Orthorexia - right and correct appetite

Orthorexia is a new type of eating disorder. The term was coined by Steven Bratman, MD in 1996 to label his patients who were overly obsessed with what they eat to improve their health. The term comes from the Greek word “orthos” meaning right and correct, and “orexis” meaning appetite. According to Dr. Bratman, they add supplement powders and vast amounts of “superfoods” to their smoothies, and eliminate entire food groups in an attempt to consume a “clean” or “perfect” diet, while doing some form of exercise routine every day. They think critically of others who do not follow strict diets and strongly recommend their diet to others as the best way for them to eat healthy. They experience feelings of guilt or shame when unable to adhere to the strict diet standards they have set for themselves. They also feel virtuous from eating “healthy” while losing interest in other activities they once enjoyed. Orthorexia goes beyond attempts to eat healthy and progresses until it negatively affects a person nutritionally, physically, and mentally. It can mimic the damaging effects seen in Anorexia and Bulimia, such as malnutrition from dietary restrictions, social isolation and emotional instability.

As an Eating Psychology Coach, I have been trained to work with a range of eating disorders – Anorexia, Bulimia, binge eating, and over-eating. Anorexics and bulimics are concerned with the quantity of food consumed whereas orthorexics are concerned with the quality. It is not difficult for me to distinguish between people who are orthorexic and people who are just health conscious and want to get the most benefit from their hard earned food dollar and efforts.

The majority of my clients come to see me because they just want to eat healthier, and recover from Systemic Candidiasis and Leaky Gut. They have come to understand that doctors and drugs are not going to help them recover their health and that nutrients from nutritionally rich foods are medicine for the body. They understand there was a time, before conventional - industry farming destroyed the virgin soil and the processed foods industry took over, when all food grew organically. They just want to get back to eating the way their great-grand parents and generations before them ate, when people enjoyed health into their 90’s and died of old age. We should be eating the highest quality food we can afford.

Initially, it is necessary to spend more time and thought in food selection, meal planning and learning the best way to prepare meals, but once a menu is created, you really don’t have to think about it again. It is set on auto-pilot and you just do the plan. You should feel confident and comfortable with your food sources and choices, and empowered, with no anxiety. There is no reason to avoid social events involving food. You know what is in the food that’s offered, and you come prepared.

How can food not affect relationships with others, or become all encompassing when every social event includes "food". We've made it that way. I have learned from repeated trial and error, not to eat something I know will challenge my body and make me sick for days, because it’s just not worth it. There are three rules of etiquette people clearly understand on a subconscious level. We all know it is rude not to accept the food that is offered, however, it is considered a terrible thing for a host/hostess or restaurant to offer food that makes someone sick. Also, it is socially acceptable not to eat what is offered due to medical reasons. We all understand these days that people have food allergies, food sensitivities and diabetes. One client said to me, “My husband doesn’t want me to eat different from the rest of the family at home.” I asked, “When you all go to a restaurant, do all of you order the same thing?” You must do what works best for your body and don’t be concerned about what others think of your diet.

We eat to live, not live to eat. Essentially, since the first man, most of our time and energy has been devoted to obtaining and preparing food, so it is reasonable to expect providing the best nutrition should require considerable resources (time, energy and money) but is shouldn’t be the most important focus of our life. Even the wild animals know their survival and procreation depends upon them finding the best pasture, or healthiest version of what ever they eat. The top lions of the social ladder in a pride, or wolves in a pack fight over the best parts and leave the scraps for the weak and the vultures. Would we label them Orthorexia's because they are "obsessed" with eating the healthiest food? So what label should we give to people who don't care what they eat and choose unhealthy foods? I wonder what type of diet Dr. Steven Bratman eats? Psychiatry is not a real science and doctors want to label everything so they can medicate more people.

So how do we eat healthy without becoming obsessed with healthy eating? The key is balance. Eating healthy should have a positive effect on health, empower you, and enrich the enjoyment of food and life, because how you do food is how you do life. Eat, drink and be merry, but be wise about it. Enjoy your food, but don't obsess over it.