Do you have Orthorexia?

orthorexia.jpgYou may think that you’re doing yourself and your family a wonderful service by only keeping healthy foods in the house, explaining all things flax seed to them and talking about colon cleansing, but all your hard work and healthy zealous behavior may actually have a negative impact on yourself and your children in the long run.
What is orthorexia? This Eating Disorder website explains:

Orthorexia is defined as an obsession with “healthy or righteous eating”. The phrase was first created in 1997 by California doctor Steven Bratman, and refers to people who create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating. It often begins with someone’s simple and genuine desire to live a healthy lifestyle. The person may choose to stop eating red meat, but eventually cuts out all meat; then all processed foods, and will eventually eat only specific foods that are prepared in very specific ways….The limited diet also puts people at risk of being undernourished, which could cause them to binge, and later purge out of guilt – paving the way for bulimia. The character traits of people with anorexia and orthorexia are very similar as well (perfectionism, overly self-critical, etc.), which is also cause for concern.

These behaviors and obsessive thinking may seem extreme but there is more and more reason to be concerned about our food. For many, It is challenging to live in a society where we are given conflicting and often frightening information about our food sources almost on a daily basis. Antibiotics in chickens, E.coli in beef, plastic containers leaching toxins, etc. With all this fear, how does one avoid getting orthorexia or more importantly, pass it on to our children?

One way to keep a healthy perspective is to allow for moderation in food. Yes, by all means, provide a healthy diet with home cooked meals, but keep in mind that depriving a child of any and all treats will surely backfire, as many a sugar deprived child will tell you.
One anonymous junk food junkie confessed:
“I was not allowed sugar as a child and made a bee line for my Aunt’s junk food filled pantries every chance I got! I binged!”
Don’t let your kids be down with O.P.P.–other people’s pantries. An ice cream from Mr. Softee once a week won’t kill you, which brings me to another point: Don’t ever tell a child that junk food will kill them! Children are not able to reason through complex topics such as nutrition and health and may get frightened. Keep it simple and honest, “I want you to stay healthy, that’s my job as your mom/dad/guardian.”
Are you afraid you’re coming down with orthorexia or know someone who is?
Alma Schneider is a licensed clinical social worker with a specialization in helping individuals overcome their practical and psychological obstacles to cooking. Think Dr. Phil meets Rachel Ray. Healthy and “everything in moderation” recipes can be found on her blog, Take Back the Kitchen

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  1. Low-fat food really creeps me out. Or bread with a brown “whole wheat” color that really has nothing whole or wheat in it. These companies are tricking you!

  2. While Steven Bratman, MD may bill himself (on his own website) as a “nationally-known consultant on alternative medicine” he is, in fact, a leading spokesman for mainstream allopathy, and a denigrator of all things medically alternative. He is in fact as much an “expert on alternative medicine” as a pest exterminator is a veterinarian.

    Mr. Bratman’s (I have a difficult time according him the title of “doctor”) concept of orthorexia is ridiculous, but totally keeping in line with allopathy’s self-assumed right to pathologize any otherwise normal, healthy, survival-oriented and life-sustaining practice, viewpoint or orientation; in other words, the notion of “if you do not agree with me, you’re sick.”
    This is – precisely – the kind of mindset which allowed physicians not too many years ago to call homosexual people, ambitious women or self-respecting black people “sick,” “Confused” and “paranoid.”

    Sorry, Mr. Bratman: you’re characterization of concern with diet and the espousal of optimal eating habits as “sickness” carries about as much water as the concept of “drapetomania.”

    Drapetomania was – according to the medical thinking of the mid-nineteenth century – a mental disorder affecting African slaves whose chief symptom was running away from their masters.

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