Is healthy eating a disorder?

So I just stumbled across an article about a condition I never knew existed. And after reading the symptoms, I think I may have to diagnose myself with it. But don’t worry — I think I’m actually better off for having it…

What is this mystery condition?

It’s called “orthorexia nervosa” and believe it or not, it’s characterized by a focus on proper nutrition.

If I had to suffer from a psychiatric condition, that would be the one. But, I have to say, this sounds more like a bogus “syndrome” created by a medical system that wants to slap a label — and a prescription — on everything.

After reading about it, I’m l struggling to understand why it even warrants a name.

But name it, they did, and now I’m sure countless people who are just trying to live a long, healthy life will be diagnosed with it.

Orthorexia nervosa is defined as a “pathologic obsession with proper nutrition.” And apparently, it’s increasing in prevalence, thanks to the current cultural shift toward focusing on fitness and clean living (heaven forbid). It’s diagnosed when a person strictly avoids food they deem to be unhealthy. According to the article, this can lead to “serious nutritional or medical consequences.”

Sounds to me like a way to dissuade people from eating a healthy diet…

But I guess I can see their point to an extent. When there’s a societal focus on healthy eating, people who are vulnerable to eating disorders can end up taking it too far. And that, obviously, can have disastrous results.

Let’s face it… we are bombarded with updates on the latest food trends, warnings about certain foods and products, and an ever-changing set of guidelines on how to live a healthier life. There are even apps to help you avoid certain foods or ingredients.

It’s a constant battle to interpret what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s even more difficult when you don’t know what’s true and what’s a lie. You could potentially end up avoiding all sorts of delicious foods you don’t need to avoid. Just look at the calamitous low-fat craze that sent people running from even the tiniest bits of fat — straight into the evil arms of sugar.

Thanks to increased awareness — and yes, a fair amount of hype — consumers are increasingly looking for “free” foods (sugar-free, gluten-free, pesticide-free, GMO-free, and so on).

Unfortunately, unscrupulous companies are glomming onto those trends and bombarding consumers with labels that play into those ideas. (So until the time comes when the interests of big businesses are no longer prioritized over the publics’ health, buyer beware.)

This can become a problem to individuals who are susceptible to overly restrictive thinking, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and the like. Some psychiatrists think these people should fall into the anorexia category, saying that anorexic behaviors change with societal beliefs. And I do feel badly for people who form unhealthy relationships with food all in the pursuit of health.

But I’m not so sure this is really the “problem” they’re making it out to be. A little bit of self-education and consulting with ethical, patient-driven medical professionals can go a long way.

I don’t think that, in general, restricting one’s diet in the name of better health is a bad thing. As I read through the article, all the case studies provided were from patients who were interested in the type of medicine we all believe in and strive to participate in to the best of our ability: Medicine that starts with the food you put in your body.

This seems like just another attempt by the medical establishment to marginalize those of us who don’t follow the herd through the Drive-Thru line. After all, if you’re on a quest towards good health, how can you NOT be somewhat obsessive? This sort of quest takes constant vigilance in today’s world — where there’s a McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks on every block.

Clearly, government agencies and the medical community aren’t helping the public better understand nutrition. Instead they keep people confused and misinformed. And now they’re stigmatizing people who take their health into their own hands and strictly avoid things they know are bad for them.

If they aren’t trying to sabotage healthy eaters in one way, it’s another.

Until America starts prioritizing health over profits, someone is going to have to “guard the gate.” And it may just be people like you and me, who are indeed a little more “obsessive” about health.