This quiz is available at many places but I found this version here. Given the original intent of coining this term (also identifying the condition) it is certain that it doesn’t apply to me, but the interesting thing is, that taking the quiz, I qualify. Of course, I’ve found that to be true of many types of Net quizzes which merely indicates they’re not very effective classifiers. But here goes.
- Do you spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food?
(Actually yes, but not for the reasons that define orthorexia? I’m sincerely trying to find out what “advice” from the nutritional community actually makes sense, meaning it is based on science and not just someone’s pet opinion. I want the correct answers to what is healthy food and discard all the fads (like the current anti-gluten fad which is absurd, but a good symptom of orthorexia, unless you actually have celiac disease. So thinking about food by sorting through all the garbage information from the nutrition scolds and lobbyists takes time.)
- Are you already planning tomorrow’s healthy menu today?
(No, but I am planning menu based on fact weather will be good and therefore it’s a good day for grilling. Of course no orthorexic would ever eat anything grilled anyway)
- Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive for meeting it? (Hard to answer this simply. ‘virtue’ is definitely not a word I’d use but ‘benefit’ I might use. I think we’re doing people struggling with weight or even health issues a lot of harm by treating their condition as a moral lapse or lack of virtue. It’s difficult for most people (evolution hates thin) so let’s support people, not act morally superior. And if you follow all my posts obviously ‘pleasure’ from eating, esp. bread is a major preoccuption of mine.)
- Has the quality of your life decreased since the quality of your diet has increased? (Again, hard to answer. Without a doubt constantly being aware of eating is a real bother. And without a doubt not eating as much or of what I crave is a real bother. Much of the fun I got from cooking is gone. And being concerned about it takes a lot of time and mental energy. So these are all negatives. OTOH, my BP is lower, my endurance is up, and I’m looking forward to using better fitness for some enjoyable activity. So this question isn’t very helpful, but I get its purpose since it is part of the convention view as what distinguishes an addiction from mere abuse or even just preference, i.e. AA considers this.)
- Do you keep getting stricter with yourself? (Not exactly but I have to keep reminding myself, especially after backsliding, to get back on the program. And every now and then, when progress isn’t sufficient, I try to raise the bar of how extreme I can push diet.)
- Do you feel an increased sense of self-esteem when you were eating “ right” and look down on others whose diets are not, in your eyes, healthy? (Absolutely not! The old ‘there but by grace of god go I’ totally applies since most of my life I haven’t been a good eater (which, btw, doesn’t make me a ‘sinner’, just lazy). I’d encourage people who are obese to do something about it, but for their own good, not my sense of righteousness.)
- Do you skip food you enjoy just to eat “right” foods? (Absolutely yes. Sorry I’d love to be chowing down, but in quantity and type on all sorts of things I can’t have now. But I’ve avoiding eating the awful “food” whose only purpose is denial of tasty food, like kale or quinoa. That’s one of the reasons I reject much of the nutritionism and orthorexia, eating something awful you don’t want just because someone else says it’s good for you is like motification, some religious dogma applied because you’re a sinner. Much of the nutritionist-approved food is awful and not all of the nutritionist-banned food is bad, certainly not for taste/pleasure. I don’t think I have to be “punished” because I let myself get too fat.)
- Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat away from home? (Yes, for sure, as my recent vacation demonstrated. But here’s where I’m too extreme. Part of my problem of eating out is that I can’t collect all the statistics about it (my obsession). I can hardly take my digital scale into a restaurant and interesting it is mostly only the fast food places that provide nutrition information (intesting that the nutrition scolds, who hate all fast food, don’t recognize that Chez Panisse is terrible when it comes to nutrition statements and McDonalds is excellent. But of course dogma says Alice Waters is the high priestess of nutrition so nutritionists ignore those lapses.))
- Are you becoming socially isolated? (Compared to what, given most would say I was also already mostly social isolated (which I don’t agree with). But yes, a few social events have been unattractive to me because I won’t be able to control calorie intake (quantity, not which kind of fat was used to cook something) and that is a disruption I try to avoid.)
- Do you feel guilt or hate yourself when you stray from your diet? (Neither term applies, nor ‘shame’. This is not some moral judgment. But I do feel stupid. I work so hard at restraint and at exercise, then to screw all that up for just a few minutes of breakdown in will, yes, that bothers me. But these days I translate having a few bites of the crepe/apple/whippedcream dessert I made into minutes on the treadmill. It’s a high price to pay back for over-indulgence eating so I do kick myself when I stray.)
- When you eat the “good” foods, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control? (To a degree, but ‘total control’, what’s that. I don’t have total control over anything! When I eat the right amount of food (for my weight loss plan) I feel good about that. But my ideal eating would be eating tasty food and still staying within my calorie budget, or, even going over the budget for especially tasty food and then having the will (like the 5:2 Fast Diet) to make up for it. ‘good’, in the context of this question and quiz, implies a moral judgment, but I use ‘good’ to imply that the food is tasty, well-prepared, interesting, and fun to eat. I suspect this is the biggest difference between me and the orthorexics – I love eating, esp. ‘good’ food, but I hate being fat and the two are in conflict and now I’m leaning toward controlling the fat rather than my past of optimizing culinary experience.)
It seems completely clear that I don’t fit orthorexia profile, even though I spend a ridiculous amount of time, in this blog and elsewhere, focusing on food. The key difference is not the food, the amount of time, or the associated behaviors, but the attitude. Orthorexia is a disorder because it causes you to have feelings about yourself based on food rather than being focused on some health/fitness goals, which can also be an obsession, at least for a while.
No, somehow we manage to add this preachy pretend-moral and certainly holier-than-thou attitude to nutrition. You’re a bad person if you’re fat and these days throwing in all the leftie attitudes: a) if you eat animals, b) if you eat anything western or from commercial interests, c) if you eat anything that tastes good, d) if you eat anything that requires cooking skill, e) if you eat anything produced by technology, and, most of all, f) if you actually enjoy what you eat. No, we’ve defined eating as sinful and certain types of foods and delivery systems as non-green and therefore once must do penitence, the harsher the better. Some day someone will find a way to go even more extreme than raw food vegan as even more punishment for earthly pleasures.
Just as is the case with religion, this sense that you’ve sinned or that you’re weak or you’re bad is some guilt trip others have laid on you that due to your insecurities (or their power greed) you take to heart way too much. You believe the criticism of others and develop your own self-loathing.
In fact, healthy eating is a good thing. But healthy eating isn’t really about food, it’s about your attitude and your goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, yes, sorry, you will have to sacrifice. And if you’re trying to maintain weight once you’ve lost it, yes, sorry, you’ll have to be vigilant and pay attention to what you eat. Evolution wants us to be fat so we can survive and breed; modern technology makes it possible for us to be too well fed.
So the same minds that could figure out how to produce surplus food, compared to our primitive ancestors, have to find a way to say no to some of that food (and resist the brainwashing of both the food-marketing machine and the nutrition priests). No particular food is evil (vs the others) or some other food is good. That’s the western mind, wanting the easy way out, the silver bullet (eat your kale, don’t eat red meat). As I quickly learned about white bread vs whole wheat bread (if you make it yourself you’ll understand this) is whole wheat bread just has some filler to displaces calories – period, end of story.
Weight control is simple, eat less, exercise more. It doesn’t matter what you eat (except counting calories, because yes, a gram of fat has more calories than a gram of grain or of a gram of leafy stuff, but that’s it, calories are calories) and it doesn’t matter when you eat (all those silly and totally unsubstantiated notions about breakfast, only vaguely relevant to actual diabetes (not the hypochondriac diabetics, or guilt diabetes, or fad diabetics) and maintaining relatively constant glycemic levels). No, get real, get smart – ask if any of that advice has the least bit of evidence to support it. If you want to read more, learn some molecular biology and read actual science articles, not more quacks in the popular press.
No, don’t be an orthorexic which starts with stop listening to nutritionists, esp. those who get columns in popular press and especially at Huffington Post (or probably most women’s magazines but I don’t read those). Don’t let someone else bully you and shame you. If you’re worried about your weight do something positive about it, but because you choose to, not because you’re seeking social approval.
Being a skeptic, being a rebel, but also being smart and accepting evidence – these will keep you healthy.