Gerry Gajadharsingh writes:
“Increasing numbers of people, especially young adults, seem to be so fixated with their eating habits as the article below also suggests, that ironically their version of “clean healthy eating” may not be as healthy as they think. The term orthorexia has been coined to describe this condition, evidence is due to be submitted to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to make the case for orthorexia to be recognised officially.
Orthorexia— an obsession with eating healthy food or food that sufferers feel is “correct” for them — is a growing problem thanks to the promotion of clean eating and wellness on sites such as Instagram.
I occasionally watch food programmes on TV (actually my wife makes me watch them to see my reaction) and look at Social Media occasionally (I’m not of that age group to be constantly on it, never mind that I have a day job to do) with a sense of despair at the latest celebrity going on about the supposed health benefits, especially of clean eating, in their “expert opinion”. As an epidemic of illness connected to orthorexia occurs maybe some of them will own up to have taken part in driving the likely epidemic, or then again maybe they won’t.
Cutting out large food groups from our diet is risky and usually ends up with a poor variety of foods in our diet, especially if we choose to cut of several large food groups.
Optimising health, for the majority of us, that means eating a large variety of foods in moderation AND NOT eating the same types of food every day. All food contains a variety of nutrients, (amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibre etc). Our optimal physiology depends on this mix. Decreasing the variety of foods often ends up adversely affecting the normal physiology of the body. It is a testament to the many homeostatic mechanisms of our bodies (that do their best in keeping the body in balance) that this altered physiology can go on for months and sometimes years without many people noticing any effects (symptoms).
I cannot tell you how many people I come across, who say I feel fine so I must be, my diet is great and healthy or that if they have symptoms, how many initially simply do not believe that how and what they eat may contribute to their symptoms.
I think this is part of the driver of orthorexia, our slogan-based society, quick fix society, just want what they think are simple answers (to what are usually questions needing a deeper understanding, sometimes more complex and time consuming to explain, to come up with the answer). Belief is a powerful thing. For example, Avocados are considered a super food and are now ubiquitous in many peoples’ diet. Generally, gown in hot and tropical climates and in season. However, we now eat them all year round (flown in, think about the carbon miles) and with many foods’ overconsumption can cause problems. They are also a high histamine food, not great if you have histamine issues.
Increasing numbers of patients are presenting with so called “medically unexplained symptoms” where functional factors, including lifestyle, psychology and diet are driving these symptoms.
Patients are presenting with a complex set of co-morbidities and there is a sense of over whelming public healthcare, the NHS, looking for disease (pathology) where often none exists, causing wasted resources (money to you and me both tax money and private money), time and frustration in the patients who are still searching for the answers to their problems.
Of course, people need to take some responsibility for what they do to themselves, their choice of eating is no exception and it is their choice. The sad thing is the Social Media celebrity “experts” seem to be driving this change on gullible people looking for the next trendy thing.”
Social Media is fuelling an eating disorder in which people focus so closely on eating “healthy” food that they become unwell.
Dieticians say that orthorexia— an obsession with eating healthy food or food that sufferers feel is “correct” for them — is a growing problem thanks to the promotion of clean eating and wellness on sites such as Instagram.
Rather than becoming a picture of health, many people are restricting their diets so much that they become unhealthy and starved of vital nutrients, resulting in weight loss, weakness and decreasing bone density.
Orthorexia is not officially recognised but was coined in 1997 by the American doctor and author Steven Bratman. The term is a combination of the Greek root ortho- (“correct”) and the word orexis (“appetite”).
Research by Cristina Hanganu-Bresch of the University of Science, Philadelphia, shows that most sufferers follow Instagram users showing an idealised lifestyle based on eating nutritiously.
“People have always tried to eat healthily, that’s nothing new,” Dr Hanganu-Bresch said. “But what we are seeing now is people become obsessed with clean eating to the point where it affects both their physical and mental wellbeing, and that’s something we’ve never seen before.”
She said that the combination of the “wellness trend” and the speed and reach of social media had helped to produce orthorexia.
“People who get the condition often have an underlying personality type such as obsessive-compulsive disorder that makes them a fertile breeding ground,” Dr Hanganu-Bresch said.
“Seeing images on social media of tanned, glowing people looking happy, who claim that they got there through so-called ‘healthy’ eating, then makes these more susceptible people buy into that lifestyle too.”
Evidence is due to be submitted to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to make the case for orthorexia to be recognised officially.
Renee McGregor, a British registered dietician and author of Orthorexia, When Healthy Eating Goes Bad, said that the present process of diagnosis was loosely based and rested largely on the extent to which the obsessive eating had an impact on the person’s health.
“It’s very difficult to diagnose as it is not always linked to weight or body image,” she said. “It’s more a psychological compulsion and an inability to deviate. They just physically can’t eat something like a pizza or cake.
“More and more, I’m seeing people come forward realising they have a problem. Typically, these people follow unqualified Insta-stars, who in actual fact are promoting a very dangerous way of eating. It’s almost like a cult.”