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January 25, 2016

Ortho—what?! Why We’re not Crazy for Obsessing over Our Food.

eat yuck food baby

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.

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“I’ll take a salad loaded with carrots and olives, please, but hold the soy, corn, canola, tomatoes, and sugar beets.”

Some professionals would see me as having a mental disorder for saying this to my waiter.

Orthorexia nervosa: some medical professionals want to add this term to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM.

It’s a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman which, according to the The Free Medical Dictionary, describes a state of:

Obsessiveness about the quality of the food being ingested, ensuring that it is the most healthy, the most organic, etc.”

Is it just me or does that just describe the desire to feed our bodies with healthy food? What’s so nuts about that?

I want to make sure that my produce has been grown with organic methods. I want to buy non-GMO foods.

Does this make me crazy?

It’s true that some of us will take eating healthy to an extreme, but to say that labeling being “obsessive” about the quality of our food as a disorder seems a bit over the top. That’s the sign of a great chef, right? Heck, if Orthorexia truly became a part of the next edition of the DSM, then most Californians would probably have this disorder.

Many of us chose to live an extremely healthy lifestyle by taking the extra effort to purchase and consume only produce, grains and dairy products raised or grown free of pesticides, herbicides and GMOs.

It’s a lifestyle choice, not to mention an environmental one—not a mental disorder.

From the outside, I suppose that it could look as if I have a disorder, but I don’t.

I am not picky, but my gut has a mind of its own.

As much as I would like to ignore her and eat an all-American diet (minus the meat), I simply can’t live that way.

I’ve been through the litany of tests and I’ve come to the realization that I am ortho…right about what my body needs to eat.

My gut dislikes GMO foods: soy, corn, canola, sugar beets and more.

My joints light up like a red flare whenever I ingest these foods. I’m not allergic to them, but they irritate my gut—I  just can’t digest them.

I know it’s not Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lyme’s Disease, Celiacs, or any other illness. And, yes, I can eat wheat without having swelling in my joints; however, if I eat foods made from GMO products then my hands, knees, and/or my feet swell, and I’ll have to wait a few days for the redness to subside.

(On a side note, wheat hasn’t been commercially grown as a genetically modified crop, yet.)

Over time, I’ve learned to avoid foods made with GMO products without obsessing over them, and I feel fantastic (I’m typing without swollen fingers/wrists right now).

I’m not Orthorexic, but I did use “obsessive” methods—like the elimination diet—to figure out what foods created the red swollen joints, and it was worth it!

In a world where our food sources have been altered, I know it’s okay to be more than a little bit concerned about where and how my food is produced.

I love the creativity of experiments as well as the ideal of feeding all of the world’s population, but I’m not buying that GMOs are the answer.

I believe that there are better ways to feed our world’s population.

Maybe, one day, we won’t have to worry about checking the sources of our food because eating organic, non-GMO, and healthy foods will be the norm, not a sign of a mental disorder.

In the meantime, we shouldn’t label people as Orthorexic just because they are a little fixated on wanting to feel healthy.

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Author: Jessie Wright

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: sung hoon Choi/ Flickr

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