Thursday, November 10, 2011

Do you have Orthoexia?

When most people think of eating disorders, they think of anorexia and bulimia, right?  What most people don't realize is that there are many more types of eating disorders.  An eating disorder is exactly that: disordered eating, or when relationship with food is not balanced properly.  For years, I have struggled with different forms of disordered eating.  Not too long ago I was an Orthoexic.  There are a lot of people who find a diet that works well for them and then think that EVERYONE should eat that way.  Steven Bratman, MD, expounds upon orthoexia nervosa as follows:
 Orthorexia begins, innocently enough, as a desire to overcome chronic illness or to improve general health. But because it requires considerable willpower to adopt a diet that differs radically from the food habits of childhood and the surrounding culture, few accomplish the change gracefully. Most must resort to an iron self-discipline bolstered by a hefty dose of superiority over those who eat junk food. Over time, what to eat, how much, and the consequences of dietary indiscretion come to occupy a greater and greater proportion of the orthorexic's day.
The act of eating pure food begins to carry pseudo spiritual connotations. As orthorexia progresses, a day filled with sprouts, umeboshi plums, 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 gallon of Haagen Dazs ice cream and a large pizza), 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 his time planning, purchasing, and eating meals. The orthorexic's inner life becomes dominated by efforts to resist temptation, self-condemnation for lapses, self-praise for success at complying with the chosen regime, and feelings of superiority over others less pure in their dietary habits.
This transference of all of life's value into the act of eating makes orthorexia a true disorder. In this essential characteristic, orthorexia bears many similarities to the two well-known eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. Where the bulimic and anorexic focus on the quantity of food, the orthorexic fixates on its quality. All three give food an excessive place in the scheme of life.

My take home message from this:  Find out what foods assimilate well in your body.  Recognize that what works for you might not work for others.  Recognize that as you go through different stages in your life, you will probably have different dietary needs.  Recognize that "messing up" just means that you had a food experiment that went very badly.  Guilt will never do you any good, so just accept the decisions you make, for better or for worse.

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