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Could you have "orthorexia?"

Orthorexia (from Latin: orth=correct, orexia=appetite) an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating. Full description here:

"For children raised in the seventies natural-foods movement, the pinnacle of dietary suffering, worse even than sprout sandwiches, was carob--the chocolate substitute that never could." - Jonathan Kauffman (excerpted from his 2018 book, Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs and Revolutionaries Have Changed the Way We Eat.)

Back in the 1970s I fancied myself one of Berkeley’s super-moms who only fed her children the healthiest of foods. Not that little kids have much of a choice in what they get fed... but they did get subjected to a lot of my food experiments. The one they will never let me forget is my rabid carob/brewer’s yeast/alfalfa sprouts/watery home-made yoghurt/tempeh phase.

One of the most popular vegan cookbooks at the time was Ten Talents, by Rosemary Hurd, a Seventh Day Adventist, who's pictured on the cover in a modest white dress, hair in a bun, Bible open on her lap. Health food as a path to godliness has been an American tradition going back to Kellogg and Graham in the mid 19th century. Every self-respecting Berkeley super-mom had a copy of this book. Some of the recipes weren't half bad, although her disavowal of chocolate ("a harmful stimulant") in favor of carob was the final straw for me. Let it be noted that none of us liked carob. Fortunately my orthorexic phase was short-lived.

Today I call myself an "omnirexic"—I have an appetite for all sorts of tasty foods and an aversion to any kind of “diet." With the exception of Cheetos and Juanita's tortilla chips, I have no problem staying clear of what's sold in the miles and aisles of crap food/drink at my supermarket.

Any restrictive eating regimen is a diet. Millions of Americans participate in “diet culture” for reasons other than weight loss—avoiding gluten, carbs, sugar, nightshade vegetables, animal products, foods not sanctioned in their religion… Or they don’t combine certain foods in one meal, or only eat between 11 a.m. and 7 pm. or only nutrient-dense locally-grown organic …

Of course, some folks have genuine medical reasons for their diets. But most of us do not; we're testing out a current food fad to see if it will make us feel better, healthier, more energetic, etc. Restriction isn’t easy on the human spirit; we resist having to stay on the righteous path. Internal conflict ensues and we rebel. Then we feel guilty and ashamed that we’re so weak. Or, we double down on our regime and eating "correctly" becomes an unhealthy obsession.

From the New Yorker piece:

"…we make hundreds of carob-like dietary substitutions in the name of good health. We shave summer squash into long spirals and deceive ourselves that it’s anything like pasta. We tip coconut creamer into our coffee, ignoring the way it threatens to curdle, and project onto it the memory of café au lait. Grownups have mastered this acquired taste for the ersatz, but children have no ability to strike the same bargain. They taste not the similarities between the foods they are eating and the foods they really want to eat, only the thwarted desire for what is forbidden." --Jonathan Kauffman

What food fads have you survived? Are you currently on some sort of regimen? What are you hoping to achieve with it? and how's it going?

In my forthcoming book, The Cherry Pie Paradox: The Surprising Path to Diet Freedom and Lasting Weight Loss, no foods are off limits. It's about befriending food and your body... eating what tastes good while staying in touch with your fullness signals and that constant voice in your head.


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