Yesterday, despite being aware that I had successfully reversed diabetes and lost 16 kilos in the process, a colleague offered me a chocolate biscuit, when I politely refused I was accused of being an orthorexic.
I had no idea what she meant, but a quick google search took me to several websites on the subject where I discovered that orthorexia was a term coined in the late 90’s by Dr Steven Bratman (and used since by those wanting to squash any dietary dissent ) who suggested that some people’s dietary restrictions intended to promote health may paradoxically lead to unhealthy consequences, such as social isolation, anxiety, loss of ability to eat in a natural, intuitive manner, reduced interest in the full range of other healthy human activities, and, in rare cases, severe malnutrition or even death. In 2000, Dr Bratman even wrote a book on the subject titled Health Food Junkies. According to Dr Bratman;
“Orthorexia is an emotionally disturbed, self-punishing relationship with food that involves a progressively shrinking universe of foods deemed acceptable. A gradual constriction of many other dimensions of life occurs so that thinking about healthy food can becomes the central theme of almost every moment of the day, the sword and shield against every kind of anxiety, and the primary source of self-esteem, value and meaning. This may result in social isolation, psychological disturbance and even, possibly, physical harm.”
He has also developed a test The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test which is designed to evaluate whether someone is suffering from this terrifying disease! (sarcasm). It asks:
- If you are a healthy-diet enthusiast, and you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may be developing orthorexia nervosa:
- I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.
- When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods.
- My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.
- Sometimes I would like to relax my self-imposed “good food” rules for a special occasion, such as a wedding or a meal with family or friends, but I find that I cannot.
- Over time, I have steadily eliminated more foods and expanded my list of food rules in an attempt to maintain or enhance health benefits; sometimes, I may take an existing food theory and add to it with beliefs of my own.
- Following my theory of healthy eating has caused me to lose more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, loss of menstruation or skin problems.
I am not saying that eating disorders are trivial, they certainly aren’t, but to create an eating disorder based purely on his own observation, a disorder that is not recognised by medical establishments (anywhere), certainly needs a counter argument.
Let’s look at the low fat campaign which came to fruition in the 1980’s (also based on a false assumption) and has reigned ever since. This was not a self-imposed diet but a diet pushed down the throats (pun intended) of entire populations. So I have created a counter-questionnaire in an attempt to highlight which dietary approach is healthier and more psychologically sound:
- I spend much of my life thinking about choosing and preparing low fat food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life.
- When I eat any fat, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near fat disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods.
- My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness avoiding fat.
- Sometimes I would like to relax these (wrongly) imposed low fat rules for a special occasion, such as Christmas, but I find that if I do, I spend the rest of the year attempting to lose the extra pounds with an unused gym membership and a huge amount of money on worthless slimming products.
- Over time, I have steadily eliminated more real food and increased processed low fat, high sugar foods in an attempt to maintain or enhance health, sometimes I may take an existing food theory and add to it with rice cakes, industrial cooking oils and cereal.
- Following my theory of eating low fat has caused me to gain more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of ill-health such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.
I rest my case…and I still won’t have that biscuit.