fail over and over again. Fat people can’t usually just stop eating as much, or stop eating certain foods, and healthily, reliably and permanently lose body fat. But that is what is expected and they are constantly bombarded with messages that they are failing out of lack of character. Emotional eating and poor food choices are no doubt a common factor, and should be dealt with. However, a lot of emotional eating issues are propagated or worsened by dieting and body image stuff. Yes, some of the body acceptance stuff is bogus, but the solutions are not as simple as they are often made out to be and much of what is recommended is dangerous and can ultimately exacerbate the problem by creating physical stress and neurosis leading to rebound weight.
As far as orthorexia goes, it is rampant. Just like eating disorders. The average American woman probably has some level of eating disorder and significant neurosis about food. It’s no small wonder considering the society we live in. But there is a scale. A minor problem is still a problem if it’s affecting your life and health. I’ve influenced several friends who would never have said they had a problem, but felt much better when they dropped some of the health food neurosis they had accumulated. And it is becoming much more prevalent with the increasing access to diet information. Adopting weird diet tweaks almost seems like a hobby at this point.
I could go on and on, believe me, I’m curbing myself! I don’t have many answers, but I think that would really be my main point. There are many more questions than answers and the deeper you dig, the more questions there are. Some stuff is obvious. Get rid of things that are not actually food. don’t consume large amounts of food that has been processed and beat to death or processed and then stored for a long time. Try to surround yourself with real food with real ingredients, cook meals and develop a dialog with your body. Don’t make too many assumptions about your short term reactions to food, good or bad. If someone seems like they have a simple answer to most health problems, red flags should go up. These problems are probably multi-factorial. I’m more interested in planting seeds of discord about these issues than providing answers. Some bullet points
*People have subsisted in relative health on a wide variety of diets.
*Percentage of body fat is largely hormonally controlled. The simple fact that some people can eat large quantities of anything without gaining body fat, and that this can change in a given person in either direction, is more relevant than anything. That should be the epicenter of thinking on body fat gain/loss. I am basically weight stable, except for occasionally spontaneously losing a few pounds and then staying at that “set point”. This in spite of eating whatever I want, whenever I want, as much as I want. If anything, I try to stuff in a little more, but frankly, it’s not easy to do. I initially gained weight eating a lot of whatever, and I was insatiable, mostly for carbs and fats. Then I started wanting to eat more variety, more vegetables and a lot less in general. I’ve lost about 25 pounds of body fat , sustainably while eating this way. I think my diet is pretty balanced, but if anything it’s carb heavy and I like to eat a lot of sugars. I’ve been through soda phases (natural, but still basically just sugar water), drunk 1/4 to 1/2 gallon of OJ a day for extended periods of time. Been on ice cream kicks and been weight stable through it all except for small fluctuations and occasional spontaneous lowerings of my set point, usually when my health improves in general and inflammation is lower. I’m not saying that everyone will react the same way, just that the weight set point theory needs to be taken seriously and taken into account in any thinking on the subject. Here is a good quote from Matt Stone on the subject and this short article on the various weight loss schools is well worth reading. “The basic position of hormonalists is that human beings have differences in fat cell size, number, appetite, fat storage, desire for physical activity, etc., and that hormonal differences between individuals is primarily responsible. This is an easily-observable truth, as you can go pretty much anywhere in the United States and similar countries and see an assortment of absurdly lean people ordering the same thing off of the same menu at the same ghetto chain restaurant as the morbidly obese people sitting next to them. It’s also easy to observe that young people are lean eating a lot and as they get older they eat less and get fat due to a variety of hormonal changes that occur with aging. To say that weight regulation is all about conscious food choices is an utter absurdity for those with two eyes and an ability to use them. The fact that females have a higher bodyfat percentage than males the world over should be another sign of complete irrefutability that hormones play a dominant role in bodyweight distribution.” http://180degreehealth.com/weight-loss-theories/
*Health issues and body composition issues are too complicated to understand completely and we don’t have access to enough feedback to make our food choices primarily by intellect. We have to have a dialogue with our bodies about our appetite cues. Slavish reliance on them is as absurd as any other extreme diet thing, but I believe they should be the main driving force behind what we eat hour to hour assuming a good food environment. A dominant idea now is that our bodies are stupid dummies that will eat endless amounts of sugar, or fat (depending on which camp you’re in. If you’re a paleo person and you crave fat that’s normal, but sugar is bad. If are raw/fruitarian/vegan, it might be the other way around) if it is available, sabotaging ourselves. That is not a given, not in the least. The system, our response to our environment, is trainable. Ever get sick on some spoiled food or by drinking too much of say tequila and not hardly be able to look at that thing for a while without feeling ill? Ever eat something day after day and get sick of it? Our interactions with our environment are dynamic, not set in stone. I do not excessively crave sugar in my opinion and often refuse dessert, because I simply don’t feel like it. People on sugar restriction or with eating disorders (often the same thing IMO) have an entirely different relationship with sugar.
*Food, getting it, eating it, having access to it, it’s palatability are all very much linked to emotional stuff and sense of well being. Well, that’s no wonder right, it keeps us alive. We need a steady stream and we need to be motivated to go get it. Unnatural food restriction can therefore easily lead to neurosis and stress. At one point, in the pursuit of improving my very poor health at the time, I had read so much health related food information that there was a reason not to eat almost everything. The world became a hostile place, where the things that I needed to nourish and sustain me were suddenly the enemy. When I tossed it all out the window I felt so much better! Orthorexia comes in many forms and levels, and for many reasons. Mine was relatively minor for the most part, but still had a profound negative effect on my life and health, which I didn’t realize till I got out of it. It is a gradual insidious thing, like other eating disorders. Just because someone is doing something in the name of health, doesn’t mean it is making them healthier. Matt Stone collected a huge following of people just moping up orthorexics like me from the internet and for every one of them there are a zillion others digging themselves a hole and unaware of it. It is a rising plague related to increasing consumption of information about diet stuff.
*Information is not knowledge, it’s just information. Knowledge is in short supply and we can’t always know it when we see it. Science and our other feeble inquiries into complex systems like diet and it’s effects can only yield so much information that is truly relevant to our day to day lives and choices. Every diet pusher out there can come up with information that seems to support what they are pushing. People will adopt one diet because they read something and it makes sense, but then when it doesn’t work, they’ll adopt another one that also seems to make sense and to be supportable. This usually starts with belief followed by implementation, which is the wrong way around.
*Be cautious regarding initial results when adopting diet changes. People often feel better initially on many radical diet changes, but it does not always last.
Finally gives up on “finishing” insanely long comment…
I enjoyed this post, and Steven’s comment.
For anyone interested in or concerned about wheat, I recommend William Davis’ book “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health.” Very interesting, and kind of scary at the same time. He presents a compelling case that wheat, in its modern form, is very, very bad for us.