Check out the uncomfortably unfunny video above vilifying “Health Nuts” as snobby, materialistic nut jobs.
I see the made up term “Orthorexia Nervosa” has crept back into the health headlines again. I didn’t touch the story the first time around (in or about 2005 when I first read about it) and almost left it be the second time, but decided sometimes I have to talk about the elephant in the room.
The “disease” was coined by one Steven Bratman in 1997 to describe people who were overly concerned what they put into their bodies. He wrote a best selling book “Health Food Junkies” and some called him brilliant saying he exaggerated a few rare cases and capitalized it in his “fear mongering” book which made many feel better about not eating healthy (Oh boy people are dying from eating organic and plant based- I better go get some McDonalds- eye roll) He actually says the definition of Orthorexia as “an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.” Wake up call to Bratman (pssst- maybe you didn’t know that most anorexics (for decades) had similar obsessions. While some might eat McDonalds- many were worried about eating food with the fewest calories or fat.
In 2008 it hit the headlines when a young woman allegedly died of orthorexia nervous (she ate a mostly raw diet but didn’t eat enough) and her sister (whose name is Erin) was in press quite a bit talking about her sister and her “disease”.
I think that Erin’s sister (Kate) did have an eating disorder. Some thought of it with anorexia with a twist. Just like many patients suffering with anorexia have their quirks (not to make light of the disease- it is serious and can be deadly) Kate ate more of a raw diet and was picky what she ate. I’ve met and worked with anorexic patients who were the same way. Some would never touch sugar, others were deathly afraid of eating any fats, others would only eat sweets (but very little) and touch nothing else or there was also the one woman I remember who ate everything in sight but then threw it up later (which is known as bulimia which is different) One common thread the women had (with whom I worked) was that they tended to not eat junk food. The little food they ate was healthy but guess what? That’s a stretch (in my opinion) and a crazy correlation to say that eating “healthy” can kill you.
I think it’s tragic what happened to Kate (who did pass away in 2003 officially of heart failure brought on by starvation) but think articles like this one “Healthy Eating can Kill you” are so misleading. If someone eats a half of a carrot and a leaf of kale every day and that’s all – eventually their weight would fall too low and they would ultimately succumb to starvation and die.
But the same would be said if someone eats a small chocolate drop every day (unless these people are alleged Breatharians .. (who live off breathing air) and we’re going to save that discussion for another time) they are going to eventually die of starvation.
Notice in the Healthy Eating Can Kill You article they suggest that healthy Vegan Jane Vellez Mitchell (formerly of CNN) is on her way to Orthorexia. From the article that also mentions Kate, the girl who died:
Some say diet soda causes people to crave carbs. Plus drinking soda from aluminum cans might may lead to Alzheimers.
In fact, talk show host Jane Velez-Mitchell has just announced she’s given up sugar. Jane already was a vegan.
I can only guess that her next step will be to eat only bean sprouts and water. Sounds like the start of orthorexia.
Just ask Kristie Rutzel of Richmond, Va. The college student nearly died in her mid-20s due to an obsession with healthy food. She became a vegetarian, then a vegan. Then she went to strictly a raw-food diet. It got to where her diet was nothing more than organic cauliflower and broccoli.
She said she started out at 120 pounds, and dropped 60 pounds because of her rigid diet. Doctors told her parents she was going to die and advised them to prepare for a funeral. Thank goodness she recovered.
But Rutzel’s case proves that orthorexia is very real.
First of all just because Jane decided to eliminate sugar from her diet and is vegan doesn’t mean she has orthorexia or any other disorder. How ironic that our society dwells on the select few (very select few) who die from not eating enough when hundreds of people die every day because of having eaten too many food or the wrong foods for years, often time decades.
Jane and I have friends in common and she appears to eat a healthy balanced vegan diet. If she doesn’t eat refined sugar good for her! It’s very unfortunate that some people take these things to extremes (not Jane) but that has gone on for years as well and it was called Anorexia. Why we suddenly have to call it orthorexia is beyond me. I think it’s just another way to try and punish the people who eat healthy organic food (the majority of which are very healthy) by concentrating on the select few who have a serious illness that has NOTHING to do with “healthy eating” But has everything to do a serious eating disorder which could happen if they were eating a half a pop tart a day or a half a carrot.
I don’t like to fat or thin shame but I’ve been too fat and there was nothing healthy about it. Now that I’m slender some people giv me a hard time, but I’ve heard it all and refuse to listen. My doctor (who told me I was overweight) says my body fat and bone density are great and when I was diagnosed with Lyme I knew that all that extra fat I had was storing toxins. I got down to a HEALTHY fat level and felt much better as soon as I did (it wasn’t easy but I did it and kept that fat off 2 years now, and I eat a lot and nope I’m not nor never have been anorexic nor bulimic.
Doctors can keep dreaming up terms to make negative associations with health foods (again making people feel better who don’t eat healthy) and capitalize on it with best selling books. But all the made up ludicrous new terms in the word don’t make it real. I believe the experts who said that these women did have an eating disorder, but to say “eating healthy” or “Orthorexia” is what killed them is just silly.
With all due respect to people who do die of starvation because of eating disorders: I’ll keep eating my organic food, using my high speed blender (Vitamix or Nutribullet for those on a budget) and don’t think it’s a gateway for me to turn into an Orthorexic who will slowly starve myself to death… In fact eating this way is probably the reason I’m alive today. Thanks for listening. XO Erin
Erin is an animal lover, rescuer, writer and long time green eco health nut. She’s survived Lyme, being aborted (legally) a severe vaccine injury, 22 hurricanes, a tornado that took their house and pets and a six hour surgery that might have saved her life. She’s worked in the natural health world and done volunteer work in the same arena for nearly 25 years. You can follow her here on Facebook.
PS You can get her ebook here on how she overcame her health challenges and lost the weight, kept it off.