Are “eating healthy” and “obsessed” synonymous?” [part 1 of 3]

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl (from Linda):

“I just received an e-mail earlier today from a friend who considers herself a very healthy eater (she’s a nurse) with a link to the following article “New Eating Disorders: Are They For Real?” about newly discovered or classified eating disorder, Orthorexia.

“It says: ‘Orthorexia is Latin for ‘correct eating.’’ Here, too, the focus isn’t on losing weight. Instead, sufferers increasingly restrict their diets to foods they consider pure, natural and healthful. Some researchers say that Orthorexia may combine a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder with anxiety and warn that severely limited “healthy” diets may be a stepping stone to anorexia nervosa, the most severe – and potentially life-threatening – eating disorder.’

“Linda continues: Okay, I say, but I am not “severely limiting” my healthful foods, I eat quite a variety, probably more than the average adult. My weight is well within normal limits, and I do not worry too much about calories or restrictions, other than making a clear attempt to eat unprocessed whole natural foods, as much raw as I can.

“So, this doesn’t seem to apply to me…. But then the article goes on to say…”Orthorexics: Those affected may start by eliminating processed foods, anything with artificial colorings or flavorings as well as foods that have come into contact with pesticides. Beyond that, orthorexics may also shun caffeine, alcohol, sugar, salt, wheat and dairy foods. Some limit themselves to raw foods.”

“Hmmmm, like that is something bad, say, compared to eating unlimited junk food, highly processed food and foods with pesticides? But that was not enough: the article goes on to describe the TREATMENT the newly classified Orthorexic needs in order to be “cured”, I guess, of their disease/condition! Wow, this is the kind of stuff that I find myself running up against since I took up a whole foods, high raw diet just over two years ago.

“I say very little at this point to anyone about what I choose to eat or not, and this is very sad to me, since I am trying to just be the example of what good fitness/nutrition can be. This just seems to put the ultimate stamp of “disapproval” on the way many of us are choosing to eat to circumvent GMO, pesticides, processed foods and additives. Robyn, I have to give you credit that you can keep up the good fight despite resistance, but would love to know what you do when confronted with this type of information?

“This is the link:”

Robyn’s answer: in my next post!

food obsession

I have worked out, almost every day, with a small group of women. I’m one of the oldest, and the youngest is 26. (You can see some of them in my facebook photos.)

We’ve known each other for years because of our mutual addiction to endorphins. We run, stairstep, kickbox, lift weights, play tennis, and twist ourselves into pretzels at yoga. We do things together outside the gym as well, because we have become very close as a result of the massive amount of time we spend together.

I’m 99 percent certain none of them read my blog. (Most of them drink green smoothies, though–at least if I make them one and bring it to the gym!) So I can feel safe that this story is between you and me.

One of the girls has an eating disorder (I’ll call her ED). Not one I am close to. One of the OTHERS I am close to (I’ll call her QT) just can’t stand it. My tennis coach (I’ll call her Shari) got a text from ED saying, “Why is QT so cold to me?” So QT wrote ED a long facebook message.

The message wasn’t something I would write or approve of (and I didn’t love the “we” in the message because I’m a big believer in “speak for yourself”). It was LONG. In a nutshell, it said, “Here’s why I’m cold to you. We love you, but we don’t come to the gym to talk about food. We get tired of listening to the Debbie Downer attitude and obsession with calories and what you ate and how long it will take to ‘work it off.’ We want to talk about life and positive things!”

Well, this story, on a human relations level, is sad. There are hurt feelings all over the place, and Shari and I (the bystanders) are a little at a loss how to solve the problems.

On the issue of food obsessions, though, I’ve been thinking. How true it is that no one wants to know what you ate! How many calories it had. How guilty you feel. Your self-loathing because you ate this or that.

I was thinking how odd it is that, as a bystander in the drama playing out between my girlfriends, I completely relate with not wanting to hear obsessing about food. (I want to enjoy mine!) Don’t you think that’s weird, since I write books about food, I develop recipes, and I have a web site that is all about food?

I kid you not that none of my very close girlfriends ever hear me talk about food. I just don’t.

I bet you’re surprised.

My point is that I put GreenSmoothieGirl up to SUPPORT. Teach if that’s appropriate. Give ideas and encouragement and helpful information not readily available in the mass channels. Only to people who want it, and no one else.

But food obsession is NOT what I want here. Food is a means to an end–oh, and it can be fun and enjoyable on its own. But as the new year approaches, be thinking about your attitudes towards food.

Do you love food? (It’s okay, even good, if you do!)

Do you hate yourself in relationship to food? (If so, I hope you get clear with yourself about that and gently begin to correct it.)

Do you obsess about food? (That’s no fun. So many other subjects in life are interesting too!)

What do you do when you eat something that’s bad for you? (I hope you don’t tear yourself down and feel worthless. That isn’t helping anything or anyone.)

Learning more about whole foods, and raw foods, is exciting and fun–or it can be! If it’s a way to demoralize yourself, compare to others, or set an unachievable bar way up over your head . . .

Well, look at the psychological issues and try to break them down with logic. Because food is a blessing. It’s necessary, but it’s also good and enjoyable!

Just some things to think about. I’m interested in your comments.


Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:   I definitely have a binge eating disorder. This has been going on since I’m 13; I’m now 50! My husband, also 50 is very overweight and my daughter, 20 and in college is very overweight. I’m very interested in getting my family on track. What can you tell me about binge eating?


Answer:   Two things are usually at work when it comes to eating disorders.   One is emotional and one is physical/chemical.   Of course, you can’t entirely separate the two.   But let me talk about one for a minute and then the other.


First of all, we often “reward” ourselves with food because we feel low, or we are bored, we feel insecure or unloved, or maybe life just feels empty and food is the only thing we have to look forward to.   It’s helpful to know when we begin to eat something damaging to our health what it is, exactly, we’re hoping the junk food can do for us.   Is it going to ease the boredom?   If so, it may help to talk to yourself about that: “For five minutes while I eat these Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, I’ll enjoy them, but then I’ll have a blood sugar crash and be unable to do my work.   And I’ll hate myself because I was going to eat healthy today and then ate a box of donuts after lunch, instead.   Then my self-esteem will be lower, not higher.”


I find self-talk isn’t usually enough, though.   I also have to find something else to do to make myself NOT BORED.   (That’s my emotional trigger–boredom.)   Some people eat when they’re feeling criticized or ignored by someone they care about.   Some eat to cover up their sexuality because of intimacy issues.   There are so many reasons to overeat or indulge in processed foods that cause weight gain and health problems.


Second, when processed foods are in our daily menu, they screw up our tastes for other foods.   They change our ability to detect where the “off” switch should be in eating, because MSG, NutraSweet, sugar or corn syrup, and salt cause a chemical chain reaction of symptoms that lead us to not understand or tune into being satisfied by a small to moderate amount of food.


Those who eat to assuage their emotions AND have chemical addictions to processed food are doomed to overweight if they don’t tap into both sides of that equation.   I wrote 12 Steps to Whole Foods to address the chemical issues.   And Ch. 11 on healthy treats helps in the transition away from eating junk treats all the time.   Starting there–with nutrition–also helps on the emotion side, because even if unaddressed, you have much better options when you DO soothe yourself with food.