felicitycurtain

An informed view of all things food

Orthorexia – the accepted eating disorder.

freeimage-5483496-webMost tech-savvy people in my generation will be well aware of the ‘clean eating’ craze swarming social media.

As this trend has gained steam, sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been flooded with poorly communicated advice, much of which is not only a recipe for poor body image, but also flat out wrong (carbohydrates = fat, really?) But is this ‘thinspiration/fitspiration’ causing more than a case of serious jealousy?  Could this, perhaps, be contributing to the rise in a whole new kind of disordered eating?

American doctor Steven Bratman has dubbed it ‘orthorexia’, an amalgam of the Greek words ‘orthos,’ meaning straight or correct, and ‘rexia,’ meaning appetite. Although it is not clinically recognised, Bratman and others argue that it is a legitimate condition, characterised by an obsessive fixation on maintaining a meticulously healthy, clean diet.

What could be wrong with that? Surely I’m not suggesting a diet could be too healthy?

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Being motivated to eat healthy, whole foods is great, as is avoiding loading up on junk food.  However, when this becomes a compulsive fixation, healthy eating can escalate into obsession.  Cutting out essential food groups – fats, carbohydrates, sugars – or perhaps eliminating salt, sugar, caffeine, gluten, or dairy, to the point of refusing food prepared by others… this kind of behaviour can result in severe consequences, both physically and emotionally, particularly when paired with fanatical exercising.

According to Dr Anthea Fursland, president for Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders, orthorexia falls into the category of EDNOS – Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified – meaning it meets the criteria of an eating disorder, but does not amount to either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.  She says that those suffering from such an extreme obsession with healthy eating are highly prone to developing all sorts of other eating disorders.

Unfortunately, today’s media does little to help matters: we are, as the Butterfly Foundation puts it, constantly bombarded with “unrealistic, unobtainable and highly stylised” images through television, print media and the internet. These false ideals can create a distorted idea of what is necessary for happiness, success and love; and can lead to a sense of obligation to measure up to these unrealistic standards.

Not to mention the never-ending stream of new fad diets we’re faced with each week.  If it’s not eating according to our blood type, it’s eating alkalising foods or strictly paleo.  With all these mixed health messages out there, how can anyone be expected to feel confident with their food choices?

First things first.  Please don’t take dietary advice from Instagram.

As with all things, balance is everything.  And allowing yourself to indulge every once in a while is perfectly healthy.  Above all, enjoy your food and don’t allow it to rule your thoughts.

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Categories: In the News

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6 replies

  1. Very well written, loved this post.

  2. Hi Felicity, Rob and I frequently have healrh discussions! Congratulations on your sensible, patient-friendly and easy to follow advice. Food issues have become so complicated and marketing driven……..people with little time ignore the obvious, and more information like yours needs to be let loose before the health burden becomes way beyond retrieval. Kind regards, Gerald Quigley, Pharmacist & Master Herbalist

    • Hi Gerald, thanks very much for your comment!
      My dad has mentioned you many times so I’m so glad you’ve had a look at my blog.
      There really is a lot of conflicting ideas surrounding food, so it’s become a passion of mine to communicate good advice and debunk myths.

  3. Hi Felicity – great post! I totally agree with you on the balanced approach – healthy and clean as a preferred way of living, but allowing occasional (and small) indulgences to keep yourself sane. It should never be about having a stick-thin figure, but about being healthy and decreasing the risk of disease

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