“The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of the Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life.” - Robert MacIver
It is an obsession of our times (at least in certain parts of our communities) to eat “healthful, organic, additive-free food”. It is part of the “greening”, carbon footprint reduction, environmentally friendly revolution that is occurring world-wide. Don’t get me wrong, I too am environmentally conscious, I do my bit to reuse and recycle, we grow our vegetables and herbs in the backyard, we are water conscious and don’t waste our resources.
However, I refuse to go out of my way and search for organic, certified pesticide-free foods and do not waste my time searching in the markets for the “pure and natural” produce. Not so with some of our acquaintances. There is a woman we know who even goes and busy “organic” toothpaste (at $9.00 a tube!). The other day I saw a bottle of “organic water”. Once upon a time “organic” meant “manure” – as in “organic fertiliser” (which I love and spread liberally on our garden). Nowadays it is trendy to have organic everything. Even toothpaste!
Hence the obsession I mentioned at the beginning. Well, now it appears that the latest research into this organic craze has classified a new psychological disorder: “Orthorexia”
(from Greek, orthos
, “correct” and orexis
“appetite”). People who suffer from this orthorectic disorder worry much about their health and the purity of their meals, they will only eat what they consider a healthful meal, organic produce and may deny themselves entire food groups. The typical person suffering from orthorexia nervosa is well-educated, middle class and over 30 years of age.
These orthorectics may eliminate sugar, caffeine, salt, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soy products, corn and dairy foods form their diet. Foods that contain pesticide traces, or have additives like MSG or preservatives may also be avoided. Nowadays, they may also go out of their way to hunt down and eschew genetically modified foods. The older term for these people was “food cranks”. Once again, don’t get me wrong, we all have our quirks about food. Even though I am of Mediterranean origin, I abhor black olives and fetta cheese (funnily enough I eat green olives and every other kind of cheese – now how cranky is that?). Also, we should exclude people with food allergies, who can have serious or even fatal reactions if they eat the allergenic food (eg, peanuts, seafood, egg, etc).
Orthorectics often have rigid (although, often completely irrational rules) about what they eat. This can lead to malnutrition and can make eating well nigh impossible, especially socially, putting a great strain on relationships and friendships. In their concern over the quality of food they put into their bodies, they reduce their quality of life and will often compromise their physical health as well as their mental health.
My great grandfather used to eat everything and anything. However, he always ate seasonal, fresh food and he ate sparingly. He used to say that when at table, you should always eat as much as would curb your hunger and no more. He said that if you left the table, you should have eaten so much that if you were compelled to sit and eat again at another table, you would be able to comfortably eat as much as you had eaten already. He lived well into his late nineties and was as healthy as an ox.
What I know is that there is a very fine line between those people who eat a healthful, balanced diet and who avoid the obvious “bad things” (too much salt, sugar, alcohol, preservatives) and those who are fully fledged orthorectics. Anything carried to excess is unhealthy, and perhaps even healthfulness being pursued to excess is unhealthy, as the studies show. Moderation in all things (and the occasional indulgence!) seems to lead to a better life all around.Enjoy your weekend!