The Heartbreak of Orthorexia Nervosa

TRS_CurranEventsOrthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder whereby someone becomes so obsessed with eating healthy, he actually makes himself sick. While the condition has only recently been recognized and labeled, various unusual — and sometimes bizarre — practices have been around for quite some time.

Over 100 years ago, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who gave us the cornflake, operated the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which promised good health via some rather strange practices.

Kellogg believed the key to good health was a clean colon. He developed a contraption to administer enemas — sometimes, several of them a day.

Every water enema was followed by a pint of yogurt. Half was eaten, the other half was administered by enema, “thus planting the protective germs where they are most needed and may render most effective service.” The yogurt served to replace the intestinal flora of the bowel, creating what Kellogg claimed was a squeaky-clean intestine.

I had a doctor once tell me my liver function was good. I am thinking of putting it on my tombstone.

Today, we having cleansing, or detoxing, which bears a similarity to what Dr. Kellogg was trying to do, but without the use of yogurt or enemas. People who follow the various regimens are trying to “cleanse” their systems of whatever they imagine needs to be cleansed.

I am told our livers are just fine at accomplishing this task, unless, of course, they have been cleansing too much Jim Beam or Captain Morgan. I had a doctor once tell me my liver function was good. I am thinking of putting it on my tombstone.

The bottom line is, for those who are intent upon having a cleaner colon, there is something you should know. Detoxing, the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs equally clean and raring to go, is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept to sell you things. Unfortunately, this is one of those scams orthorexics are probably most vulnerable to.

paleo-diet-caveman-fast-food
No judge me. It cheat day.

Another current fad lifestyle diet is called paleo. It encourages practitioners to give up the fruits of modern culinary progress such as dairy, agricultural products, and processed foods, and start living a pseudo-hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

I can’t imagine what the advantage to such a diet could be, but it would certainly affect one’s day-to-day activities. I don’t know where or how paleo practitioners get their food, and I’m not sure I want to know. It conjures up a picture of someone wearing a loincloth while swinging from a tree speaking only in grunts.

Does this look paleo to you?
Does this look paleo to you?

One adherent to the paleo diet is the former Florida governor, current presidential wannabe, and climate change denier Jeb Bush, who, according to one account, put his pseudo-science where his mouth is. He recently refused a piece of cake at his own birthday party, which some say is a classic symptom of orthorexia.

Of course, there is no end to the list of crackpot diets. One promises you can eat and drink your way to glowing wedding day skin. My favorite bride’s diet is the feeding tube diet, which involves inserting a feeding tube into her nose for up to 10 days for a quick fix and rapid weight loss. Another diet determines what you should eat according to your blood type. And then there is the class reunion diet, which promises to make you look 20 or 30 years younger, or however long it’s been since you last saw your high school sweetheart.

I’m sure we all know people who make us yearn for the good old days when the favorite topic of conversation was the great gas mileage someone was getting.

Probably the most prevalent diet restriction today is gluten. While a very small number of people, about 1%, cannot digest gluten, the general public has been sold on the idea that the other 99% shouldn’t eat it, either. Trader Joe’s went so far as to advertise gluten-free greeting cards, and I am not making that up. At least somebody has a sense of humor about it.

A few indications you or someone you know might be suffering from the heartbreak of orthorexia include:

  • Reading labels obsessively, checking ingredients as if their life depends upon it.
  • Proselytizing.
  • Monopolizing every conversation by waxing eloquent about raw foods, what the cavemen ate, or how squeaky clean their colon is.
  • Posting stuff on Facebook about how they’re on day five of their juice fast and never felt so vibrant.

Cookie-Monster-healthy-foodI’m sure we all know people like this who make us yearn for the good old days when the favorite topic of conversation was the great gas mileage someone was getting.

Which reminds me, years ago, there was a Walter Matthau movie where he and his son would add gasoline to a neighbor’s tank, prompting the neighbor to talk endlessly about the amazing mileage he was getting. After about three weeks, they started siphoning out gas and nearly caused the guy to have a nervous breakdown, but once again, I digress.

Like Jeb Bush, affected individuals skip birthday cake or anything else that might cause them to depart from the regimen in the least. They show up late at brunch or luncheons and claim they have already eaten.

They become pseudo-scientists who read medical journals and lecture friends, or anyone who will listen, on the subject of liver enzymes and documentaries on Monsanto and GMOs. Finally, they cut out “bad foods” until there are no “good” foods left. They cut out whole categories in the name of clean living until there is practically nothing left to eat.

And that, my friend, is the heartbreak of orthorexia.RedShtick-Top-ColumnStop

About Tom Curran

Tom Curran
Tom Curran is a recently transplanted Rhode Island Yankee who has chosen to live out his twilight years aggravating and annoying as many folks as possible. He is grateful to The Red Shtick for offering him a means to that end.

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