Orthorexia

Hello dear reader(s)!

Do you suffer from an eating disorder?  Are you sure?  Are you sure?  Are your sure?  Are you sure, Jen?  Jen!  Are you sure?  Are you sure?  Are you sure? *

“No, of course I don’t.  I eat very healthy.  I only choose natural or organic foods and would never consume any chemicals!”  you defend.

Hmmmm…..

Note I am not a P-sychiatrist, or a doctor of any kind, so this post should not be used to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be constituted as medical advice or should not be constituted as a constitution unless you want an extremely failed state.  

Let us start with your obsession over eating natural.  Do you know what the criteria is for calling something natural?

In the US, there is none.  None whatsoever.  It is a marketing gimmick.  And why?  Because everything, even synthetic compounds are made from natural ingredients.

“I knew, that, I only choose organic food, which has strict labeling requirements from the USDA.”

Okay, let’s look into those requirements.  Do you buy 100% organic labeled foods, or just Organic foods?  Did you know there is a difference?  For a product to meet the 100% Organic labeling requirements, the product must be free of herbicides, pesticides, sewage, sludge, etc…  But the more common USDA Organic allows for 5% of the product to come from a list of roughly 200 substances that are not organic.  What is the point?  Then there is the even worse, “Made with Organic Ingredients” label which is simply a way for food companies to charge more money.  It allows the number to be dropped down to 70%, and basically means your chicken can be raised free of antibiotics but then fired in motor oil.  (Slight exaggeration, one would hope.)

Then there is the issue of certification.  In the US, thanks to people who hate taxes, our FDA and USDA cannot inspect the products that want to use the Organic labels.  We rely on 3rd party certification companies, that are spot-checked (hardly ever) for their methodology.  However, since these certification companies are paid by the food companies themselves, there is tremendous conflict of interest and pressure on these certification companies to retain customers.  It is a situation where the fox is guarding the hen-house (to use a phrase straight out of the food supply chain.)

Another problem with the certification is that the supply chain for these foods (even to the certification companies) can be hidden or altered.  If a food is grown in China (example, not bashing China) using lead (another example, not saying it happens) as a pesticide, but then is brought into the Americas and relabeled as Chilean and organic, then cleaned, then sent to the certification company in Chile (another example, but often, the certification companies are not within the US).  Even if that Chilean company who is not in the US and likely receives very little oversight from the US is on the up and up…by that point can their tests detect that the product was in-fact organically grown in Chile?  For a fascinating, more in-depth article on the myth of the organic label, click here.

Now let us turn our attention to chemicals.  Chemicals are everywhere.  The air you breathe is a chemical.  Water, is a chemical.  And just like any chemical, both can be fatal in amounts too great for your body to properly handle.  This fear of chemicals is unfounded in science and not only that, is contradictory to living in the world.  We are surrounded by chemicals, we need chemicals to survive.  If you have ever taken even the most cursory of chemistry classes, you should know that some chemicals are dangerous in large amounts, some take much, much more.  This lack of basic scientific knowledge isn’t just funny because you get to laugh at the stupidity of others, it is dangerous to society.

One example would be the anti-vaxxers, (or disease revivalists, as I like to call them).  Are there chemicals in vaccines?  Of course, they exist, there are chemicals.  Have any of those chemicals been shown to cause any damage in the amounts given?  No, absolutely not.  Never in any single reputable study, ever, ever, ever.  In fact, most of those chemicals, such as formaldehyde, you get larger amounts of by eating an apple than you will in your vaccine.  When I went to school, we had to have vaccines to enroll without a valid medical reason that we couldn’t.  (Such as the one I have now.)  The vaccines had even more “dangerous” chemicals in them then they do now.  Guess who has two thumbs and doesn’t have Autism?

And now onto my pet peeve of pet peeves.  Do you know how many carcinogens there are, floating around in the world?  Well, according to the state of California, I’d say pretty much everything.  A state running a huge deficit wonders why they’re in debt when they require labeling of common sense locations (such as hospitals) when they might have carcinogens inside.  Ya think?  Radioactive materials can cause cancer?  Never heard that one, I wonder what the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors who got cancer would have to say about that.  Certain medications can be carcinogens?  Gee….I never knew that.  The key here though, is the amounts and the applications used.  Radiation can cause cancer, but it is used more often to destroy it.  Some of the medications I am on and have been used on me puts me at a greater risk for secondary cancers, but it also saved me from a cancer I got most likely due to a simple screw up in cell division.

Air pollution, ground pollution, food supply conditions, radiation and other drug exposure…all of these things can likely increase your risk of getting cancer.  But eating healthy, and eating organic, will not prevent you from getting cancer.  You can’t live in a bubble, and even if you could, the plastic used to make it might be a carcinogen.  Not only that, even if that bubble was certified organic, and the certification process was perfect, you could likely get cancer just from a screw up in the way your cells divide.  There is a study, that made a big splash because health journalists improperly interpreted that most cancers come down to bad luck.  The study authors were quick to point out that their study makes no such conclusion.

What the study did say, however, is that even in the absence of other carcinogens, based on the number of cell divisions in an average lifetime, a large percentage of cancers might happen anyway.  That the more the cells divide, the higher the likelihood of a mutation during one of those divisions that can lead to cancer.

Moral of the rant?  Eat balanced when possible, based on what you can afford, and do not trust the food companies when deciding to shell out extra for a product that likely means nothing.  Food for thought.

*The “Are you sure, Jen?” lines and similar are taken from an episode of the IT Crowd that I highly suggest you watch, entitled Calamity Jen.  “0118999881999119725    3”

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Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

39 thoughts on “Orthorexia”

  1. My mother is quite obsessed with all natural and healthy eating. I’ve always teased her for it. Last time she came to town she went to the organic section and she grabbed a bunch of spinach that had turned dramatically brown, I said, “perhaps they had a rough shipment, let’s just go with the “not organic produce” just this time. Her response, “They are supposed to brown, that’s natural, all part of organic, that’s what I tell all my clients”…so we had brown spinach for dinner that night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh. I try to buy from farmer’s markets when I can, not because concerns about pesticides, but because they often have produced bred for taste, rather than shelf-life, and you might be getting something picked in the last couple of days! Of course, it is seasonal, but never the less, I like it better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Seattle was great for that too. Beyond Pike, every neighborhood had its own (quality may vary) and there were many small farms on the East side you could go to and buy direct. Berries and grapes (and wine, and beer even) from the Woodinville area were always a favorite. There was even a pick your own blueberry farm right in Bellevue with like 15 different varieties of blueberries to choose from. I didn’t even know there were 15 varieties of blueberries.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I think that the only way to eat natural now is to grow your own food which we do here. We even brew leaves in a boiling water rather than take medications with side effects and adverse effects. It’s more effective and refreshing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just nodded along, but really, I do often strive to eat organics. The only thing I’m certain of, is that the apple trees in my yard produce authentic organic apples, because well, they’re older than I am, and I put nothing on them, lol! I’m fairly certain the foods I grow are heirloom varieties, but I am a novice, so a lot of it is good faith. I don’t like the way certain companies are conquering various aspects of food manufacturing, and my lack of purchase is a way to tell them so.
    But the case for organic milk is a good one cause in a predominantly female house, we do not need all those extra hormones! Also, it tastes way, way, way better than ‘regular’ milk.
    Maybe I’m more of a clean eater (As if food is ever clean!) because I rarely dine out and don’t much buy or cook processed foods. (But I love Coca-Cola!) So much of what we call food isn’t really food at all. I can see how that impacts health. I don’t feel well after eating what so many other people seem to enjoy 😦
    We aren’t all hearty, and some of us really do have dietary preferences — ie, me, anti-inflammatory.
    But you know what really BOTHERS the crap outta me? There are too many people who pretentiously decline proper nutritious food while other people starve. How ironic and vile is that? *tsks all the way home from the market*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even as a male, you don’t want all those hormones in milk. The best you can do is no your source. I don’t drink milk, milk, but my cheese, butter, sour cream, and other dairy is Tillamook, which I’ve seen made and know their farms.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree! Grow if you can, buy local at farmer’s markets and co-ops to support your communities and don’t worry about paying extra money for ‘organic’ or ‘natural’. Read labels though! Even that ‘local’ label can be misleading. I was about to purchase “local” honey from a health food store in town. Come to find out, the honey was only bottled locally, and had been shipped from all over the world. Kind of degrades the purpose of local honey. Great post Josh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes on the honey. My dad has a bee business here, and really, if you don’t get the stuff that was made locally (as in within 30-45 miles, my dad says), you don’t get nearly the benefits as far as allergies go. You’re not going to find the local stuff in a grocery store (not in my area). But the true local honey is plentiful, just have to ask around a little and usually anyone at a farmer’s market can point you in the right direction.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The hardware store I went to yesterday said they sell local honey. The hardware store. It is a small local one, old as I can remember, I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually had real local honey.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just ask how close the apiary is that produced the honey. The not so professional looking label is also a good sign (kinda funny but true!). In my little town there are a ton of beekeepers. It’s a whole other world that I never even knew existed until my dad got into it. They take a lot of pride in their product, as a lot of hard work goes into it. They’ll be harvesting soon, so around May-June most beekeepers in the South will be stocked up on their supply again.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Also, you may already know this, but two tablespoons of local honey a day works wonders on the allergies (assuming you’re not going out of town).

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I’m absolutely sure some do, but some are probably as lax as us, what with austerity being the word of the day, and capitalism at all costs being the go-to economic driver in many places.

        Liked by 1 person

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