ORTHOREXIA: The Wrong Way To Eat Right

ORTHOREXIA: The Wrong Way To Eat Right

Sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly we humans misuse our capacity for opinion .  Opinion, it seems, routinely grows from glib, divisive listening.  What we take in is parsed into I agree or I disagree; into I like this or I don't like thatThat's right is pitted against that's wrongAlways do this. Never do that.  How did we arrive here?  How did everything we think and do become partisan? Maybe it has risen insipidly from the loam layer of our humanity, where fear resides.  Our fear of death, of the unknown and unknowable and our fear of losing control points us on this path?  All of our manifestations of control are a response to feeling that dizzying compulsion to take back our fate. 

Products of our enculturation, we work, raise families and navigate relationships mechanically without mastery. All we have left to control is what we eat. We see this manifest itself innocently in children who go through food jags and refuse to eat food of a certain color or texture or food that touches a food they dislike. These are the initial stirrings of our pretending.  So great becomes the pretense that we believe it to be true: we do command our destiny.  The filtration process begins to penetrate our way of experiencing our food and eating.

In the hands of fundamentalists who inhabit either end of the spectrum, this pretense of control is dangerous. 'Health' food fundamentalists begin the dismal distillation by noting the so-called benefits of eating certain foods and by corollary, the alleged evils of ingesting others. Then they, believing these notions to be supremely true, inculcate the message to the critical mass in the middle, which desperately seeks the control these self-proclaimed 'experts' seem to offer from the edges of the ambit.

From there, an almost militant exhortation begins and camps form, some categorically rejecting entire foods and others professing the imperative of eating others.  The gap between the camps widens until each group sees only one way to eat well or eat right, and rarely anymore do they find themselves eating at the same table. 

Orthorexia is the extreme obsession with healthy eating. Etymologically it is derived from the Greek ortho meaning correct and orexia meaning of the appetite or desire. Although not recognized by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.M.D.) it is not beyond scientific reasoning that the obsessive nature of those believing there is only one correct way to eat healthy, warrants status as a disease or condition.

So, what is so wrong with dedicating one's time and effort to eating healthy?  There is significant research to support the claim that the bio-availability of enzymes in raw food is healing to our bodies.  The avoidance of grains by paleo diet enthusiasts is informed by a recent awareness of the derelict response of our digestive systems to those very grains, especially wheat.   There is a strong body of evidence that a vegan diet can be healing both to our bodies and the planet.  So, the raw foodies, vegans and paleo people have a point worth making don't they?

After all, believing that an obsessive behavior of the soul like orthorexia is a byproduct of an organic disease process, treatable via physiochemical interventions, e.g. drugs, shock, surgery, could itself be considered a characteristically pathological way of thinking, no matter how commonplace and accepted within the field of modern psychiatry.

What is so wrong with wanting to educate people on the benefits of 'good food' and the perils of 'bad' food anyway?  The answer is in the latter.  By eliminating entire groups of food and purporting their evil effects on everyone, even the casual orthorexic marks a dotted path to an elite, exclusive club.  That dotted line emerges solid, bold and threatening on the other side of militant campaigns, member-only social networking sites, and exclusive gatherings.

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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food nazi

So, would I be out of line if I threw out all 8 bags of chips and 5 packages of cookies that are in my pantry for my wife and daughter to snack on? ( Ok, I'm not totally insensitive, I wont throw out the 6 different packages of candy.)


Hi, thoughtful writing. Enjoyed the spirt of the argument and the psyco/spiritual intro: we look for the illusion of control with health habits and eating "healthy" can give us that illusion. The best argument I have for a "all inclusive diet" comes from my studies of the native California Indian diet. Form readings of eye witness reports, we see that they ate everything edible in their environment. They also knew how to make it tasty even to the early European palate. I think raw, vegan, cooked, carnivore and don't forget, whole foods pesticide free or pastured raised, covers it. If you haven't read Pema Chodron's "The Places That Scare You", I recommend it for a recipe towards being comfortable in a universe where there are only probabilities. Basically, get use to it and free up all that wasted energy used towards "the illusion of control".

all inclusive diet..

very thoughtful response, indeed.  I am compelled to do research now about the native Californian Indian diet.

A voice of reason among the madness.

Funny how if you were to substitute your own pet political, religious, or any other idiology in place of the food examples, this article is no less valid...

true but

Hi, I know that what you wrote is true but I have a hard time dealing with this one. I belong to the League of Conservation Voters. The organization puts out a report card on how Senators and Repersentatives vote on environmental issues. Rarely do Republicans ever vote for any environmental legislation. Also, I live in California and we get to vote on Prop 37 which is the GMO labeling proposition. I'm for it and I'm amazed that this has become a partisan issue with conservatives against it. Hard practice it is. 

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