ban-organic-food

Today I was going to write a post about local Florida seafood that I recently cooked with Black Box wine to go over some great gluten free pasta that I recently discovered. But as I was perusing the morning headlines, I came across this article that states having a passion for food quality or worrying about what you eat could indicate a “severe psychological disorder”, an eating disorder called orthorexia.

This article is written by Amelia Hill who is an education reporter for The Observer. She states that those who have this disease are people who “… are solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies…Refusing to touch sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soya, corn and dairy foods is just the start of their diet restrictions. Any foods that have come into contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives are also out.”

That last sentence just really stuns me…are we that far gone in society that articles like this can be written and published in a major news journal? Wow. I mean isn’t avoiding harmful ingredients, or ingredients that we are allergic/sensitive to a GOOD thing? Shouldn’t we be concerned about the food we put into our bodies, where it comes from and to avoid those foods that we know to have pesticides, herbicides and artificial additives???? I would think yes, but I suppose, as is evidenced by my blog where I discuss so much about eating local, organic when you can, avoiding harmful additives and GMO foods, that I must have this so called disorder, according to Ms. Hill.

Apparently this disorder affects people mostly commonly over the age of 30, who are “ middle-class, well-educated people who read about food scares in the papers, research them on the internet, and have the time and money to source what they believe to be purer alternatives”. HUH. Well in that case most of the food bloggers and real life people I know also have this disorder. Interesting that this disease is commonly found in people that are educated about food and are demanding better food for themselves and their family. Now, rather than a force to be reckoned with, we are being reduced to people with an eating disorder. The article also attacks nutritionists, dietitians and naturopaths “who believe in curing problems through entirely natural methods” who are our allies in the fight for better food.

When you look at the Wikipedia information on orthorexia nervosa , Dr. Steven Bratman, an MD, coined this disorder to describe people that take healthy eating to the level of obsession where they actually become malnourished in the process. It goes on to describe subjects that avoid certain foods, like fats, animal products, or other ingredients considered to be “unhealthy” by the subject, severely restricting their diet to sometimes only a few foods. Improperly managed diets like this can lead to starvation. That is what this disorder is all about. This is very sad and also very different from the light that Ms. Hill paints it in her article. An article that is going out to subscribers of this newspaper world wide. Most of whom will only skim it, and get the wrong idea.

Reading an article like this, that has been published in a major newspaper which reaches millions of people is scary to me, in a who is backing this and why kind of way. Perhaps it is a backlash to movies like Food Inc. or King Corn . Or maybe it is a response to Michael Pollan or Nina Planck and their writings which have become so popular lately, showing the food industry that the quality of our food is a concern for many, many people these days. Articles like this fly in the face of the entire organic, natural foods and slow food movements that have been gaining a lot of political power in the past few years, making them out to be a bunch of crazy people. These movements have been hugely successful, already putting a big wrench in the corn industry by forcing them to reduce products containing corn syrup. The same way, a few years before, that the public put a major halt in the production of hydrogenated oils and the prominence of them in our food.

These are both examples of something the public educated themselves on, and then voted with their wallets, again a sign that Ms. Hill says could mean you have this eating disorder. An article like this just serves to spread misinformation to readers while patting the backs of the food industry that keeps putting crap in our food, allowing the cycle to continue. This point of view basically says that eating McDonald’s, pre-packaged foods full of chemicals, or fruits laden with pesticides and not worrying about what it does to your body is a “healthier” way to look at things than going to the farmers market or sourcing your own better produced food alternatives because you are concerned about where your food is coming from. Not only is it healthier, but if you don’t think this way, you have a severe psychological disorder.

The author notes that for some people, “eating becomes so stressful their personal relationships can come under pressure and they become socially isolated.” Granted, when I worked for a holistic doctor, I did see some people who were overly concerned about food and what they didn’t eat. Some took it to an extreme measure. However, the way this article is written, by including pesticides and chemical additives or common allergens like dairy, gluten or soy, as examples for what people with this disorder might exclude from their diets, is lumping a whole lot of people into a group of people with mental disorders, that have no business being there. This article looks like a cheap attempt to discredit all the legitimate concerns that many of us have been raising over the past few years, by lumping us, and those health care providers that use non-invasive practices, into the same basket as those who do unfortunately suffer from mental illness.

The author quotes Deanne Jade, founder of the National Centre for Eating Disorders for saying: “modern society has lost its way with food”. Articles like this prove that could very well be so. No wonder newspaper readership is going down.

* food photo courtesy of thebittenword.com’s http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/