What is Orthorexia?
You may or may not have heard of this. As you may have guessed, it’s another one of those “disorders” that appears to have popped up out of nowhere. I will explain what it really is in not-so-plain English for those of you who are wondering what my thoughts on this happen to be.
Please do your own Google search if you wish. But here’s the NEDA definition for those of you who might be wondering:
(Please note: NEDA claims to be THE authority on eating disorders. That is, this organization claims that only their information is valid and that you can trust NEDA and no one else. Note who funds them! Remuda Ranch and others…….So? How valid is NEDA as a source of information? Personally, I’d rather consult a variety of sources, and would recommend the same to anyone.)
First of all, Orthorexia isn’t some newfangled disease that has popped up out of nowhere in 1996. Nor is it a result of the diet fad media. Nor is it a result of people being fat nor a backfiring of Michelle Obama’s campaign to make us all think the definition of “health” is “diet and exercise and lose weight.”
As a matter of fact, orthorexia has always been around. It’s been around ever since we’ve had to eat. The word was invented in 1996, only the word. However, words have power. Do not underestimate the power of words. I’ll get back to this in a second.
Have we always been obsessed with food? Of course! It can indeed go too far, and it will. It’s no fun when it does. Is it a disorder? I, for one, would not call it that. Here’s why.
Food obsession, like any other obsession, can be bad or good, depending on how it plays out in a person’s life. A chef can make a living being obsessed with pleasing other people with the most exquisite food he can make. Some food-obsessed people are getting rich (even off of you and me) by inventing food gadgets or writing wonderful books about food. People open restaurants and bake bread.
On the other hand, I’ve seen people tortured by food obsession. I’ve seen people nearly die thinking they were “eating healthy.” I’ve seen folks paralyzed by indecision that results from food fears. They cannot work, they ignore dirty laundry and can no longer leave their homes nor care for children and pets.
In truth, this type of obsession isn’t too common, but it does happen. I believe that the media is implying that it is more common than it really is. I personally see this more often among folks that are isolated and elderly than among younger people, but I’ll bet it pops up on college campuses as well. It’s just that I don’t personally don’t know that many college students.
There are two concerns among those of us involved in Human Rights:
First of all, Orhorexia could be overdiagnosed.
Secondly, as soon as it becomes a diagnosis, it ends up a Proclamation from MD. “You have orthorexia.” This statement alone could be as dehumanizing as “You have schizophrenia” or “You have bipolar.” The implication of a person’s lesser worth and the implication of permanence, and being told this by an authority figure is likely to exponentially lengthen the person’s suffering.
Yes, orthorexia is very painful. For godsakes, I hope it’s never permanent, and to call it a diagnosis seals it as such. Imagine some 20 or 30 or 40 years later seeing that on your medical record!
Does a person require treatment for orthorexia? Just because a person is suffering (that person may not be, please ask!) does not mean “treatment by therapy and pills” is the best or only option. Ask!
On the other hand, a few people have told me, “I had orthorexia and no one even knew nor cared!” This saddens me since it sounds like no one even asked! For some, giving it a name makes it far more likely that these questions might come up in conversation or an evaluation. For those that were unheard, their concerns are now validated.
However, even with such validation, what’s out there for “treatment”? Same ole. Cookie cutter Those I have known with such obsessions (broader, obsessed with many other things as well) needed a completely different approach. Yet everyone gets shoved in together.
For those of you out there who are questioning if orthorexia is real, look around you or look into yourself for a minute. Have you ever watched the Dr. Oz show? Did you watch the whole show to the end? Did you ever buy an overpriced diet fad product? Did you ever follow a fad diet? Did you ever pay way, way too much for a diet product or join an expensive, overpriced fad diet gimmick club then….oooops……..Have you ever clicked on “lose ten pounds in a week” and then found your Inbox so full of spam you cursed for the next five years? Have you ever read a diet article and followed the diet or read a diet book and fallen for it? Or have you known someone who buys a product because it says “natural” on the package? Or do you know anyone who you know, in your heart, is a diet idiot and you just don’t have the heart to tell her? “Honey, yes, your butt looks fat in that, and you aren’t going to lose ten pounds by eating doughnuts and taking those pills from India for a month…..”
Psssst: I have. We all have. Admit it. Fess up.
If you answered yes to the above, and I assume you have, Orthorexia is just like that, only an extreme version of that Yes. Orthorexia is painful and paralyzing for anyone suffering from it. Orthorexia is real, but it is very very rare. Don’t label, this is temporary. If we do not label it will remain temporary. Care instead. Never push away a person who suffers. Ask why.
Most of us are indeed more obsessed than we need to be. Just eat. Eat what tastes good. Eat what you like and quit fussing. Quit complaining and quit bickering. If you need more, ask. Share your leftovers, save for the doggie, too. Life is just too short and it’s not worth the brain space. Use your brain space for brain stuff and get the laundry done.