A new Superfood coming to a store near you: Orthorexia

Living in Australia in this day and age, food seems to be as hot as the sun. People just cannot get enough of it because hey, it makes our Instagram feeds look better. New health foods and diets are becoming an increasingly popular discussion topics in the media realm because all these “new and exciting” foods that seem to be appearing. Well actually, they have been around for ever in other parts of the world, usually in poorer and more tropical parts. Parts where these foods have no problem growing, and are in fact a huge staple in these places. Govinnage (2014) explains how the superfood Coconut oil has been used for centuries in Asia and the Pacific Islands. But now since these Superfoods such as Quinoa, Chia, Goji, Kale etc have hit the media attention, not only has the consumption of these foods become somewhat of a religion but a lot of these poorer countries cannot keep up with the demand and has caused problems. Just take a look at Pete Evans and Daniel Churchill (who was an ex Masterchef contestant). These personalities entered the media realm through a different medium other than food, but then seemed to use this as a stepping stone into a sector that they may be passionate about, but not so qualified. Everyone has their own vision of ‘perfect health’, and most of us work towards it even if it isn’t an easy path however, these personalities also have their own views on ‘perfect health’ but due to money, fame and a different set of ideologies, they see it as an opportunity to make money while at the same time, boosting their own profile.

With this sudden wave of Super-healthy-eating information through most of our media outlets, there are even new eating disorders arising. Orthorexia is the newest eating disorder that involves restricting foods that are insufficiently clean, healthy or wholesome instead of the traditional eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa which is simply the restriction of food intake altogether. This means that Orthorexia is a much more hidden disorder because the trend to “eat clean” gives the impression that you are being as healthy as possible. It really involves being obsessive and compulsive with the foods that the person chooses to eat. Often a diet or fad that is highly unsustainable. Barclay explains how a woman developed this disorder by doing body “cleanses”:- “She began doing juice cleanses, cutting out solid food entirely. At first, it was three-day cleanses, then 10-day, then 30-day. The restricted diet began to take its toll. Jordan began experiencing skin problems, then her hair began falling out and she stopped getting her period. Starved for nutrients, her body was shutting down.”

The media is overflowing with information on “the latest superfood” or “the food that will stop cancer” or “the diet that will make you look 10 years younger”. There is just simply too much information with too many opinions on “what works” because there is little scientific evidence. In fact, social media platforms such as Instagram are only going to make the prevalence of diseases such as Orthorexia worse, because with all these “foodie trends” such as #cleaneating creating a religion of eating an incredibly restrictive diet. I can only see this cult-like healthy eating behaviour to lead to many more disorders being diagnosed in the future.

References:

Govinnage, S 2014 “Coconut oil, teff and quinoa: increased ‘superfoods’ demand hits the south in the guts”, The Guardian, September 24

Barclay, S 2015 “Orthorexia: The New Eating Disorder You’ve Never Heard Of”, Healthline, February 24

Taylor, L 2015 “Health experts slam Pete Evans’ ‘irresponsible’ paleo cookbook for kids”, SBS, March 12

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