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news: healthy and hurting: a new kind of eating disorder

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Title/Topic: Healthy and Hurting: A New Kind of Eating Disorder
Posted On: 11/14/2008
Nov 14 2008 (The Daily Collegian) – Today’s culture wants what is most convenient, which includes instant gratification. Food in particular can affect society.

Orthorexia nervosa, a term freshly coined by health nutritionist Stephen Bratman, is an obsession with healthy eating. It is a unique eating disorder that separates it from other well-known eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Those with orthorexia are concerned with food quality, not quantity, and score for purity rather than weight loss.

They may cook their own meals, spend many hours in health food stores trying to find the best products for themselves and bring their own specially prepared food to social events or avoid them altogether.

What also separates orthorexics from their counterparts is that while anorexia and bulimia is usually something kept under secrecy and shame, orthorexia is flaunted like a green banner. Nobody disputes the nutrition of eating healthy considering it’s what dieticians, celebrities, health magazines, health books and health television shows all promote.

Most orthorexics would not even consider that they have an eating disorder, but eating too healthy can have its downside.

Stephen Bratman, a holistic physician, was the first to coin the phrase “orthorexia nervosa” (a better name than his first choice, “cupiditas cibi salubrum” or “craving for healthy food.”) In his book “Health Food Junkies,” he describes the social, physical, emotional and psychological effects of orthorexia nervosa, along with relating his own experience with his health food obsession.

The problem is that eating less can transition into not eating at all. The same can be said for orthorexia nervosa, where eating healthy can be taken to an extreme.

While the orthorexic is eating healthy, and his or her selected foods are, in fact, healthy, they are forgoing a balance that is an important part of their diet.

Orthorexia has many shapes and forms. Many orthorexics construct their own diet based on their own nutritional knowledge. However, many orthorexics initially base their food choices upon well-known diets or lifestyle changes.

There is the macrobiotic diet, with rules and restrictions that deal with the yin and yang of various foods. Whole grains make up 50 to 60 percent of the diet, as well as smaller percentages of soup, vegetables and beans.

There is also veganism, for those people who specifically want to stop the suffering the animals through personal actions. It is more of a lifestyle than a diet, since it affects not only food but clothing as well. According to Vegan Action, veganism is “someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.”

Their mission statement is, according to the same organization, also an “integral component of a cruelty-free lifestyle. Living vegan provides numerous benefits to animals’ lives, to the environment, and to our own health-through a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

There is also a step further than veganism: fruitarianism, or the raw fruit diet. Though there is no lifestyle involved per say (its name says it all: eat fruit), it is based on the ideals of not hurting any living thing, whether it is a plant or animal.

These diets indeed provide alternatives to achieve a balanced diet, but what orthorexics may miss is that no food is just good, and no food is just bad. All foods, whether it is meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables and even the much condemned sweets, have both positive and negative qualities.


Note: This article has been edited by Pale Reflections to remove some (but not all) references to specific foods.

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