18.6.2015 | 01:40

Rainbow-DragonDispatches from the Divine Dragon


Pride Goeth….

When I first encountered the term “orthorexia,” it confirmed what I already knew.  The trend of “made-up” disorders was alive and well….

I thought the very concept was offensive.  Trying to maintain a healthy diet by avoiding things like gluten, soy, dairy and sugar constituted an “eating disorder”?


Just the idea that wanting to follow a health-promoting diet was now being considered a form of mental illness….  Well, it just made my blood boil.

I’m sure I could spend several paragraphs denoting the failure of medications in treating psychiatric disorders or the “conspiracy” between Big Pharma and government to keep us hooked on pharmaceuticals from cradle to grave.

But you know what?

You can find boatloads of information on those issues all over the Internet or from good old-fashioned books and other print sources at Amazon or your local library.  Some of those outlets contain legitimate, peer-reviewed information.  Some are just extremist rants parroting this or that agenda.

I’ve read a lot of both sorts, and I’ve found a lot to make me think.  Some of the information reinforces my own beliefs, and some challenges them.  Both can be useful, if you’re willing to keep an open mind….

I pride myself on having a very open mind.  And we all know what “they” say about pride, right?

Yeah.  You “fall,” all right.  Straight down the rabbit-hole.

Wanna know what you find down there?

Well, I can’t speak for your personal rabbit-hole, but I found my reflection.  And in that reflection, I found some elements of orthorectic behavior….

I blame my mom.  (Hey, isn’t that what my generation was taught?  “Blame everything on your parents.”)

Kidding aside, my mom asked me if she could share a book she’d found, and would I read it?  And keep an open mind.

You know you’re in trouble when your mom nails you right smack in the quality of which you’re most proud, right?

Turns out she’d been worrying about my sister and me for a while, and the more information she found about “orthorexia,” the more worried she got.

She’s a Virgo.  She worries.  She also loves us very, very much.

(She’s also in denial, a bit, I think, that I’m 50 now.  That was a difficult birthday for her.  My dad died when he was only 48.  I celebrated like hell when I turned 49 — threw myself a party of sorts.  50 was no big deal for me.  But my mom doesn’t feel…her calendar age, so sometimes she forgets I’m not in college anymore.  We’ve been tweaking her about it a little lately, I’m afraid.  Sorry, Mom.  You know we love you!!)

Since this book, Health Food Junkies, was actually written by the doctor who coined the term “orthorexia,” I figured it was a good place to start.  And it was nice that he not only explained why he chose that word, but also admitted that it was somewhat tongue in cheek.

The major insight, though, was discovering that it came from his own personal experience.  He self-identifies as formerly “orthorectic.”

That gives him a lot more credibility in my eyes.

Dr. Bratman offers a nice little self-test.  What I found most interesting was that, even though I didn’t fit nearly into his criteria, I did recognize a lot of myself in there.

I’ve never lectured my friends and acquaintances on what they were allowed to eat. I talked about my “non-mainstream” diets if people asked or expressed interest, and I was always happy to pass along the health information I encountered, but I never crossed that line.

I didn’t spend all of my waking hours obsessed with meal planning and food prep, but I did waste more time than I should have with it.

I also pulled back from “extreme” diets when I realized they weren’t working for me.

But I still had a tendency to trust others’ wisdom regarding what was “best” or “healthiest,” instead of listening to my own body’s innate wisdom.

I don’t think I ever fully “drank the Kool-Aid” of any of the food cults in which I dabbled — and part of me still thinks the idea of “orthorexia” is kind…BS — but I’m still glad I read the book.

I thanked my mom for her concern, and the book — which I’m keeping, because I think it might help my work with clients — but was able to reassure her that, in spite of how the situation might have looked to her, I had already been re-evaluating my diet and contemplating making a few changes.  I knew something wasn’t working for me, and I was weighing the ethics and morality of my dietary choices against my personal health.

More on that next time….

In the meantime, I’ve been able to tell my mom that as difficult as it was for her — she did the right thing by backing off and butting out, and allowing me to make my own mistakes and find my own way.

Thanks, Mom.

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  1. Ritamarie
    June 18, 2015 | 3:07 pm

    thanks Diane Your tongue in cheek style is light and fun I had the same response to orthorexia There is no psychiatric disorder related to eating processed food all day or fear of veggies which seems ubiquitous But I certainly have seen my share of obsession and fear around food I think fear of hydrogenated oils and processed food is intelligence not mental illness but when people become afraid of eating in general it can be a problem Thanks for sharing this Balance and tuning into your own needs is key

  2. Barbara
    June 19, 2015 | 1:33 am

    i view orthorexia as an extreme, as anorexia is an extreme. Not just eating healthy and planning what to eat or how or when. But being extremely nit picky and going to the Nth degree in ferreting out the ingredients, where they are from, exactly, how they were sprouted/picked/harvested, in which moon cycle, and what have they touched from field to table. That kind of tedious obsession. Being obsessed with food in that way.
    Granted, I have never read a book on it as I find that opinions are like as*….. Oops. Well, you know what I mean. My definition is a gleaning, or a feeling, more than a knowing.

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