Junk Science? Number 83: Psychologists in America lose their brains.

Help, I’m sick – orthorexia nervosa. I have it. Badly!

You see, at all times I want to eat healthily. True I drink a glass of red wine (or two) a day, but I think that is healthy too. I grow all my own vegetables, eat foods like flaxseed and nuts, squeeze oranges, use Extra Virgin Olive Oil and eat sourdough bread. And shhhhh, don’t tell anyone; I eat fresh pomegranate and papaya from the garden, make up wheatgrass juice and put apricot kernels in my whole oat porridge, the thought police just might arrest me.

No wonder those spotty, sit–in-front-of-their-computer-screens-eating-Pizza skeptics think I’m a quack. I still play football. And go to the gym. At 65. No hope really.

And now it’s official. In America, wanting to eat healthily is AN ILLNESS. It’s all over the media. The psychiatric profession has spoken. Those people who hand out drugs to control people’s moods and ‘mental’ conditions (when they don’t know for sure how the drugs actually work), have spotted a new mental condition:

Orthorexia nervosa. It’s a desire to eat healthily and is characterised by wanting to eat ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ foods. Apparently sufferers are overly concerned by the nutritional make up of what they eat. They have even been known to read labels in Supermarkets and check ingredients.

No it’s not April 1st.

So that’s it – I have an official ‘eating disorder’, because I don’t fancy a frozen beefburger (with tomato ketchup and French Fries), a can of coke and a slice of cheesecake, nor a TV dinner fresh from the microwave. What hope is there for me?

Will I now be declared a raving loony and my passport endorsed? Will the psychiatrists work with the drugs companies to develop a drug to change my mental state and treat me? Or will I be forced into rehab – and have to spend a week eating at McDonalds or Pizza Hut? Maybe I’ll be connected to a pesticide drip? Maybe all ingredients labels will be removed from food packaging in Supermarkets to protect me from my urges.

On my trip back to the UK, there was discussion on TV suggesting fat people were given financial incentives to diet; and smokers were given cash to stop smoking. Clearly Big Brother is going mad.

A few years back when Codex was stopping herb sales in Europe, I did actually write a piece entitled ‘What next? Oranges?’

So, maybe it’s my fault? Maybe a psychiatrist read it?

If they want to read something new on their chosen subject perhaps they could go to Scientific American vol 312, where, in the ‘Mind and Brain’ section, there’s an article on how the bacteria in your gut control your mental state – as I’ve been telling people for two years now.

Taking specific probiotics would potentially make psychiatric drugs (and psychiatrists) redundant.


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  1. Let’s be clear here, I think we all understand that wanting to be neat and tidy is not actually OCD, being a bit sad is not actually Depression, being on a diet is not actually Anorexia. So it follows that wanting to eat healthily is not actually Orthorexia Nervosa.

    As ridiculous as it might sound, being obsessed with anything to the point of it interfering negatively with your life is a bad thing, be it exercise, keeping clean or eating “properly”. To say anything else is minimalising the absolute hell that mental illness can be – bacteria in the gut or not.

    Frankly, I find your attitude to be flippant and ill-advised.

  2. I have bladder cancer and I am wondering what fruits and vegetables I can take. I walk every
    day when I am able but sometimes I get tired
    Easily. Do u have any suggestions?

  3. I can see your point about this seeming strange to diagnose people as being ill for eating healthy food, compared to the millions of people who don’t look after their own nutrition.

    However I can also understand from my own sister’s relationship with food that it can become obsessive and compulsive. Because she is so worried about food and eating healthily it can be very restrictive for her when it’s taking over her mind, making her stressed and meaning that she can end up eating a narrow diet rather than one that is full of colour and variety and pleasure. I think this is a very valid point that eating healthily can become confusing, boring and stressful to some people without proper support and simple information and it seems to me that if you’re not also enjoying your food then your body may not digest it to it’s full advantage.

    Rather than belittling people who have issues around healthy eating, I think we should focus more on supporting people to eat well and happily.

  4. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for sharing that. My husband and I have that eating disorder like you then and am proud of it. Thank you for all your interesting reading. I lost my mum to colon cancer two years ago this April and we used lots of your ideas and the Rainbow Diet book was fascinating.

    Warmest wishes

    Charlotte bates

  5. Do you have any links to anyone saying that eating healthy (and ONLY eating healthy) is a disorder? Because I think maybe you’ve created a tiny little strawman.

    When I google “orthorexia nervosa” I don’t find anyone saying JUST eating healthy is a disorder, I find psychologists proposing that a MANIACAL OBSESSION WITH EATING HEALTHY is disordered. I find a proposed diagnosis that includes possible diagnostic questions like, “Does your diet socially isolate you,” and “Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about healthy food?” and “Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, distancing you from family and friends?”

    I mean, I wash my hands, but I don’t wash my hands a hundred times a day until they’re raw and bleeding because I’m obsessed with cleanliness. That’s how I know I don’t have OCD.

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