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  • Orthorexia

    I'm definitely not posting this to be light on a serious subject, but I'm posting it because if I have a problem, I'd like to fix it. (Side note: recovered bulimic here)

    Have you heard of Orthorexia? Some highlights below. I fail the test below also. If you fail the test, do you think we have an issue, or do you think we just care about being healthy - and in a society that doesn't care - we suffer some "consequences"?

    I got to thinking about this because I'm going out of town with my fiance this weekend which means eating out for meals and literally, when I think about eating out all weekend, I get flushed and anxious. I just like having control and cooking at home (eating out maybe once week for a date or something special). Do you get the same way or should I just chill out? I really don't know how to act, I feel like my relationship with food is somewhat distorted.
    Orthorexic subjects typically have specific feelings towards different types of food. The obsession for healthy foods could come from a number of sources such as family habits, society trends, economic problems, recent illness, or even just hearing something negative about a food type or group, which then leads them to ultimately eliminate the food or foods from their diet.
    Do they spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about healthy foods?
    When they eat the way they're supposed to, do they feel in total control?
    Are they planning tomorrow's menu today?
    Has the quality of their life decreased as the quality of their diet increased?
    Have they become stricter with themselves?
    Does their self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy?
    Do they look down on others who don't eat this way?
    Do they skip foods they once enjoyed in order to eat the "right" foods?
    Does their diet make it difficult for them to eat anywhere but at home, distancing them from family and friends?
    Do they feel guilt or self-loathing when they stray from their diet?

    If yes was answered to two or more questions, the person may have a mild case of orthorexia.

    Orthorexia nervosa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • #2
    You know what, when I was 2, I was obsessed with stewed apples. It was all I ate. Mum took me to the doctor and he said, when she wants to eat something else she will. Today I would be diagnosed with Orthorexia.

    I answer yes to enough of those questions to qualify, but I think the questions are loaded. I also think this is where the 80/20 rule comes into play. Do not avoid situations with food, just prepare the best you can and enjoy the occasion.

    My father has just visited me for 2 weeks, so I ate pizza, enjoyed gelati, ate dessert and all manner of things, I was very relaxed about it as it was a celebration, and I knew that 70% of the time I was okay.

    Enjoy the trip away, be mindful that you might focus on the food and try and focus on the time away and that you are having fun.

    I mean really eating well and looking after yourself is a mental illness? Put like that it is rather silly.

    Have a great weekend away.
    Life. Be in it.

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    • #3
      This is stupid to me.

      This "orthorexia" is a product of a culture which seeks to medicalize everything, treat everything, something is always wrong.

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      • #4
        As a person who absolutely did have a bout with Orthorexia, and who continues to have a propensity in that direction, I think the quality of life issue is the biggest factor. If you step over the line from being mindful to being obsessed, then there is an issue. If food causes fear and anxiety, there is reason to be concerned.

        I have read things on this forum that make me think, "This is orthorexia for sure." There is a balance to be struck and it is important to find it.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by June View Post
          Orthorexic subjects typically have specific feelings towards different types of food. The obsession for healthy foods could come from a number of sources such as family habits, society trends, economic problems, recent illness, or even just hearing something negative about a food type or group, which then leads them to ultimately eliminate the food or foods from their diet.
          Do they spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about healthy foods?
          When they eat the way they're supposed to, do they feel in total control?
          Are they planning tomorrow's menu today?
          Has the quality of their life decreased as the quality of their diet increased?
          Have they become stricter with themselves?
          Does their self-esteem get a boost from eating healthy?
          Do they look down on others who don't eat this way?
          Do they skip foods they once enjoyed in order to eat the "right" foods?
          Does their diet make it difficult for them to eat anywhere but at home, distancing them from family and friends?
          Do they feel guilt or self-loathing when they stray from their diet?

          If yes was answered to two or more questions, the person may have a mild case of orthorexia.

          Orthorexia nervosa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
          Under those criteria, anyone who does weekly menu planning and decides not to eat dessert because they don't want to gain weight would qualify as orthorexic. I think there is such a thing, but those criteria are entirely too vague to meet something like the DSM or WHO style of criteria for a mental illness. With that list, you could shoehorn pretty much anyone who does not eat with utter abandon into a diagnosis.

          It's like the difference between the common practice of exercising as a weight loss strategy and the kind of obsessive exercise seen in some people with anorexia/bulimia--we don't put an ordinary exerciser in the same category as someone who's using it as a purging strategy. Orthorexia is a genuine problem, but not all health-conscious people are orthorexic.
          “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

          Owly's Journal

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          • #6
            Orthorexia does exist, but even if you're a picky eater, you're not orthorexic until it negatively impacts both your psychological health and your physical health. If you want to see what a true orthorexic looks like, watch this ABC news program, here. The guy at the beginning is downright skeletal. He probably expends more energy shopping for and preparing food than he intakes by eating said food.

            That said, getting really anxious over the idea of eating out might point at disordered eating (as compared to an eating disorder). Mark's 80/20 rule should help you work through food anxiety -- eat great 80% of the time and give yourself 20% leeway to enjoy yourself.

            I know I sound like a knowitall but I do empathize. I realized, hmm, a year ago? that the various dieting and weight loss strategies I've put myself through over the last 8 years have made me a disordered eater, too. So far, Primal has not triggered any signs of my previous disordered eating patterns, with the exception of caring a little too much about the calorie count in my Spark People food tracker. (I started tracking when I started primal because I was worried I wouldn't eat enough and then I'd fall victim to junk food cravings.) I was so excited to see that I was FULL at 1,000 calories that I keep hesitating to eat more than 1200 a day or so... even though logically I know that my minimum should be more like 1400, and up to 1800 or 2000 on sparring days (I do martial arts).

            Actually, one of the reasons I have waited on reading the Primal Blueprint book (vs. just the website and forums) is that I'm afraid I'll get overzealous on specific food choices. I'm a programmer, so I tend to be very literal about things, and dichotomize everything to black/white, right/wrong, good/bad versus finding a happy medium...
            ~elaine. twitter, primal journal.


            Originally posted by vontrapp
            CoWorker: What? Cmon live a little.
            Me: No thanks, I'd rather live a lot.

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            • #7
              I fit a lot of that. Eating and living healthy is a way of life for me (not that I don't treat myself once in a whole). It's only a problem though if you try to fix it and I'm very happy as the eccentric bastard that I've grown into.
              http://www.facebook.com/daemonized

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              • #8
                My quality of life wouldn't be compromised by my stressing about eating right if our whole society didn't each such crap. I seriously doubt this condition existed 100, or even 50, years ago. The root cause is the shitty food culture we live in, and the symptom is caring about our health.

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                • #9
                  I generally agree with the skepticism re: orthorexia as a diagnosis for healthy people. But, I have known people who use "healthy eating" as an excuse for what is really anorexia. Such as my sister who is a raw vegan who doesn't eat wheat and won't eat anything that wasn't produced within 20 miles of her house. This means that she eats only, like, cabbage. And her teeth are falling out and she's always exhausted. It seems to me that this is the distinction that the orthorexia diagnosis should be making- if you do all the things on the list AND it's negatively affecting your life and health. If you're actually healthier, how can this be a problem?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think you can care about your health and not be all neurotic about it. I used to have an eating disorder and find some of the same anxieties creeping back in when I think about "naughty foods" verus "good foods." "Naughty foods" used to be for me anything with fat or meat now my "naughty foods" are carbs and processed foods. While on one hand it is true, it is not healthy to think of it this way. You can eat healthy and not be anxious about it. Mark doesn't seem the least bit anxious about food. I doubt that he berates himself and has a panic attack if he ate a slice of pie. Someone with this mental condition would. I think that's the difference. It's more of an OCD/anxiety thing than a food thing.
                    Woman, Artist, Wife, Visionary, Mother, Gardener, Daughter, Tea-drinker, Friend, Believer.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Owly View Post
                      Under those criteria, anyone who does weekly menu planning and decides not to eat dessert because they don't want to gain weight would qualify as orthorexic. I think there is such a thing, but those criteria are entirely too vague to meet something like the DSM or WHO style of criteria for a mental illness. With that list, you could shoehorn pretty much anyone who does not eat with utter abandon into a diagnosis.

                      It's like the difference between the common practice of exercising as a weight loss strategy and the kind of obsessive exercise seen in some people with anorexia/bulimia--we don't put an ordinary exerciser in the same category as someone who's using it as a purging strategy. Orthorexia is a genuine problem, but not all health-conscious people are orthorexic.

                      I agree that this list is haphazard and doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.

                      If you know you have to eat out a lot during a week and you choose to eat only unseasoned steaks or chicken and salads with lemon juice or vinegar, forgoing all of the bread and appetizers, then everyone else may think you are orthorexic. You're not. If you have a panic attack and don't eat anything for days except the homemade jerky you brought because the meat in restaurants is not grassfed and the lettuce is not organic, then you may have a problem.

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                      • #12
                        Thank you all for your replies and I plan to watch that video when I'm at home. I think it might just be part of my personality.... very Type-A, engineer, etc. You know the type and that is me.

                        Okay so maybe it's not a disease but with that said, I do get anxiety eating out (drinking helps of course, but this weekend no one drinks except me so I won't). Sometimes during a meal out with family, especially if it is running long, I really have a difficult time relaxing enough to enjoy it. First, sometimes we go to this place where they don't have salads and don't offer a veggie side dish - it is so unhealthy it is insane! Also, it is difficult for me to sit there and watch people I love eating all that crap in massive amounts and everything like that. It really gets my mind spinning into a negative place and definitely stressed my relationships with people and food. (They don't try to force foods on me anymore which is good. I think I finally cried once when they did that and so they stopped.) Does anyone else get thoughts like that or is it just me?

                        The other day I was reading Mark's travel menu (in the book or online, I can't remember) and saw what he ate at restaurants and it did make me feel better and bring me some relief to see that he eats a salad at Friday's where they cook it in soybean oil and use low-quality ingredients and everything.

                        I've pretty much been obsessed with health (mostly nutrition with less focus on exercise) for the past 8 years so it's not like this is a fleeting thing in my world. Maybe I should focus more on exercise now that I think about it. When I exercise it does tend to help my mental fog become more clear and I do relax better. I think I'll try that. Go for a long walk with some sprints and such while I'm away.

                        End rant thank you cyber space

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                        • #13
                          Those who have mentioned the quality of life caveat have hit the nail on the head - along with comparing exercising and portion control versus clinical anorexia. Orthorexia isn't actually in the DSM yet, which is why you'll sometimes come across definitions too vague to be useful. (Of course, the other side of that particular coin can be seen in the DSM's definition of anorexia, which includes amenorrhea for three consecutive months - never mind that she's 70 pounds and can't even touch the outside of a bottle of olive oil for fear of gaining weight, Aunt Flo is still visiting.)

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                          • #14
                            Okay, if I had to answer the question "does this effect my quality of life?" then the answer is yes, it does negatively impact my quality of life. However, it also enriches my quality of life because I truly enjoy reading and learning and sharing. So I guess it is a wash then

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                            • #15
                              I think it is kind of necessary to be orthorexic to be paleo. Not eating grains (barring an allergy) is orthorexic IMO.

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