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BIO 1090



The question posed before the medical field, dieticians, and society in general is, can the
obsession of eating healthy become unhealthy? Dr Steven Bratman has coined the word
Orthorexia to describe those whom he believes suffers from the obsession of a healthy eating
lifestyle. It is believed by Dr Bratman, along with several other doctors and dieticians, that the
societal push to eat healthy has in fact become an addiction. They are finding in their study of
Orthorexia, that the people suffering from this unofficial eating disorder, has several different
effects on them in the long run. There are nutritional issues, social issues, and even mental
issues that can be linked to this eating disorder.
The first of the issues is the implied nutritional factor. The body has many different
dietary needs to remain truly healthy. The vitamins needed, such as potassium and fiber, can
easily be met with the eating of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are often found in the every
day meal plan of a healthy eater. They even incorporate protein from meat sources like fish.
But the body does require small amounts of fat, sugar, and good types of cholesterol. These are
often pushed out of the healthy diet plan as they are seen as bad for the body. Sugars can often
be stored as fat cells. This is frowned upon by the extremist healthy eater as the belief is that fat
of any sort is bad.
The second issue is that of the social aspect. In the effort to maintain what is referred to
as a perfect, or pure diet, Orthorexia could draw these patients away from their friends or even

family who may not push to maintain the same diet they do. America has become a country that
associates many of the gatherings that take place, with food. To remove the temptation of
violating the laws of the diet, they choose not to associate with the food related gatherings. This
can cause self isolation if taken to the extreme. Within the walls of the family home, if others do
not agree with the diet menu, it can create division and resentment for one another.
The third was the mental issues that can arise from this range from self control issues, to
self image. The loss of control refers to the lifestyle. The efforts that can be put into healthy
eating can absorb a lot of time. For instance, if you do not want to eat fruits and vegetables that
have had the use of pesticides, or would not be considered organic, you might have to visit a
local farmers market. This could prove to be difficult depending on your location. It can restrict
what type of food you can get a hold if you want to avoid preservatives used to keep things fresh
during transport. This can cause a panic state of mind when so much of your time is taken in the
pursuit of the diet, and feeling like there is not enough time to do the other things that would be
considered important. If one falls off the wagon, as it goes with many diets, an orthorexic has
a tendancy to suffer from self loathing which is usually corrected by punishment that can include
fasting to level out the calorie intake, excessive workouts which can create a threat or danger to
the body, or they tighten the restrictions of the diet even more to compensate. They also tend to
withdraw socially as the obsession of eating healthy crowds out other activities and interests,
impair relationships, and becomes physically dangerous. (Dr. Karin Kratina PHD, RD, LD/N)
Dr Bratman, who coined the term orthorexia, came upon this study because of self
diagnosis. He said in his essay date October 1997, The Health Food Eating Disorder, I
pursued wellness through healthy eating for years, but gradually I began to sense that something
was going wrong. The poetry of my life was disappearing. My ability to carry onn normal

conversations was hindered by intrusive thoughts of food. The need to obtain meals free of
meat, fat, and artificial chemicals had put nearly all social forms of eating beyond my reach. I
was lonely and obsessed..... I found it terrribly difficult to free myself. I had been seduced by
righteous eating. The problem of my life's meaning had been transferred inexorably to food, and
I could not reclaim it. (source orthorexia essay by Dr Steven Bartman)
There are concerns about the impressionable minds of the youth as well. We constantly
hear stories of young women, who turn to anorexia or bulimia to maintain what society would
call the perfect body. These two eating disorders have become an extremely dangerous situation
to more and more teenage girls every year. One of the treatments was teaching them to abandon
the poor eating habits, and adopt the healthy eating standard. But have we just replaced the one
disorder with another? Are we still perpetuating an unhealthy body image that may be
But what about the opposition of orthorexia? There are those who believe that a healthy
eating lifestyle like Chris Woolston, who is the noted opposition in this article, believes that the
amount of calories Americans take in, has driven the obesity issue in our country to an all time
high. The healthy eating lifestyle is a good answer to this epidemic. He identifies two types of
diets. The first is the prudent diet, which is the healthy eating style, consisting of green
vegetables, whole grains, fruits and white meats like fish or poultry. The second is the western
diet which he associates with fast food, french fries, fat based dairy product, and basically
compound food meals like pizza. He points out that one can eat more of the healthy food to
satisfy the appetite, and still keep the total calorie count down to avoid becoming another victim
of the increasing obesity rates in America.
Woolston blames this choice of diet on the culture of convenience in today's western

society. We have industrialized to a point that the time to prepare and eat a healthy meal has
become unrealistic. The world we knew in the fifties had most homes with 2 parents, of which
only one of them had to work to sustain the families needs. Today, more and more, we see the
single parent family, or a two parent home that requires two incomes just to make ends meet.
This has become a direct contributor to poor nutrition choices for us and our children.
Woolston suggests a few things to help keep control of the diet. He recommends that
when you eat out, to pay closer attention to the intake of food. Instead of ordering an entree, he
recommends maybe a salad and a appetizer. Choosing food that is baked, broiled, or steamed, as
opposed to fried. Red meat is not completely off the table, but treat it as a compliment to the
meal instead of the main course.
So after reading this article, I found a question that intrigued me a bit. Aside from the
obvious sides represented here, I could not help but wonder, have we allowed our politicians to
play more of a role in this matter, and removed the responsibility of the parent in the same
process? We have looked to many organizations such as the FDA to determine and outline what
a healthy diet really is. The problem here is that the organizations are looking at specific
points to a diet, such as the calorie value of the food, or the specific mixture of the newly
proclaimed food pyramid. The fact of the matter is, everyone's body is different, and
metabolizes at different rates. This means the diet outline for my brother, can be completely
different from that of myself.
I think the important thing to teach our children, is that with all food, healthy or
otherwise, we need to practice moderation in all things. Meat is a good source of protein, even
red meat. But like Woolston had recommended, let the meat be a side. With our moderation of
food intake, we should regulate our portions. Even fruit and vegetable can be eaten in excess, to

the detriment of a balanced diet.

We should also teach the next generation about eating schedules. I am the worst offender
at this. I don't take the time in the morning to eat a breakfast, and if time gets away form me, I
can skip over lunch without even knowing it. Taking time out of the day to feed the body,
ensures that it works properly. If the body has a slow steady supply of food, it will absorb the
right nutrients it needs, and convert it to energy for the body to use. If we eat in strange and
untimely intervals, such as a one large meal a day, with a snack before bed, we force the body to
react differently. Instead of converting the good things to energy, and then dispose of the things
it does not need, the body can go into survival mode and will create and store more fat cells as it
does not know when the next meal is coming. This was supported by the ADA spokeswoman,
Noralyn Mills, RD, when she indicates that feeding the body at regular intervals keeps the
metabolism rate up because it sends a signal to the body that it does not need to store calories for
Finally, we need to educate our children about the importance of exercise routines in our
daily lives. There is an inherent need for the body to take in calories to survive, but it is just as
important, to maintain a good healthy body weight, by burning the proper amount of calories as
well. This can fluctuate from one person to the next. Someone that spends a good amount of the
day behind a desk, might need to watch the diet, and schedule time to exercise. Whereas
someone who might work as a professional football player may need to focus on more calories in
the diet to make sure that the food intake is sufficient to meet the energy output of what the body
burns. But in today's society, at least in the US, a slothful and lazy youth have become the norm.
They opt to stay at home and play video game football, rather than go outside and play a real
game with their friends. Technology can serve a good purpose in our lives, but it can be a

hindrance as well. We need to teach our kids about moderation in all aspects of their lives.
All in all, I think both sides represent good points. We should be incorporating a healthy
eating lifestyle, or a prudent diet with our more practiced western diet, in conjunction with
better exercise habits to ensure that we are optimizing the balance of calorie intake to calorie
output. With a practice in moderation, we should be able to achieve a controlled, healthy, and
safe lifestyle that does not take control of us.

So the purpose of the project was to study a topic from the chosen set of topics in the
taking sides book. The one I chose to study was the question, Can an Overemphasis on Eating
Healthy Become Unhealthy? It is later described in the argument as Orthorexia Nervosa.
This was an intersting topic because the intriguing depiction of something that is suppose
to be healthy and beneficial could actually be dangerous to a person in many different fashions.
Both sides present good arguments. The yes side makes you think about the lifestyle changes
that take place for a person to have a pure diet that excludes many meats, all sugar and carbs,
and more often than not, any food that is not organic or would be considered at GMO food. It
was fascinating to see the dramatic lengths that people go to for the control of their diet, and the
desired body image. Although much of it is not driven by body image alone, because there
seems to be an underlying factor of the pure diet. Like a fear of fods that might give you
cancer, or one of several other diseases linked to food.
The no side was also well represented with the statements that eating healthy should be a
big concern as America has gradually become the largest country in the world, referring to the
obesity epidemic that not only plagues the adults in a busseling environment, but the children as

well. I learned that child obesity and related diseases are on the rise. The no side connects this
back to the food changes that have happened over the last 50 years or so. It definitely argues the
point that we are an unhealthy nation, and we need to work on getting back to be a better and
more healthier country.
At the end of the day, I have decided that there just needs to be moderation in all things in
life, from our food, to our exercise, to our slothful activities that we find such enjoyment doing.
This type of moderation would ensure that we not only get the nutrients that the body requires,
that may be missing in a pure diet, but we take other action such as portion control, and
physical activity to help maintain a healthy image both for a physical body as well as our mental

3 HOUR DIET OR 3 MEALS A DAY-- by Elaine Magee MPH, RD, LD
BIO 1090 TAKING SIDE READING pages 74-85