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Todd Allen

orthorexia

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A couple times while reading these forums I've come across this new to me word, "orthorexia".  And I googled it and found this.

 

http://www.orthorexia.com/

 

I expect almost everyone engaged in some form of CR or merely trying to improve health through diet will find something of interest at this website.  I got some great laughs though I'm a bit dysfunctional and find it easier to laugh than to cry.

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I try to be objective about this things - as far as that's possible - and at most, I'd cop to (1):

 

(1) I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.

 

Now, that's kind of a classic, in that this criterion is used for all sorts of maladaptive behaviors, such as alcoholism, drug additiction etc. "does it interfere with your life". But there is a bit of a sticky wicket here in that alcoholism and drug addiction have negative health consequences and generally effects beyond the 'interfering with other dimensions of life', whereas buying/preparing food does not have negative effects on health or beyond the time-sink. You could say, that for example, it makes travel a bit more difficult, or social occasions centering on food a bit more challenging, or there is an additional financial outlay - but then you could say the same thing about f.ex. people who have to be careful to observe food rules based on religious grounds, or allergies, or whatnot - and you wouldn't then pathologize those and give it a name, would you?

 

That said, I have taken measures to minimize the effect of this (mostly the time sink and expense), by sourcing my food and supplements and organizing the purchasing and prep in such a way that it really doesn't have much of an impact any more. 

 

The last part is the "thinking" - well, how do you define that? Nutrition is a hobby for me, the same way as sailing might be for someone else, or an interest in astronomy or whatnot. It does involve following the research as best I can, and a lot of time spent reading about the relevant topics. But is that any more pathological than the time sailing/astronomy/hobby X spent might interefere with "other dimensions of life"? Is there a astronomolism, or medieval history addiction? What if you like to spend your life that way, engaged in hobbies? It's not like "I like to drink", because that will actually have consequences such as damaging your health, whereas medieval history probably not. 

 

Hard to say. Ultimately, I suppose in addition to that point (1), you should exhibit at least one more to qualify as a pathology - and, speaking just for myself, I don't recognize any other of the criteria the guy developed. Does that mean I'm off the hook, or that I'm in denial like an addict? I try to be as objective as I can - for example, I often take a "vacation" from CR when travelling or a few rare occasions (Thanksgiving etc.), and definitely don't feel guilty, judge others or feel impure etc. The only point where I may be deluded is in health consequences - perhaps my eating is damaging my health - even if I don't feel that at all, exhibit any obvious health problems, nor do my yearly lab tests or my physician have had any reason to throw up red flags. 

 

Back in the day on the CR list, there was pretty extensive discussion whether CRONies generally exhibited orthorexia - there was a nutritionist or journalist or someone else involved too, I seem to remember. I think it's a bit more complicated when it comes to CRONies, as they regard themselves as better informed and going off of science, whereas what one sees from the orthorexia subjects there seems to be a lot of woo involved. But maybe that was only self-flattery.

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Great point Tom regarding the other examples of pathology represent activities that are inherently destructive and/or damaging to health whereas CRON in theory may be healthiful. Indeed, the focus is optimization of health whereas the other examples are oriented towards either direct ( e.g. Alcoholism) or secondary ( anorexia sense of ego around appearance). The lines are not absolute of course as there can be secondary gain around CR to some degree too. As for possibility of harm but there data is ambiguous at worst ( pros/cons with some potential immunize compromise, sarcopenia, osteopenia or osteoporosis), whereas the data is far less ambiguous for alcohols, anorexia, etc.

 

Having said that, there is a lot of gray and lots of variability in practices, motivation, and impact. Where do we draw the line for "interfere"', or where preferences/rationale trade offs can be selected as a matter of self-aware choices. Sometime a bright line may be crossed, in others no, and for many, in the vast gray up for interpretation ( as either many other DSM psych diagnoses)

 

Here's another interesting take in it:

http://marcird.com/blog/orthorexia_can_healthy_eating_be_a_disease

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