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SPARK_COACH_JEN Posts: 64,608
7/20/14 5:49 P

I have deleted some posts in this thread because they are easily going to turn this discussion in a negative direction. Please keep posts respectful if you want the thread to continue.

Thank you,

Coach Jen

EMPRESSAMQ Posts: 5,077
7/20/14 4:21 P

Well, okay, but I still love my gluten free diet and am sticking to it like glue, does that mean I have a disease? Or is this just how I choose to eat?

It's too easy to create a scientific sounding label such as ORTHOREXIA and use it to describe anyone whose way of eating doesn't track with one's own.

I really like this passage from Dean Anderson's blog, which was cited by Spark Coach Jen down thread: "Personally, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to add 'orthorexia nervosa' to the list of formal eating disorders. I think there would be an awful lot of potential for wrongly applying this label to someone who has an uncommonly strict or unconventional diet that is not necessarily unhealthy or problematic--just one that strikes the person making the diagnosis as too extreme. ..."

There is a lot more in that blog that includes further thoughts on orthorexia, so am only citing this part of it that kind of says what I'd like to say but better. I am not claiming the blog supports my entire viewpoint, but it is worth a read.

Note, as an aside, I also agree with a previous poster that it is inappropriate to come on a thread and label anyone's opinion "a load of b.s."

Edited by: EMPRESSAMQ at: 7/20/2014 (16:23)
RUSSELL_40 Posts: 16,826
7/20/14 3:17 P

" Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.” An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style. Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake. "

This description applies to dieters on all diets, not more likely for vegans. Righteous eaters, from vegans to those eating organic abound, and therefore limit their food selections, as well as attach value to each and every food, limiting what, and how much they can consume.

The idea that any one diet leads to more cases of orthorexia implies that those people believe their diet to be more righteous or healthy, and I think we underestimate how much of a concern health is for people on other diets. Vegans don't have more concern for health than people on other diets, so it is just as likely for this condition to happen for people on the 50/20/30 diet, and this is an issue for the dieter, not the diet. That person would have a problem on ANY diet.

JERF - Anorexia is a desire to be thin, not to eat healthy. It is about restriction, not quality of the food one eats. So no, they wouldn't just be anorexic. This condition is because people are excluding foods based on them only trying to eat " healthy ", or " good " foods. You and I both know low carbers who are fanatics about eating the " right " foods, and never consuming the " wrong " ones. This happens with some people on any diet. Most people on a diet choose it because they think it is healthy, and are eliminating " bad " food. We see posts talking about good or bad foods daily, and I am sure those people are restricting there use of those foods, and feel superior for doing so.

So while a vegan may feel superior about eliminating meat, a low carber may feel superior about eliminating wheat, and a low fat dieters for limiting fat, a 50/20/30 dieter for eliminating sugar. Any of these notions can be taken to the extreme, and these people would consider what they were doing to be a lot healthier than other diets.

I would argue that a majority of dieters also exhibit a minor case of these symptoms if they are on a diet. They find a healthy diet, and restrict something, because they believe it is healthier than other forms of eating, or they have a health concern, such as people eating organic grass-fed beef, or those limiting cholesterol, or sugar. Many people feel smug if the diet is working, as if only they know the secret to weight loss.

This is just extreme cases of those symptoms, which eventually result in extreme restriction of variety, and calories. Something that can happen on ANY diet, and most likely is due to factors in that person's life, not which diet they consume.

Saying that a person is more likely to be this way on any one diet, is kind of like saying an alcoholic would be more susceptible to it if they drank whiskey, instead of beer, or wine.

Edited by: RUSSELL_40 at: 7/20/2014 (15:48)
BUNNYKICKS Posts: 2,433
7/20/14 12:42 P

Well, I will say (and this is just my opinion) that almost any diet is bound to be "healthier than ... the standard American diet."

SUZAN30 Posts: 267
7/20/14 12:35 P

What do the scare quotes below really mean?
"It's hard as a vegan b/c we already "know" we eat healthier than most people eating the standard American diet, to not keep going to be healthier. I think that vegans are especially susceptible to this because we are avid nutrition readers."

Irony? Emphasis?

Some people are vegans for reasons that have nothing to do with nutrition (or their notion of it); they do it for ethical reasons (concern about animals, for example) and may or may not have a healthier diet? There's a good deal of evidence that a vegan diet is not healthy for very young children. It is difficult for them to get the fats and protein they need.

7/20/14 9:13 A

There is a big difference between between choosing to eat a plateful of vegetables and some meat instead of a pizza because it's healthier.


Choosing to not eat anything at all because nothing's healthy enough.



"If one suffers from orthorexia, then why wouldn't they still suffer from it on any diet. "

I'm not certain but I believe that would just be considered anorexia.

Edited by: JUSTEATREALFOOD at: 7/20/2014 (10:37)
NIRERIN Posts: 14,081
7/20/14 8:31 A

vegans are "more susceptible" to this because more people with disordered eating use veganism as a mask to cover up what they're actually doing. in other words, while there are people who turn to veganism because of how they feel about either food or animals, some bright people who wanted an easy, socially acceptable way to avoid eating either certain foods or altogether realized that they could enable their disorders by jumping on this particular bandwagon. again, i'm by no means saying that vegans have disordered eating. just that people wanting to hide their disordered eating can use the guise of veganism to enable what they're already doing.
as with any obsessive/compulsive disorder, it's not actually about whatever the symptom/expression is, it's about the obsession/compulsion and control. to that end this is no different than someone washing their hands until they are raw and bleeding. it's not the handwashing that's the issue. it's what's driving the person to take it to that particular extreme. it's also the difference in saving something that you could use one day down the road and hoarding to the point where you have 18" paths winding through your house that's packed floor to ceiling with stuff. it's not the actual action, it's the degree to which you do it as well as the driving force that makes you take it there. how it manifests is not the biggest issue.

BIBLIOTEKARZ SparkPoints: (58,243)
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7/20/14 7:44 A

It's hard as a vegan b/c we already "know" we eat healthier than most people eating the standard American diet, to not keep going to be healthier. I think that vegans are especially susceptible to this because we are avid nutrition readers.

I personally like certain vegan eating styles that are whole-foods plant-based (limiting processed foods significantly) and we try to avoid added oils, but some of the people in those camps are also anti-nuts and anti-seeds and anti avocado. That starts to worry me. I can understand the low-fat idea, but if it's from a whole food, I say it's not off-limits unless you have a particular issue (like heart patients should really limit nuts.)

FIT_MOMMY_OF2 SparkPoints: (4,196)
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Posts: 138
7/19/14 10:53 P

Wow, I did not know this! Very interesting.

MICHELLEXXXX SparkPoints: (11,722)
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7/19/14 9:29 P

I agree Jerf. Orthorexia is a an irrational obsession/fear resulting from a brain imbalance (anxiety, depression); not to be confused with the ability to discern what is healthy from unhealthy and choose what is healthy.

SUZAN30 Posts: 267
7/19/14 2:25 P

I've definitely encountered people with "orthorexic" tendencies. Super picky, long list of foods they won't (or "can't) eat, endlessly talking about food choices, lots and lots of drama about falling off the wagon, so to speak, and eating a cookie. I thought it was just annoying and attention grabbing, but perhaps it is more evidence of how disordered the thinking of many people towards food is. I think part of the blame rests with the "self help" industry and the desire of many to make money off other people's anxieties. "Moderation" doesn't sell!

MARTHA324 SparkPoints: (162,417)
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7/19/14 2:14 P

Online Now  • ))
Good article. When I started on this journey I worked hard to not put any food in the good or bad category and realize that it is all just food and some is better for me than others. Nothing is off limits although some foods are eaten infrequently for health reasons. I worry a bit about becoming too obsessive. Still tracking my food and think about it alot. OTOH this approach has worked and I've lost 80 pounds AND kept it off and it doesn't interfere with my life.

7/19/14 9:12 A

Starving yourself, deprivation, binging, guilt, anxiety, tension and conflict. Those are all powerful words that unfortunately are not limited to this specific eating disorder. Elements of this disorder are found everywhere.

I do think that calling certain foods unhealthy isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sugary candy and pop are unhealthy and choosing not to eat them will not harm you. In fact, not eating them makes you healthier. Most processed foods could be replaced with healthier options, like vegetables and fruits. There's nothing wrong with wanting to eat healthy, you just can't let it consume you.

Edited by: JUSTEATREALFOOD at: 7/19/2014 (09:13)
EELPIE Posts: 2,700
7/19/14 8:03 A

Wow. I did not know there was a name for it. I've come across people like that. I did not know there was a name for it. I will definitely add that to my vocab.

ETA: Spark Coach Jen - thanks for that link, that explains it even better!

ETA: This part of the article is noteworthy: appointing yourself as the local “food police” and telling other people what they should be eating, whether they want your opinion or not.

Edited by: EELPIE at: 7/19/2014 (09:23)
SPARK_COACH_JEN Posts: 64,608
7/19/14 7:32 A

Here's a blog post on this topic you might also find interesting:

Coach Jen

BIBLIOTEKARZ SparkPoints: (58,243)
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Posts: 2,323
7/19/14 6:56 A

I'm vegan, and I try to be whole foods, plant-based with limited oil. Lately, I've heard of a "new" (new to me, it may be well known to researchers) eating disorder called orthorexia.
I stumbled across this post and it was interesting to me b/c I do sometimes see this in the vegan community. Thought I'd share. Thoughts? Please no vegan bashing.

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