Sunday, June 24, 2018
Health

You've heard of bulimia and anorexia, but what about orthorexia?

There's nothing wrong with wanting and trying to be healthy. As a matter of fact, more people should strive for it. But it's important to remember "everything in moderation," the old saying that implies that a good thing, taken to an extreme, can be bad for you.

Such is the case with orthorexia, a term used for people who are preoccupied with avoiding foods they believe to be "bad" or unhealthy, without the primary focus being about weight.

A person with this type of food obsession thinks the foods he or she is avoiding are unhealthy, but that may not be the reality. For example, one orthorexic person may avoid all carbohydrates when, in many cases, carbs have important nutrients and are healthy for us. Another may refuse to eat any kind of bread, even though it can be a nutritious food for a healthful lifestyle. Bread has been around for centuries and is a part of almost every culture.

The belief system of the person with orthorexia is not a rational one. It is a rigid and often quirky to downright abnormal way to approach eating.

Oftentimes, this obsessive-compulsive thinking gets out of control, resulting in ill health and an unbalanced life. Take Patty. She wasn't anorexic or bulimic, but her life had gradually become as unmanageable as that of people with those better-known eating disorders.

It started innocently enough.

She was concerned about eating more healthily so she went on a popular fad diet touted to be the latest in cleansing the system to help her body "get on the right track." As with many things Patty attempted, her perfectionism made her want to do a perfect job at being healthy and following the diet. With time, the number of foods she would allow herself to eat was reduced to four. It wasn't easy eating just four foods each day. That meant other things had to change also. So she stopped socializing for fear of confronting situations where "forbidden" foods were present. Before long, her life was limited and she was socially isolated. Patty started all this to improve her health but instead compromised her health physically and psychologically.

Unfortunately, cases like Patty's can be difficult to treat because such people often don't think there is a problem. On the contrary, they feel virtuous in what they're doing. Denial can keep them from seeking help.

In addition, we now live in a society that often reinforces many eating behaviors that aren't normal or adaptive. Some popular fad diets encourage behaviors that are extreme and even unbalanced nutritionally. Many people don't think twice about someone on a diet that discourages all starchy foods or particular fruits that are considered to have too high a glycemic or sugar value. It seems that the quirkier the diet sounds, the more people pay attention and think it's the right thing to follow. People have become accustomed to messages of this type and tend to view them as normal. As a result, we may view people who have extremely rigid control of foods as admirable, not unusual.

Orthorexia is an example of something that has gone awry despite good intentions. The irony is that in an attempt to be the healthiest people ever, those with orthorexia have made themselves sick — psychologically and frequently physically — and often are unaware of the downward spiral they've been on.

Balance, both physiologically and psychologically, is healthy. When we don't have it, we head toward ill health.

When it comes to eating, the healthiest people are those who practice flexibility and moderation. They strive for good nutrition but don't expect perfection. And they always allow space for the psychological pleasure that comes from eating.

Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at [email protected]

Comments
ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ST. PETERSBURGShyly, 8-year-old Annabelle Brassfield climbed atop a stool in front of a blank easel, grabbed a brush she named Scarlet and prepared to paint her scars. After three open heart surgeries for a severe congenital heart defect, she’s left ...
Published: 06/22/18
Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

By Katie WorkmanIsraeli or Mediterranean couscous are tiny balls of toasted semolina pasta that plump up when cooked into toothsome, slightly less tiny balls of pasta. They make a great base for a side or salad. You can make the couscous according to...
Published: 06/22/18
‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Pergolas’ Saturday morning volunteer work started like most, at a farm cleaning the property and trimming trees. Andrea Pergola, 38, stood on the driveway of the property when she heard her 15-year-old son Logan scream. At first, sh...
Published: 06/20/18
Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

TAMPA — Runners gathered for the Gonzmart’s Father’s Day Walk and Jog where they raise money to help aid in Moffitt Cancer Center’s fight against prostate cancer. This year the event raised $110,000, but Moffitt had another surprise in store.Andrea G...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Updated one month ago