Orthorexia, Healthy Food, and “Piecing Around”

Update: April 2015

Another report has surfaced about the eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa. According to the writer, “One way to define the condition is when eating ‘healthily’ causes significant distress or negative consequences in a person’s life. Such behaviors can have a significant impact on relationships with family members and friends, let alone on mental health.”

Eat Healthy, Eat Smart, Chill Out

One syndrome I’m quite sure I won’t get is orthorexia–a new kind of eating disorder defined as “a pathological obsession for biologically pure and healthy nutrition.” Many folks have shifted their diets to include healthier food (that’s a good thing), but ironically, some are cutting out important sources of vitamins and minerals (not so good). As a report in Popular Science says, “This can lead to fragile bones, hormonal shifts, and cardiac problems, along with psychological distress and entrenched, delusional thinking.” Wow—that sounds like the disclaimer at the end of pharmaceutical ads on television.

Before continuing, I’ll list my own disclaimer—I like kale. We planted a dwarf variety of the bitter veggie in our garden last summer, and from May until September, it was the gift that kept on giving. I usually eat it disguised—with other greens, tomatoes, jalapenos, and an olive oil dressing. We had many other nutritious items in the garden, and we are lucky enough to live in a community that offers plenty of healthy options. But I can’t imagine living by leafy greens and tofu alone. I’ll probably continue to “piece around.”

That means I’ll keep sampling various items even if a headline blares out a dire warning. “Cut the Cheese” some health article might proclaim. But my homemade quesadillas with pepper jack are calling. “No Meat” someone else cries out. But stir fried veggies with chicken and a bit of sweet and sour sauce can’t be bad for you. And what about the egg? For a while it was almost banned to the toxic zone, and now it’s all sunny side up again.
I think most agree that balance is the key. We all know that a junk food obsession is detrimental, and each consumer needs to be smart about what diet is best. The FDA’s food pyramid may look a bit pedantic, but it’s probably a good reference.
However, the health folks don’t include cake, pie, and cinnamon rolls in most of their blueprints for smart eating. That’s where “piecing around” really helps. The term comes from my Granny Faye. We kids would hover over a chocolate cake or a fresh-baked cherry pie, and when the chance arose, we’d fork out a small corner or cut off “just a sliver” to pop in our mouths. “Quit piecing around,” Granny would say. “You’ll spoil your supper.”
Nowadays I eat a lot less sugar, but Mom still pulls out cake or her amazing homemade cinnamon rolls when we visit. As Dad says, “We’ll just throw these out if you don’t eat ‘em. We’re saving the good stuff for real company.” So I take a small slice or half a roll, eat small bites, and then—of course—cut off “just a tiny bit more.” Orthorexia might be a disorder, but piecing around is a happy obsession.
Note: For a look at the “Sweet and Sour Fructose Debate,” click here. Find out how lemon drops, orange slices, and jelly beans can be considered parts of the basic food groups.  
by dan gogerty (top pic from pinterest.com, bottom one from funnymemes.com)

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