Most of us have been there. Eating out among friends and someone spurts out ‘I don’t eat that, it’s not healthy?’ Or, It’s loaded with chemicals, no can do!’ Well, surprisingly, many of us are not afraid to speak our minds when it comes to food choices. What is healthy to some may be poison to others. But the question remains, do we sacrifice friendship or sacrifice our bodies? The big elephant in the room bounces back and forth, depending on who sits at the table.
Healthy eaters are out there, which is a very good thing. United States statistics, as well as the world, show heart disease and cancers among the top reasons for death. Diet plays a huge role. A healthy diet reduces the risks of many illnesses. While moderation is key, eating whole foods with limited fats, sugars and processed items may be a generalized step to eating clean. Many consider this when planning meals, but when rigid food rules come into play, isolating family and friends, anxiety ridden about a dinner with co-workers or just not eating because the food seems to be ‘poison’, one may be in trouble and should ask for help.
Orthorexia is considered an eating disorder when a sufferer becomes anxious about eating all kinds of food. The term was first coined by Steve Bratman, Doctor of Holistic Medicine and author of ‘The Alternative Medicine Sourcebook: A Realistic Evaluation of Alternative Healing Methods’ in 1997 to categorize those avoiding food labeled ‘unhealthy.’ Bratman refers to orthorexia as a ‘pathological fixation on proper foods.’ The condition continues to rise, due to consumers awareness on nutritionist clinical trials, diet books and recent media findings on what shows up in food packaging. Orthorexia is not officially a disorder as of yet. Someone becoming fixated on food choices may start out by not touching some or all of the following:
- Soy,nuts and dairy
- Artificial flavorings and colorings
- Pesticides, chemicals
For a person suffering from orthorexia, stress plays a huge part in someone trying to avoid guilty pleasures. Eating out causes major anxiety due to not knowing ingredients in food, where food was brought in from and how many grams of salt, sugar or chemicals they are taking in. Also, preparing food at home can involve long hours of shopping searching for the right foods and reading every label, and rinsing fruits and vegetables more than needed. There is stress involved when the sufferer is not in a place to eat how they like, so choose not to eat instead of eating food available. Often, when the orthorexic unfortunately messes up, chowing down on all that ‘forbidden food,’ more stress appears and it is possible they look to restrict their food choices even more.
Obsession or concern
Most of us are concerned on what goes into our bodies, so at what point are stiff rules on food considered a disorder? Shunning food that is not ‘good’ for us seems the right thing to do. It is, but when any person, healthy or not, continues to lose or gain weight, and eating style turns into obesity or malnutrition, and there are extreme situations surrounding family and friends, then it must be acknowledged. While orthorexia sufferers may not be concerned with calories like an anorexic, they may not obtain the proper nutrition by leaving out entire food groups. Orthorexia could lead to other disorders, if therapy is not received. Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have been done on those with a strong interest in nutrition and diet to see if they may be affected. There has been nothing revealed showing that those interested in their health are more prone to have the orthorexia disorder. Orthorexia may start out with good intentions, with one trying to be healthier, but spirals into extreme habits, if person is mentally unbalanced. More trials need to be documented in this area of disorder illness. Right now, there is not enough information to conclude that it is an official disorder. To state what Dr. Bratman once said, ‘Diet is an ambiguous and powerful tool, too complex and emotionally charged to be prescribed lightly, yet too powerful to be ignored.’
‘When Eating Healthy Turns Obsessive’; CNN.com
‘When Eating Goes Awry’; Mayo Clinic
‘Health Food Junkie’; Dr. Stephan Bratman; beyondveg.com