Does an obsession with healthy eating mean you have an eating disorder? Researchers in Britain say cases of orthorexia nervosa are on the rise.
I’ve been aware of orthorexia for many years, having written about it in the Maffetone Report when I edited that newsletter. It’s basically an aversion to certain foods, often foods that are healthful, because of some often misguided fear that these foods are actually unhealthful. We see this with vegetarians who don’t eat meat despite millions of years of evolution that have uniquely equipped human beings for the consumption of animal foods. These foods contain many nutrients absolutely necessary for good health including all essential amino acids, iron, zinc and vitamins B12 and A.
Likewise, many people avoid eggs in the belief they alone raise cholesterol levels, though the largest medical study ever conducted (The Framingham Study) has shown this to be untrue.
Now this might stir up emotions among my vegetarian friends, and perhaps it should. But how would you view someone who doesn’t eat vegetables and fruit for health reasons?
In contrast, humans have only eaten grain products for the last few thousand years. Only in recent times have large amounts of refined grain products (foods made from flour) become the staple. Medical science shows that eating these grain products raises insulin levels in many people, thus causing fat storage. The result of so many people making this food a staple is an overweight, disease-ridden society.
Of course I avoid meat produced at “factory” or feedlot operations, opting instead for local pasture-raised animal products or wild game. And I limit intake of refined grain products, sugar and hydrogenated oils (trans fats). I don’t think I have orthorexia but some may disagree.
I suppose it all depends on whether a desire to be healthy is backed by science, and whether it’s negatively impacting your health — or disrupting your life in general. Otherwise a diet based in real, whole foods, along with a healthy dose of moderation seems like a good plan.