orthorexia nervosa

The Jekyll and Hydes of Food Approaches

This about captures it

Last night we watched the movie The Maze Runner. If you've never heard of the film, think of the recent slew of YA dystopians and you've got the idea. This time unknown Dylan O'Brien played the role of Jennifer Lawrence/Shailene Woodley/Brenton Thwaites and Patricia Clarkson took on the role of Donald Sutherland/Kate Winslet/Meryl Streep. Kid under pressure takes on crazy regime led by creepy, heartless adult.

I mention this decent but ultimately pretty-darned-familiar movie because it reminded me of one of the food books I read this week:

Here again we find the now-very-familiar no-carb/ultra-low-carb recommendations, although the author structures his book differently: 1) what you should be eating; 2) what exercises you should be doing; and 3) the science behind his recommendations. The first few times I read books recommending animal fats and accusing carbs of crimes against humanity, I devoured them, so to speak. But now, while fully believing the science and the claims, I've decided it's better to eat some carbs and sugar because 1) life needs some joy, and 2) people on weird, unsustainable, expensive diets get on my nerves.

Let's get real: no matter the science involved, I'm never going ultra-low-carb or no-carb unless imminent death is the only alternative. I'd rather live ten fewer years and get to have bread and pasta in moderation and the occasional sweets. I have no intention of giving up fruit or potatoes. Yes, the Inuit and the Masai tribe do just great on diets largely 
of fat and animal products, but no one has ever envied them their diets.


Author Petersen did, however, have some good reminders to cut back on seed oils. Not to mention some great exercise ideas with helpful illustrations! (I did two Russian push-ups after finishing the book.)

The most jarring thing about Eat Bacon, Don't Jog was reading it right on the heels of comedian Jim Gaffigan's snicker-ful new book


Gaffigan's loving, loving relationship to just about all foods other than seafoods contrasted violently with Grant Petersen's eat-to-live-lean-and-mean approach, and after just a few pages it was clear to me who I'd rather hang out with. Because, really, aren't people who get zealous with their diets just so tiresome? Wouldn't we rather spend our few years on earth enjoying a cheeseburger, fries, and some birthday cake with someone who loves them as much as we do?

Consider the following quotes. First, Petersen's bizarre and disturbing confession:

In the old days when I feared fat and had swallowed the [you-need-lots-of-fiber] Kool-Aid, I'd eat peanuts--shell and all--hoping to surround the fat I consumed with fiber and make it less accessible. At my worst, I'd eat only the shells.

Are you kidding me? This guy needs professional help because that sounds like a textbook case of the newly-diagnosed Orthorexia Nervosa, the eating disorder where you get so freaked out about "eating healthy" that you can barely get enough to eat.

Petersen goes on to give this current advice that he would still stand by:

At your next picnic, if you're given a cob of corn, slather it with butter and slurp it off. Do that a few times, and then drop the yellow menace in the dirt, so you don't have to be sneaky when you toss it in the trash, where it can't hurt you. 

If I were the hostess at that picnic, I think I'd far rather he just said, "No, thank you," when I offered him the cob of death.

Gaffigan, on the other hand, opens his love story thus:

I can't stop eating. I can't. I haven't been hungry in twelve years. Once a writer at Entertainment Weekly described me as a human garbage can, which I think he meant as a compliment. Last night, I had the following train of thought: Ugh, I'm so full. I guess I'll have some cheese. Hmm, I don't even like this cheese. I guess I'll finish it. I know it's not right. On more than one occasion while eating something, I've thought to myself, Maybe this will make me hungry. It's either that or feel my feelings. Jeannie likes to point out, "You know you are only eating your feelings." I always respond, "Yeah, but these feelings are delicious."

He follows up that honest introduction with what amounts to a transcript of a long, often hilarious stand-up routine that covers everything from appetizers to desserts. I spent a lot of time reading and giggling to myself and thinking, I should look this guy up on YouTube!

All of which is to say, if you're on a crazy low-carb diet (for as long as you can hold out), read Petersen for inspiration. But don't read Gaffigan because he'll not only make you hungry, he'll also make you take the whole food thing way less seriously.

Which Just Goes to Show People Can Freak Out Over Anything

I knew it! I knew it!

The Wall Street Journal ran an article today about the latest diagnosable disorder: orthorexia nervosa. "Orthorexia" is not, as you might imagine, some sort of spelling disease, but rather an unhealthily obsessive attitude toward healthy eating. Imagine those folks who bore and proselytize you with their stringent diets, diets undertaken not from genuine food allergies but from a desire to be "healthier." Next thing you know, that urge to control what gets ingested takes over the person's life, driving not just their friends and families crazy, but themselves as well.

Among the proposed criteria: an obsession with the quality and composition of meals to the extent that people may spend excessive amounts of time, say three or more hours a day, reading about and preparing specific types of food; and having feelings of guilt after eating unhealthy food. The preoccupation with such eating would have to either lead to nutritional imbalances or interfere with daily functional living to be considered orthorexia.

That is, if your healthy-food obsession leads only to driving people nuts, but you're still getting proper nutrition and able to function in other areas of your life, you don't have orthorexia--you're just tiresome. But if your chosen diet is ironically impairing your mental and physical health, it's time to see a counselor.

Whew. Got that out there. Because good food should be a source of joy, not anxiety!

Consider these dehydrated apple chips Samantha at Collins Family Orchards created:

The awesome thing--not just how they look and taste, but the fact that they were made with just apples, lemon juice, water, and lots of time in the dehydrator. Sam did say it takes a ton of space and time and doesn't make much, but she might have said that because my mouth was watering and she could tell I was about to ask if I could have the rest of the jar and any more she might be hiding in the back.

But the purity of Sam's apple chips does bring me to some bad news (orthorexia nervosa sufferers, please skip this next bit). The Environmental Working Group has put out its first "Dirty Dozen" list for Food Additives. While there are 10,000 legal food additives, of which only a fraction have been tested for safety, the following dozen are "known or possible carcinogens and some can have reproductive and developmental effects":

  1. Nitrates and nitrites (preservatives in cured meats)
  2. Potassium bromate (a flour "improver")
  3. Propyl paraben (endocrine disruptor)
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  6. Propyl gallate
  7. Theobromine
  8. Secret flavor ingredients
  9. Artificial colors
  10. Diacetyl
  11. Phosphates
  12. Aluminum additives
Looking at this list, I do buy deli ham regularly (uh oh) and hot dogs occasionally (not worried about this), but my bacon and sausage come from the Market, and our folks don't use those preservatives--hence everything being refrigerated or frozen.
Basically, avoiding highly processed foods will protect you from this Dirty Dozen, so largely do-able, unlike avoiding air pollution, for instance.
Two Saturday Markets left! And with Thanksgiving looming, it's time to plan ahead. Get your cranberries and make your sauce now (it'll keep).
Lovely berries [pic from our own Bloom Creek Cranberry Farm]
Load up on apples and squash. Pies can be frozen, as can those sugar-topped casseroles and the soups.
Make rolls or buy them from one of our capable bakers.
Sausage for stuffing!
If you've been invited somewhere, grab that bottle of wine or cider as a hostess gift. Or some toffee. Or a pie. Believe me--a little money, wisely spent at the Market, and you'll secure invitations for years to come. Eat happy and healthy and relaxed, my friends.