Health nut neurosis warns us of the danger of literally going crazy about food.
This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 29th March, 2019.
There are three common responses to a sudden decline in wellness.
There's a fourth, which is less common, but very significant. The neurotic.
The neurotic faces the danger of exchanging a physical ailment, real or imagined, and replacing it with a mental illness.
The illness is characterised by having no measurable parameters. So
no one can gainsay it. I'm fatigued, I'm sore, or get dizzy if I eat this,
or don't have that vitamin, or mineral pill, then I get these
And of course there are many people suffering from these exact symptoms from very real conditions.
The key sign is usually a withdrawal from what we might call reality. I can't go to the restaurant, or have supper with them because they might have used butter, or old oils for deep frying, or sugar, or tartrazine, or something else; anti-social behaviour.
Health nut neurosis describes how an over riding passion about healthy choice foods can lead to orthorexia nervosa.
And of course there is a place for withdrawal for a variety of reasons, but it's for a season. I've hurt my back, and I shouldn't sit; I've got diarrhoea, or I'm running a fever.
But always, it's for a period, and the sensible, legitimate withdrawal is characterised by a return to normal interaction with society, usually within days or weeks.
A domain fraught with difficulties.
healthnut neurosis is all to do with degree. Is it okay to have a coke
very occasionally? A slice of very rich black forest cake? A slice of white toast?
I personally WON'T eat at McDonalds. Am I neurotic? To a degree, perhaps yes. And I WON'T eat margarine. Or, at least I do my damnedest to avoid them. I will break down now and again and have french fries, even when I can smell the oil hasn't been changed for a week.
And where do we draw the line? I won't have a cigarette, a drink of hard liquor, a snort of cocaine...
But the chronically sick person has to engage their illness, and make changes, uncomfortable though they may be. The type 2 denialist just ends up becoming disabled, or dying, or suffering unnecessarily from great pain.
Sometimes we feed off our illness though; oddly, it seems occasionally to
fulfill a hidden need. The obese person, who knows they are in for great pain,
a total knee replacement, and huge cost but simply can't ring in the
changes that are needed. It makes no sense.
Those changes might to some of us seem
simple enough. Stop smoking or die; is it easy? Certainly not. Start walking
daily or lose a foot from your diabetes. Eat foods rich in lutein or anticipate getting macular degeneration.
Start eating a salad and fruit or
suffer from the ravages of the subclinical malnutrition that is the
cause of a host of serious diseases; oh, that's far too much schlep.
Change without neurosis
At this site I've made a call to move steadily towards abundant living. Because if you're not going to look after the bod, where are you planning to live?
But let's do it without health nut neurosis. Go to fast foods restaurants now and then (that's for me!), enjoy a white roll occasionally, have a beer periodically, without guilt or apprehension, but steadily move towards the wellness living tips you read about here at Bernard-Preston.com. That's if you want to sit under the trees you once planted, and enjoy watching your grandchildren grow up.
Orthorexia nervosa is the medical term for the health nut. It's an obsessive compulsive disorder, alongside anorexia, but characterised by a fetish with eating clean.
Like all diseases, there's often a fine line between what is an illness and wholeness, especially in the early stages. Take DM for example. An obese person has raised blood sugar, but not yet to the extent of being labelled diabetic. Tomorrow it could be quite different.
So it is with orthorexia nervosa. Today you want to eat sensibly; that's good. But tomorrow you find yourself with an extreme preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be bad for you; that could be gluten, or meat, or dairy or something else.
Provided that perception of good food remains correct, the illness remains in the domain of the mind. But sometimes the person's understanding of what is pure becomes twisted; then it can lead to malnutrition too because of an imbalance in amino acids, for example, or a deficiency of say vitamin B12.
it involves those foods that remain controversial. Are tea and coffee
bad? Are dairy foods only for babies? Which is the bad boy, margarine or
butter? Are starches like new potatoes and freshly picked corn on the cob bad? What about gluten?
Often there's also an obsession with taking the many supplements on the market too. This makes such a person prey to doctors who peddle these products.
Key signs are:
Health care in general feeds off the chronically ill; mostly it's with good intentions, but the greed factor prevails throughout and, when CEOs of big pharmaceutical companies open their mouths a little too wide, we the public know we always have to be on guard.
Is there a doctor, or health food adviser, benefiting unduly from your diet?
I myself won't drink colas, or eat white bread and margarine. I'm reluctant to eat cookies and chocolate cake. Does that mean I'm on the verge of orthorexia nervosa? It's a fine line!
The only one of the six considerations above that might affect me is spending three hours a day thinking about food. Yesterday I spent five minutes baking our healthy low GI bread, two minutes squeezing the four citrus fruits drink, one hour planting leeks, and perhaps half an hour picking spinach for eggs Florentine, lettuce for lunch and broccoli for dinner.
Even that is less than three hours, though you might want to add the time spent enjoying these wonderful foods.
Be your own judge, but do be on guard; there's no point becoming neurotic about what we eat but, unless we have concerns about the rubbish dished up by the food companies, we cannot possibly reach a sparkling, vital eighty with all our marbles intact.
Bernard Preston is a semi-retired chiropractor, author of six published books and passionate about tasty choice foods, green living, and something of a solar guru to boot.
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