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Orthorexia: When "Healthy" Food Becomes An Addiction

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  • Orthorexia: When "Healthy" Food Becomes An Addiction

    When eating well becomes hell

    Cari Corbet-Owen, Shape magazineAllergy or obsession?The causes

    The roots of orthorexia are varied. Sometimes it's a desire to improve general health; for some it's about attaining holism or spiritual purity (some of the strongest ideals of alternative medicine), and for others it starts simply as an adjunct to getting over illness.

    Jill cut out all dairy products when a friend suggested her post-nasal drip was a symptom of lactose intolerance. But as time went on, she found herself developing increasingly specific food rules. Planning ways to stick to her self-imposed dietary regimen took up more and more of her time. As is common with orthorexia sufferers, what to eat, and the consequences of a dietary indiscretion, began to control her.

    Now Jill cannot go anywhere without carrying her own "pure" food supply. Her eating habits have isolated her. She no longer eats out, not only because she can't, but because her friends are tired of being lectured on the evils of refined, processed and junk food, and the dangers of pesticides and artificial fertilisers.

    From asthma to isolation

    Lynn was a chronic asthmatic. She first cut out milk, then later, wheat and maize. Her asthma improved drastically, thereby also reducing her reliance on medication.

    She was hooked on her new "food therapy". Next to go were other "allergens", like meat and eggs. The demise of several vegetables and fruits followed, as she discovered additional "sensitivities". Even eating a carrot became an issue, until eventually her diet was a complex rotation of only a couple of foods, with days of fasting to "clear" her system.

    Social butterfly Lynn stays at home worrying about what to eat, because while the asthma hasn't come back, headaches, nausea and "strange moods" have taken its place.

    From phobia to self-control

    Janet, 170cm tall and weighing only 49kg, admits that her ability to participate in normal conversation is impeded by intrusive thoughts of food. After two years, she's no longer able to eat what's readily available, as her phobias have extended to include fat, chemicals, colourants and preservatives.

    Sticking to this regimen takes tremendous willpower, which allows Janet to feel self-righteous and superior to those who don't have her kind of self-control. It's here that symptoms common in anorexia emerge: limiting foods, feeling superior and in control, and then crashing into a binge.

    As with anorexics and bulimics, when Janet breaks her health-food vows and gives in to a craving she feels guilty, and punishes herself with even stricter rules and more restrictions.

    The difference, though, is that she's concerned only with the quality of food, rather than the quantity. While anorexics want to lose weight, orthorexics want to feel pure or holy, but their relationship with food is equally neurotic.

    Dr Steve Bratman, who coined the term "orthorexia" in 1997, says: "The act of eating pure food begins to carry pseudospiritual connotations. As orthorexia progresses, a day filled with sprouts, umeboshi plums (Japanese pickles), and amaranth biscuits comes to feel as holy as one spent serving the poor and homeless. When an orthorexic slips up (which may involve anything from devouring a single raisin to consuming a large pizza), (s)he experiences a fall from grace and must perform numerous acts of penitence. These usually involve ever-stricter diets and fasts. This "kitchen spirituality" eventually reaches a point where the sufferer spends most of her/his time planning, purchasing, and eating meals."

    Information overload?The bottom lineArticle courtesy of Shape magazine.


    http://lifestyle.iafrica.com/dining_...ing/474844.htm
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  • #2
    Fussy can be dangerous

    Filed: 01/11/2004



    Never before have we been so obsessed with the quality of our food. We are concerned about whether it contains too much sugar, is too processed, whether it is genetically modified, organic or not.



    Orthorexic sufferers 'devote great mental energy to their strict dietary rules concerning food purity'Persaud: 'when was the last time you ate something without worrying whether it was good for you?'

    However, the underlying motivation is quite different. While an anorexic wants to lose weight, an orthorexic wants to feel pure, healthy and natural. Failing to understand this distinction may lead to incorrect treatment.

    A study just published by the Institute of Gut Sciences of La Sapienza University in Rome is the first attempt to measure the prevalence of orthorexia in the general population. Researchers found that up to seven per cent of the Italian population suffer from orthorexia nervosa; intriguingly, it was a misunderstanding of nutrition that seemed to be the most commonly found predisposing factor.

    This is a staggeringly high prevalence figure for a brand new disorder that did not appear in the academic medical journals until this year.

    It is possible that orthorexia is being fuelled by the health-food and alternative-medicine industry, whose advertising and "educational" messages stress the vital importance of getting the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals. This, combined with burgeoning government and official medical warnings about the epidemic of obesity, is perhaps producing an unhealthy hysteria over what we eat.

    In the past, orthorexics were probably affectionately referred to as "health-food junkies", but now, doctors are increasingly realising that an obsession with healthy food can progress to the extent where it crowds out other activities and interests, impairs relationships, and even becomes physically dangerous.

    While there might be scepticism among some specialists about whether we need yet another "new" disorder, it is important to remember that the well-established and accepted category of bulimia nervosa - the eating disorder characterised by purging and vomiting to get rid of recently consumed food, in order to avoid weight gain - was first described as recently as 1979.

    It doesn't seem impossible that the current preoccupation with healthy eating could be nudging people towards illness, just as a preoccupation with emulating the looks of a stick-thin model can nudge young women towards bulimia.

    After all, when was the last time you ate something without worrying whether it was good for you?

    Raj Persaud is Gresham Professor for Public Understanding of Psychiatry and presents All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4


    http://health.telegraph.co.uk/health.../horthos01.xml
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    • #3
      Yellow is not the only colour

      Food faddism in California has reached new heights with reported outbreaks of 'orthorexia' - an enthusiasm for 'pure' eating that ranges from raw vegetable abuse to people who insist on ordering lunch in a particular colour. If this really qualifies as a dangerous eating disorder, how long will it be before we catch it? Self-confessed fussy eater Liz Jones reports

      Sunday September 9, 2001
      The Observer


      I'm sitting across the table from a powerful LA publicist in a s****y hotel on Sunset Boulevard. We're discussing which films will be hot this autumn, while the waiter hovers ready to take our order. 'Hi, Renaldo,' says the publicist, 'I would like the organic greens, torn not chopped, do you know when they were harvested?' He doesn't.

      'Then I would like the steamed vegetables, no peppers or tomatoes, make sure the pot is not aluminium, the whole-grain rice steamed, and a sealed bottle of organic rain water...' The publicist tells me that since she started eating 'live foods' - not, I hasten to add, meaning fish that still thrashes about on your plate, but a diet mainly consisting of raw vegetables, fruit, sprouts, soaked grains, seeds and nuts - she has cleansed her body of toxins and impurities, and now has so much energy she hikes before breakfast. I decline to ask what exactly it was she ate for breakfast, but I'm sure it wasn't a bowl of Coco Pops.

      In America, extreme fussiness about food has suddenly become very fashionable indeed; it now even has a brand new name, is struggling to become recognised as a bona fide eating disorder, and has the medical establishment scrabbling for answers. What can often be a debilitating phobia about food - and carry severe health risks - is having an even bigger problem being taken seriously. This extreme phobia about food isn't about weight loss but about adhering to as pure a diet as possible, and its new name is 'orthorexia nervosa', from the Greek word 'orthos', meaning correct. Being orthorexic isn't about being a gastronome, either - taste, texture and variety don't come into it.

      'The most extreme case I have ever had,' says Steven Bratman MD, a Californian practitioner in alternative medicine who first coined the term in 1997, 'is a patient who would only eat food that was yellow.' He has even written a book on the subject - Health Food Junkies: Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating (Doubleday). Bratman first came across the problem when living in a commune in upstate New York during the Seventies, where he was a cook and organic farmer. All he could think about was food. After two years, he realised it would be healthier to enjoy a pizza with friends (processed cheese, refined flour, tomatoes!) than to eat bean sprouts alone.

      'Orthorexia begins innocently enough,' he says, 'with a desire to lose weight, cure digestive problems, live healthily. But the orthorexic is plunged into gloom if he or she lapses; they spend an inordinate amount of time planning meals and shopping.'

      Dr Bratman believes that people who are obsessed with eating 'healthily' have a real problem, and should be taken as seriously as an anorexic or bulimic. They tend to spend their time alone indoors contemplating their bean sprouts, condemned to a diet of boredom and roughage. Extreme diets that set out to be a way of eating healthily first took off on the West Coast of America in the Sixties: there were vegetarians and vegans, of course, but there were also the non-garlic, non-onion aficionados, who believed that bulbs increase sexual deviancy; there were the raw foodists, who would only eat uncooked vegetables which were preferably torn or snapped, not chopped, as cutting destroys a food's 'etheric field', a new age health concept. Macrobiotics would eat cooked vegetables, but no fruit, and wouldn't touch deadly nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. Some would eat only fruit and vegetables in season. Some only fruit or vegetables 15 minutes after they had been pulled from pristine soil. Some refused to eat food that had been boiled. For some, fasting on oranges was healthy; milk caused mucous and cancer; pasteurised milk was even worse...

      But it seems that extreme diets, especially now they have an all-embracing name, are mushrooming, and not only in the US - Dr Bratman has had desperate e-mails from men and women all around the world. His book, which recommends a more 'normal' and varied approach to eating, is almost alone among the hundreds of others on sale that advocate often dangerously exclusive diets, from Intuitive Eating by Humbart Santillo, to Herbert Shelton's Fasting Can Save Your Life. Take, for example, the pattern of eating described in the book Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. They advise what they have coined a 'Natural Hygiene' approach of just fruit for breakfast, a light lunch such as salad and then heavier, protein-type foods (grains and pulses) at dinner. There are also numerous websites for the food phobic, such as www.beyondveg.comLife as an orthorexic


      http://observer.guardian.co.uk/foodm...547293,00.html
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      • #4
        OUR HEALTHY DIETS WERE KILLING US

        23 August 2005
        By Helen Carroll

        Endless diet crazes have made us all aware of healthy eating. But these three women became dangerously obsessed with low-fat food - and seriously damaged their health.

        I banned 'bad foods'.. now I'm 5st
        JANET Hackney, 42, is single and lives in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.

        It's strange but I was only 10 when I became aware of healthy food. While other children were tucking into cakes, biscuits and sweets, I wanted to eat fruit instead.

        I don't know how it all started because both my parents enjoyed their food, ate a rounded diet and were a healthy weight. But by the time I'd reached my teens, my diet had taken over and I'd cut out all high-fat foods, such as butter, cheese and pastry, from my meals.

        As much as I felt good about eating healthily though, my body felt weak. I was constantly picking up bugs and viruses and I had to take so much time off work I eventually quit my job because I wasn't there enough.

        My attitude to only eating healthy food became an obsession. My doctor diagnosed me with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Back then nobody had heard of orthorexia nervosa ( see box, top right) but I think that more accurately describes my condition as I was always more interested in eating healthy foods than starving myself.

        My condition has put a big strain on my personal life. Small things like going to restaurants are out of the question as I don't know for sure what's in the food. In fact I find it hard to eat food prepared by anyone but myself, in case it's been fried in fat or there's butter in the vegetables.

        I'm 5ft tall and weigh 5st 5lbs, which I know isn't enough. My periods are very erratic.

        I try to force myself to eat crisps or chocolate buttons but if I do, I suffer terrible self-hatred afterwards because I can't bear the thought of having those 'bad foods' in my body. I've also developed osteoporosis, which means my bones are thinning due to a lack of calcium in my diet.

        I know rationally that eating so little isn't good for me but breaking the habit now seems impossible."

        Low-fat diet has stopped my periods

        STEPHANIE Margaronis, 19, is a student from West London.

        My obsession with healthy eating started when I was 15 and training as a track runner.

        My trainer referred me to a dietitian to help me get in the best shape possible and he drew up a low-fat eating plan of skimmed milk, cereal, chicken, turkey, steamed rice and vegetables.

        At the time my body fat level was already too low at 20 per cent - it should be more like 25 per cent.

        For the first two months on my diet my periods were very light. By the third month they had completely stopped.

        I'm 5ft 7ins tall and although I weighed a good 9st, there wasn't an inch of fat on my body because the training had made me so muscular.

        I was obsessed with only eating food the dietitian deemed healthy and wouldn't allow myself any fat or sugar. I loved chocolate, crisps and puddings but I couldn't bear to eat even tiny amounts.I developed dry flaky skin on my arms and legs. My mum tried to encourage me to have some oil and cheese so that I had more fat in my diet but I refused.My parents wouldn't force me to eat anything I didn't want because neither wanted me to blame them if I gained weight and lost a race.

        After six months on the diet my body fat had gone down to 13 per cent and my absent periods were becoming a worry.

        I went to see a gynaecologist who said my hormone levels were so low I wasn't ovulating. She told me to stop running and change my diet. But I'd just started to do well in my races so I couldn't give up.

        So I started taking the contraceptive pill and even though that meant I still wasn't ovulating naturally, I felt reassured when my period came every month.

        It wasn't until I was 18 and stopped competing that I started to think about my health. I stopped taking the pill but, even though I was no longer training, my periods didn't return.

        My gynaecologist has recommended I start eating more to trigger my body to start ovulating again. But even now I can't bring myself to eat anything that contains more than three per cent fat.

        I survived on just 300 calories a day

        LOTTI Brunsdon, 30, is a TV engineer from Malvern, Worcestershire. She lives with her partner, Lee.

        At 19 I moved away from home and started cooking for myself. But as I planned out my meals, I thought: 'I'm not going to allow myself to be unhealthy.'

        I cut out chocolate, biscuits and cakes from my diet. Knowing my body was free of sugar gave me such a buzz, I started thinking about all the other foods I was eating.

        I'd spend hours in the supermarket, checking the E numbers and fat content of everything and only chose foods with the very lowest fat content.

        Before long I'd cut my diet down to just a few foods - cereal, fruit and pasta with vegetables. Most days I survived on just 300 calories, and on the rare occasions I allowed myself something with any fat in it, I'd run up and down the stairs to burn it off.

        Because I was living alone nobody knew how little I was eating. I quickly lost a stone and went down to just 9st - an unhealthy weight for my 5ft 9in height. My family and friends all remarked on how skinny I looked.

        Being thin wasn't my motivation but it made me feel good because it proved I was healthy. But the truth is my body was deteriorating. My periods became irregular - I only got one every three months. Then I started to black out from lack of food. I would faint at work, on trains, and even in checkout queues.

        The fainting became so regular I had to introduce more food groups into my meals. But my poor diet had already caused serious damage. My lack of nutrition meant I had a low blood sugar level and I was diagnosed with hypoglycaemia.

        Because of this and to avoid fainting I now need regular amounts of slow-release carbohydrates, like bread and bananas, as well as protein. I can't have high-sugar foods, like chocolate, and only small amounts of alcohol.

        My so-called 'healthy' diet means I'll be dealing with my health problems for the rest of my life.

        ARE YOU OBSESSED WITH WHAT YOU EAT?

        OBSESSION with healthy eating has a name - orthorexia nervosa.To see if you're a sufferer, answer the following questions set by Dr Steve Bratman.

        1. Do you think about food for more than three hours a day?

        2. Have you planned today the food you will eat tomorrow?

        3. Do you care more about the fat content of what you eat, rather than whether you will enjoy it?

        4. Have you found that although the foods you eat are healthy, you actually feel unhealthy?

        5. Do you get stricter on yourself the more you eat "bad" food?

        6. Do you turn down offers to go out for meals because you're worried you won't know how healthy the food is on the menu?

        7. After a healthy meal do you get a big boost in self-esteem? Do you look down on others who don't eat healthily?

        8. Do you feel racked with guilt when you eat "unhealthy" food?

        9. Does your diet stop you going out with friends?

        10. When you're eating the way you're "supposed" to eat, do you feel a sense of total control?

        If you answer "yes" to more than four, you may have orthorexia nervosa. Contact the Eating Problems Service on 020 7602 0862 or visit www.eatingproblems.org

        http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/tm_obje...name_page.html
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        • #5
          Orthorexia Nervosa: Does This Disorder Deserve Recognition?

          A name has been given to an alarming new eating trend linked to the health industry's growing emphasis on the importance of getting the daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.

          Orthorexia nervosa, a term coined by American physician Dr Steven Bratman, author of the book Health Food Junkies , refers to an unhealthy fixation with the health value and purity of food. In December 2003, American health fanatic Kate Finn, one of the first people to be diagnosed with orthorexia, died from heart failure brought on by suspected orthorexia-induced starvation.

          While not yet an officially recognized disorder in the psychiatric literature, the disorder is similar to other serious dietary diagnoses such as anorexia nervosa. According to Dr Bratman, obsession with healthy food can progress to the point where it crowds out other interests and even becomes physically dangerous and orthorexia takes on the dimensions of a true eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

          But the so-called orthorexics are obsessed with food quality rather than with their body image, often avoiding caffeine, preservatives, salt, and sugar in their diet. While it is perfectly normal for people to change what they eat to improve their health or lose weight, orthorexics take the concern too far until it becomes a pathological obsession. Sufferers avoid most foods, can experience severe weight loss, and often become socially isolated as they refuse to eat the same everyday meals as friends and family.


          http://www.nursingcenter.com/library...e_ID=590364#24
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          • #6
            ARE YOU OBSESSED WITH WHAT YOU EAT?
            Dunno...

            OBSESSION with healthy eating has a name - orthorexia nervosa.To see if you're a sufferer, answer the following questions set by Dr Steve Bratman.
            Bring it on.


            1. Do you think about food for more than three hours a day?
            Yeah, and mostly during lectures or when at 'work'.

            2. Have you planned today the food you will eat tomorrow?
            Yeah, it's either pizza, doner kebabs, or pizza. Maybe chocolate if I have spare change.

            3. Do you care more about the fat content of what you eat, rather than whether you will enjoy it?
            Nope.

            4. Have you found that although the foods you eat are healthy, you actually feel unhealthy?
            Not applicable, but for the record I'll start feeling unhealthy when I'm dead.

            5. Do you get stricter on yourself the more you eat "bad" food?
            Yep, I make a mental note to never again buy a kebab from that guy.

            6. Do you turn down offers to go out for meals because you're worried you won't know how healthy the food is on the menu?
            Definitely.

            (A word of caution: If going out to an Indian Restaurant, stick with tandoori chicken and naan, you'll never go wrong,)

            7. After a healthy meal do you get a big boost in self-esteem? Do you look down on others who don't eat healthily?
            No. My self-esteem is boosted by playing Counterstrike.
            I look down on people who force themselves to eat healthy, somebody forgot to tell them that today's banana isn't gonna save them from somebody else's stupidity (and their ability to harm you).

            8. Do you feel racked with guilt when you eat "unhealthy" food?
            Yep. Especially when nature calls soon after.

            9. Does your diet stop you going out with friends?
            That depends on whether they want a free slice of pizza.

            10. When you're eating the way you're "supposed" to eat, do you feel a sense of total control?
            No. My sense of total control is based on forcing traffic to stop by rearranging road signs :D

            If you answer "yes" to more than four, you may have orthorexia nervosa. Contact the Eating Problems Service on 020 7602 0862 or visit www.eatingproblems.org

            http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/tm_obje...name_page.html

            Oooh, 5 and a half Yes's. I better get in touch with these people...Wish me luck!
            Please Re-update your Signature

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