Posts tagged with "National Eating Disorders Association"

Orthorexia: When ‘clean’ eating becomes an obsession

October 9, 2019

Besides his political views (“incorrect”), Bill Maher of HBO’s Real Time is known for his religious beliefs (none), his love of animals and children (complete and completely missing), and his views on how to stay healthy (“clean” eating).

In fact, in a 2017 interview with Esquire magazine, Maher took the writer to his kitchen and showed him “lunch,” which consisted of “Sesame seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, millet, barley, rye,” he said. “They’re very good for you. He mashed the seeds with water in a machine that looked like a coffee grinder. After the mixture was allowed to sit for a few hours, he added black cherry concentrate—and that was his midday meal.

While his diet may seem extreme, he is a member of a growing sector of the population that is committed to eating clean—whether that may be gluten-free, dairy-free, raw food, or all-organic. Their ethos: Choosing only whole foods in their natural state and avoiding processed ones will improve your health.

According to an October 7 report by NPR, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to eat this way, but sometimes these kinds of food preferences can begin to take over people’s lives, making them fear social events where they won’t be able to find the “right” foods. When a healthful eating pattern goes too far, it may turn into an eating disorder that scientists are just beginning to study.

However it is integrated into a person’s lifestyle, orthorexia is a fairly recent phenomenon. NPR notes that Dr. Steven Bratman, an alternative medicine practitioner in the 1990s, first coined the term in an essay in the nonscientific Yoga Journal in 1997. Many of his patients eschewed traditional medicine and believed that the key to good health was simply eating the “right” foods. Some of them would ask him what foods they should cut out.

“People would think they should cut out all dairy and they should cut out all lentils, all wheat … And it dawned on me gradually that many of these patients, their primary problem was that they were … far too strict with themselves,” Dr, Bratman recently told NPR.

So Bratman made up the name orthorexia, borrowing ortho from the Greek word meaning “right” and -orexia meaning “appetite.” He added nervosa as a reference to anorexia nervosa, the well-known eating disorder which causes people to starve themselves to be thin.

“From then on, whenever a patient would ask me what food to cut out, I would say, ‘We need to work on your orthorexia.’ This would often make them laugh and let them loosen up, and sometimes it helped people move from extremism to moderation,” he recalls.

Bratman had no idea that the concept of “clean eating” would explode over the next two decades.

Where dieters once gobbled down no-sugar gelatin or fat-free shakes, now they might seek out organic kale and wild salmon.

The rise of celebrity diet gurus and glamorous food photos on social media reinforce the idea that eating only certain foods and avoiding others is a virtue — practically a religion.

Dr. Sondra Kronberg, founder and executive director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative outside New York City, has seen a lot of diet trends over the past 40 years, she told NPR.

“So orthorexia is a reflection on a larger scale of the cultural perspective on ‘eating cleanly,’ eating … healthfully, avoiding toxins—including foods that might have some ‘super power,’ ” she says.

Now, Kronberg and other nutritionists applaud efforts to eat healthfully. The problem comes, she says, when you are so focused on your diet that “it begins to infringe on the quality of your life—your ability to be spontaneous and engage.” That’s when you should start to worry about an eating disorder, she told the news outlet.

“In the case of orthorexia, it centers around eating ‘cleanly’ and purely, where the other eating disorders center around size and weight and a drive for thinness,” she says.

Sometimes these problems overlap, and some people who only eat “clean” foods miss critical nutrients from the foods they cut out or don’t consume enough calories. “It could become a health hazard and ultimately, it can be fatal,” Kronberg says.

Orthorexia is not listed specifically in the DSM—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders— but that doesn’t mean it’s untreatable.

Eating disorders can strike anyone, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. If you think you have orthorexia or any eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help and friends who support you, the association urges.

Research contact: @NPR

Making a ‘fast’ buck in Silicon Valley

April 27, 2018

Many Americans are “on the fast track” today—at least intermittently.  Each week, they eat for a few days and fast for a few days in order to lose weight and “purify” their digestive systems.

And those who practice intermittent fasting say it helps them to lose as much as 3% to 8% of their overall weight, Bloomberg reports, as well as 4% to 7% of their waist circumference, over periods between three and 24 weeks.

Indeed, according to a 2017 report by CNN, “Intermittent or alternate-day fasting requires routinely alternating between eating little or no food and then feasting in your daily diet. It has become a growing weight loss trend in the USA, the UK and other regions around the world.”

And although there are no data on how many people have tried fasting, several celebrities praise the practice, Longevity reports—among them, Miranda Kerr, Liv Tyler, Christy Turlington, Ben Affleck, Beyonce and Hugh Jackman.

What’s more, monthly Google searches for “intermittent fasting,” which has become a catchall term for various forms of the practice, have risen tenfold over the past three years, to as many as one million.

It also has caught on in a big way in Silicon Valley, the high-tech bastion near San Francisco. Like most of the health fads that sweep through the valley, this one broke through thanks to word-of-mouth—and a Medium website post.

Entrepreneur Sumaya Kazi told the site’s 650,000 readers that she had dropped 50 pounds on the regimen, while venture capitalist Phil Libin and others preached about it to anyone who would listen, Bloomberg states.

Indeed, Bloomberg notes, a number of meal programs have sprung up in Silicon Valley, in an attempt to profit off fasting—among them:

  • Plate Joy, a $230-a-year meal-plan subscription app that is part of a diabetes prevention program, and has attracted about 20 million followers to its site;.
  • HVMN, a ketone drink formerly known as Nootrobox, which has attracted more than $5 million in venture backing from the likes of former Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer and Zynga founder Mark Pincus;. And
  • ProLon, a very-low-calorie, five-day, $250 diet package that is supposed to mimic the effects of a fast—and includes small portions of soups, drink mixes, breakfast bars, vitamin supplements, and even desserts.

Should you try it? Lauren Smolar, director of programs at the National Eating Disorders Association, thinks the answer is no. “We consistently see cases where people have tried to control their intake of food, and it’s led to an eating disorder,” she told Bloomberg, adding, “There ends up being this kind of reward feeling they’re going through, which triggers them to continue on this diet. And slowly this feeling of losing control, and not being able to know when to stop, can occur.”

 The bottom line, according to Bloomberg: Startups focused on time-restricted feeding and low-calorie meal regimens plan to expand aggressively, but they may be a bit too far ahead of the science.

Research contact: inquiry1@bloomberg.net