Orthorexia nervosa, hotter than the chew-and-spit

So there is a HOT NEW EATING DISORDER on the block this week that will definitely get gays and girls whipped up into a frenzy, say hello to Orthorexia Nervosa, or obsession with eating healthily. The wikipedia definition of the disorder is –

“Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a term used by Steven Bratman to describe people who have developed a fixation with healthy or righteous eating and has been referred to as a mental disorder. It is not a medically recognized term.”

To be honest I can see this as being something that is relatively easy to suffer from (to varying degrees) if you pay attention to what you eat.

It is SO EASY these days to get fixated on whether what you are eating is good for you or not, literally EVERYTHING in UK supermarkets these days is labelled with either the traffic light wheel, or a basic grid telling you how much of your daily fat, salt, sugar etc. allowance the product contains (sometimes in a sneaky way, telling you only per “portion” when the supermarkets know too well you are going to eat the whole thing). Just reading this information is enough to make you ponder as to whether you should be eating it or not.

For example I was recently REALLY REALLY hungover, and literally the only thing I fancied eating was a gross disgusting Oriental snack selection from Sainsburys (Prawn toast, won tons, fried dumplings etc) so I got myself out of bed and was most depressed when I was in Sainsburys to discover the traffic light wheel on the pack was ENTIRELY red (ie. REALLY BAD FOR YOU), and that was only for a quarter of the pack! Eating the whole pack would provide you with nearly your entire days salt allowance and very close to your entire days fat allowance. This instantly made me feel really guilty for wanting to eat it, even though it was the only thing that I could stomach eating. Thinking logically I knew that eating the pack wouldn’t kill me or do me any actual harm – I eat really well usually and exercise quite a bit, but just having the information presented there in front of me really made me question whether I should be eating it or not. In the end I ended up buying those packs of broccolli/baby corn and sugar snaps/fine beans and ate half a pack of the Oriental Snack selection and a big pile of vegetables with it so it was “less bad for me”.

Similarly I can’t be the only person that has a vague fixation on making sure I eat my 5 a day, I mean the message is absolutely DRILLED into us these days from every angle. Again I find myself feeling guilty if I don’t feel I’m eating enough fruit and veg (often I eat over my 5 a day), and if I don’t feel like I have been eating enough I make myself a huge halloumi or feta salad and eat that for a couple of days for my dinner to make sure that I am getting enough veg.

Reports in the news that the 5 a day thing is all rubbish, and that fruit is actually bad for you makes everything even more confusing. I often find food reporting in the UK to be really quite inconsistent in the UK – recently I was reading an issue of Mens Health that on one page was telling you how terrible soy sauce was for you and your body (REALLY?), and the literal next page featured a recipe for salmon in a soy sauce marinade, it made NO SENSE. Indeed psychologist Deanne Jade, who is a leader on the disorder has been recently quoted as saying –

‘Often people who take an interest in being healthy become overwhelmed by the conflicting information. People start cutting out food groups, like meat, and become convinced they are “intolerant” to other food groups, like wheat and dairy, so they cut those out too.

‘It is rising among young people because they are impressionable to what they read in magazines and what they see on TV.’

and I really think that is so true. You hear so much conflicting information about what is actually healthy these days, and what you are supposed to be eating. Apparently these days you are meant to eat :

at least 2 portions of oily fish a week, along with 6 eggs, less red meat, more green leafy vegetables, add venison and liver to your diet as they are full of iron, not eat dairy apart from a matchbox sized piece of cheese once a day to get your daily calcium intake, to eat lots of soya as its really good for you but not the heavily processed type – the beans or the milk, then decide whether you actually SHOULD morally be eating soya as a lot of it is imported from South America and a lot of rainforest has been cut down to make way for soya plantations, eat blueberries and pomegranate seeds as these are superfruits, but not apples and pears as they have very little nutritional value and are full of natural sugars etc etc etc…

I could go on and on with examples of what we should eat and what we shouldn’t (seriously I could), but I won’t because unless you follow a ridiculously strict and incredibly planned out diet (more like a food regime), it is impossible to live by all of these food rules, even trying to follow the few that I posted above week in week out would be borderline insanity and very impractical to actually do. No wonder Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that is currently flourishing, with all the information about food that thrown at us currently, you have to be utterly obsessive about healthy eating to stick to all the rules, like I said, it is borderline impossible.

Personally I think I have quite normal eating habits, I’m very educated about food (and I love it), but I know to a certain (not major) extent this does affect me, it is a bit like I have been indoctrinated by the food police, but it doesn’t control my life. It must be utterly HORRIBLE to have it in a really strong way.



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