We don’t have an unhealthy eating disorder but we do have…

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but some of these psychiatrists most severely afflicted with Obsessive Disease Inventing Disorder have gone overboard lately. Our Most Ridiculous Disease Invention Award of the century goes out to Dr. Steven Bratman for coming up with Orthorexia Nervosa or Healthy Eating Disorder in 1997.

Bear with me, it’s a young century yet, we are experiencing some jetlag, and another doctor is bound to come up with something even more ludicrist.

Suite 101 has an article on the subject of our “disorder” with the heading Orthorexia Nervosa – Healthy Eating Disorder.

While it is difficult to argue that a healthy diet is unhealthy, anything taken to the extreme can become debilitating. Orthorexia Nervosa is not simply living a minority lifestyle in terms of food. It is becoming so caught up in eating “right” that food consumption is not a pleasure but rather a full-time job with some unsavory fringe benefits.

Yeah, excess in moderation. It’s the epicurean creed, I believe. Excessive excess can be debilitating. The problem here is not with health. How, after all, can health be unhealthy? The problem is with obsession, but obsession has to do with desire, and so it’s a matter of doctoring the heart. The problem with doctoring the heart is that the patient in this case is in no danger of cardiac arrest. We’re dealing with his or her relationships to things and people, but again, should we be making the intensity of moods and emotions out to be diseases?

Bratman offers ten signs of Orthorexia Nervosa in his book Health Food Junkies. These symptoms range from spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy foods to feeling a sense of “control” when making food selections.

Certainly no one is going to become a health food junky, not such a bad preoccupation at all in my book, by thinking about food a mere 10 minutes during the course of a single day. When corporations are busily engineering addictive food products that turn ordinary people into obese slob ogres almost over night, I’ve got to think maybe obsessing about proper dieting isn’t such a bad thing after all.

A quick Google search of Orthorexia Nervosa will pull up a number of articles and blog posts suggesting that Orthorexia is a fad term created to sell books or that naming this condition is just another opportunity to classify differences as mental illness.

On the other hand, physicians including Bratman have been documenting field cases of this “health food disease.” A number of individuals have self diagnosed this condition, and family members on message boards post questions and concerns about eating patterns of loved ones that closely match the condition identified and named by Bratman.

Uh, Okay, but does that mean Orthorexia Nervosa is not “a fad term created to sell books” or an “opportunity to classify differences as mental illness”?

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8 Responses

  1. I think everything in excess is bad for you. People with Bulimia Nervosa sometimes obsess about un-healthy foods while others don’t. Personally, I believe there is such a thing as Orthorexia Nervosa. Yes, healthy foods are obviously not bad for you but when it becomes an obsession, that’s when the issue starts.

    • I will make sure I don’t get too much of everything then.

      Binge eaters (or people said to have Bulima Nervosa) could perhaps be helped by a change of eating habits. Perhaps if they changed labels, and suffered from this healthy eating disorder, that would do the trick.

      When you can hand me Orthorexia Nervosa on a microscope slide, I will consider its existence as a medical condition. Until such time, your belief system not withstanding, there is no such animal!

      The issue here, as I see it, can never be about healthy eating. Are we dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Well, I don’t like labels, but that’s another matter. Healthy eating is just plain good sense, and it’s the good sense a lot fewer people have today than they had a few years ago. Over eating, eating to excess, is not healthy eating. If a person studies healthy eating habits, another person could rightly call doing so an obsession other people don’t have. The thing I question is this notion of excess. Doing so more than the average person, given the average build, can’t be a bad thing.

      This issue as you have posed it is not about healthy eating, it’s about obsession, and therefore, its not really something so exclusive as to be about eating. The question here is would such a deep and abiding interest as eating healthily constitute a pathological condition in and of itself, and I submit that it simply would not do so.

  2. Ordinary nutrition is really easy. It takes just a couple of hours to teach that we eat protein, fat, carbohydrate and water. Energy in, energy out. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids… forget it. If you’re not doing it right you are doing something strange and you have plenty of time to correct it.

    Anyone who tells you any different is either trying to sell you something or they have not outgrown their childhood obsession with their orifices.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by ordinary nutrition here. If you mean it’s easy for people to eat healthily, well, I tend to think the stats on how obesity is again becoming a national problem (in the USA anyway, I don’t know where you aussies are at) would indicate otherwise. A diet of junk food may be affordable, but this is before the bad health costs come back to kick you in your over-sized gut.

      There’s a Huffington Post blog entry out now that says it all, Stigmatizing Health: The War Against ‘Health Nuts’. Notice the nuts. If good health is crazy, maybe crazy isn’t such a bad thing after all. If you’re going to be nuts about something, it might as well be something like health. Health fanatics we can live with, war mongers, and those who endanger the lives of everyone, are another thing altogether. The biggest art and music nuts in the world are artists and musicians. I tend to think we’d have a somewhat diminished world without them.

  3. healthy eating should be our top priority since there are many junk foods and foods with no nutritional value these days ;’;

    • I imagine you’re suggesting that fixating on maintaining a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be contrued a mental illness, and if that’s the case, I fully agree with you. Health unhealthy, poppycock! Corporate greed, putting profits before people, when it is intent on destroying lives, well, we don’t need to help it along, do we?

  4. health foods that are organice and have natural source should be the stuff that we should take `””

    • You will get no argument from me on this point. If there’s a Health Food Disorder, better to have it than otherwise. I don’t think there needs to be any question as to what constitutes health and what doesn’t. A little research can bring a person up to speed on that score. A little health food expertise is certainly preferable to no health food expertise. I think Health Food Disorder, Orthorexia Nervosa, is the fabrication of this medical doctor, Dr. Steven Bratman, and I think ignoring the label is the best thing a person might manage to do about it. I certainly wouldn’t recommend treatment for any Health Food Disorder. Obesity, diabetes and the other after effects of Junk Food Disorder are another thing again. I can see a need for treatment there.

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