Nouveau eating disorder

Just when you thought you’d heard enough of eating disorders along comes a new one. But this one has a very different twist – dare I say, almost a healthy twist.

We have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, body image disorders and food phobias that begin slowly and then gradually grow to the point where a person can’t control them. Most people who develop eating disorders are traditionally aged between 13 and 17 years-old.

The new nervosa kid on the block is orthorexia nervosa, which is an obsession for healthy food. A “fixation on righteous eating”, as the experts are calling it, this lot falls into a different demographic. These folk are generally middle class, well educated and over 30, as you’d expect of someone who is likely to be more aware of food health trends and their importance to self-well being.

The condition’s name was coined in 1997 by a Californian doctor. California …obsessive dietary regimes…no kidding!

Mind you, I’ve met a few naturopath types who may be responsible for this sort of thinking with their patients. Before you can say ‘hello’ when you enter their aroma therapy-scented lair, they tell you to cut out dairy food and drink half a catchment area of water every day – and they’ve never clapped eyes on you before or asked any probing questions.

But according to California’s Dr Steven Bratman, orthorexia nervosa can get to a stage “where it crowds out other activities and interests, impairs relationships, and even becomes physically dangerous”. And down right tedious to be around too I’d suggest.

The word was that Dr Pritikin of the draconian ‘Pritikin Diet’ fame died of boredom. Although they did find he had the arteries of a juvenile when they performed the autopsy.

It seems that people with eating disorders are prone to being anxious or depressed and obsessive-compulsive disorder is not uncommon among the afflicted. There is also reports suggesting that these disorders can be hereditary.

Then there are the vocation-driven disorders associated with athletes and dancers (and models of course) who are prone to developing eating disorders during puberty in their attempt to suppress or stop growth and weight gain.

Food obsession comes in so many forms. I figure there is a category for me but that probably falls at the hedonistic end of the scale where I temper it with some token orthorexia nervosa…when I’ve over done it.

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