The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Some of you have probably never heard of this disorder: Orthorexia.

What is Orthorexia?

"Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”  Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.  They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”  An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style.  Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise).  Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.

Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.  Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous." - National Eating Disorders Association

This shit is real. And it's actually fairly common in varying degrees...

Some will settle this issue in their minds and shop under blind assumption at the cost of their pocket book by saying "fuck you" to Walmart and saying "hello Whole foods, take my god damn money and fix my woes." They take solace in things that say whole grain, 100% juice, organic, fresh, grass fed, etc. and think they've done good. They have saved themselves and their family. This obviously ain't true, but people will live their lives as they see fit.

Some will go as far as to only eat raw, pure veggies that they've gone to obsessive lengths to ensure that they getting just that...

"Starting in his early 20s, Righini dedicated himself to vegan and raw food diets, thinking they offered a healthy way to recover from years of anorexia and bulimia. But he took those restrictive diets to extremes, agonizing, for example, over fruits and vegetables losing their "life force" each minute after being picked.

"Just as I restricted myself from food, I restricted myself from people," he said. "If they were eating something my orthorexic mind didn't approve of, I would get physical shakes and panic attacks."

He's aware that some people think he's still being too restrictive, but for Righini the orthorexia was never about a particular diet, but about his "mind set" toward food. He said he's no longer the "drill sergeant" justifying every bite, and is slowly becoming more flexible, eating cooked foods now and then. He has increased his daily intake to 3,000 to 4,000 calories and is gaining weight to reach his 115-pound goal.

Experts say orthorexia becomes life-threatening when people's food restrictions make it impossible for them to take in enough calories and nutrients to maintain good health. Bell recently treated a 14-year-old girl who ate only raw fruits and vegetables. She dropped to 80 pounds and had to be hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat."

People who are desperate to lose weight and become healthier will often times spend hours in a store, walking up and down the aisles, staring at food, unaware of where to start to "eat better" and make "better choices." Sometimes it actually causes them to rebound to the nearest McDonald's because "fuck it, it's all bad for me, might as well taste good."

Trust me, I know from experience. 

Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we?...

Circa 2008

Again, it was the summer of 2008 and after a few years of having very strange health issues arise, including several episodes of heart palpitations, a few panic attacks, and a lot of quarter life crisis bull shiiiiit, I decided to take steps to alleviate myself of some woes. One of the things I did was buy a bicycle and start riding my bike, walking, jogging, and basically shit tons of cardio. The other thing that I did was start eating a lot of things that were "low sodium" and cut out regular soda from my diet. During this time I ate a lot of dry turkey and swiss sandwiches. That's pretty much all I ate now that I think about it. For some reason I didn't get the weird heart palpitations when I ate this stuff and I had less stress about eating when doing so. This is classic orthorexia. Anytime I stepped away from these diet procedures during this time, I would more or less fall into stress related illness or panic episodes. It was a very strange time in my life.

I'm sure some of my family will be shocked to hear I had such issues going on because I wasn't really open about a lot of things going on in my brain and in my life during this time (Like the fact that I was thinking of changing my career pursuits to opera singing...probably should have clued them in on that) I'll never really understand why I was so shut off. Perhaps it was shame or maybe feeling really different for going through such things, but I truly feel it is why I am so open about pretty much everything nowadays. The slingshot effect?


I lost a lot of weight, I stopped having as much issues with heart palpitations and what not, I slowly snuck more and more food and crap into my diet and eventually...BOOM

Circa 2011

Yup. The moral of this story? I had officially convinced myself that the only way to be in good shape was to do shit tons of cardio, eat crappy bland food, and live a mediocre life. Later on down the road, Ol' Yeargain would become the badass that appears before you today, but I had some shit to look up and some life lessons to learn along the way. Now, back to the topic. Orthorexia.

Why is this a thing?

With all of the dietary bullshit that floods our ears from millions of "experts" on every side of every camp, I'm surprised we're not all nut cases. Some claim that carbs are the devil, that fat is the enemy, meat is the enemy, protein good, protein bad, What is processed? You're a bad mother if you give your children anything other than the crops you grew yourself and the cattle you raised...wait, were those cattle grass fed? What kind of grain?! GMO!!!!! Clean!

This was a major struggle for me when I first began dieting a few years back. I had no clue where to start. Literally not a single fucking clue. The YouTube game wasn't what it is now, and all I had were several hundred contradicting articles that popped up in google searches. They were shit for help if you couldn't guess. Now things have changed, the age of the internet is incredible, and although there is still a lot of crap information out there, there is a huge emergence of readily available scientific research that has become immensely accessible and digestible. God bless the internet in all of it's fucked up glory.

Do I Have Orthorexia?

Well, if any of you have similar stories or feelings towards food that I had, you very well might. But, I also think the following guidelines will clue you in.

"Consider the following questions.  The more questions you respond “yes” to, the more likely you are dealing with orthorexia.

  • Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
  • Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
  • Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else – one single meal – and not try to control what is served?
  • Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
  • Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
  • Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
  • Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat?" 

The Take Away

I'm not one to go around pointing out everybody's disorders,  stretching out my index finger in a wagging accusatory manner, bellowing "you have an eating disorder, and you have an eating disorder, and YOU have an eating disorder!" However, I consider part of my mission to be raising awareness of dietary issues that don't receive large amounts of media. Not in hopes of shaming, but to help. This is a real disorder that affects real people, and because the name isn't as well known, people may not know that others suffer and have a title to point their difficulties to.

If you do feel like you are suffering from Orthorexia, please seek help or at the very least be open about your feelings. As a young man who had to deal with a lot of crap alone (by my own choice) I know that it can be scary and quite a burden on your heart and head and really get in the way of enjoying your life. For help, you contact the following groups:

  • Eating Disorders Resource Center (EDRC), Los Gatos. 408-356-1212, 
  • The Body Positive, Berkeley. 510-528-0101, 
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Naperville, Illinois. 630-577-1330, 
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 800-931-2237,

Until next time, try not to let things like "eating healthy, eating clean, living pure" be the things that control your life. If you are suffering, get help, reach out and tell someone, even if its anonymously, and as always...

Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing it.

The Opera Bro

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