My Orthorexia story: Why bloggers need to provide balanced information
UPDATE: Larry King is hosting a show on Orthorexia and he has asked us to appear based on this article. Click here for the link.
You can read my daughter’s story here.
I’m going to say some things in the post that will not be popular among food and health bloggers. So I apologize in advance but simply hope to call more attention to the need for all journalists – whether you’re a blogger, magazine writer, broadcast personality, or anyone who provides (often subjective) information to the rest of us – to consider your audiences and ensure that your information is a reality, not a perception. You are influencers so it’s critical that you are all responsible in the information you present.
Let me explain: I have a 17-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with an eating disorder. This is a direct cause-effect relationship from her dive into the Paleo diet. Almost two years ago, together, we embarked on the Paleo diet to eliminate all processed foods in hopes of reducing her migraines. Her migraines were reduced significantly in those early stages. I didn’t strictly follow the Paleo diet, refusing to give up my love for real pasta, so I was roughly 80/20. My daughter, she was 100% ALL the time. She was exceptionally disciplined and I was proud of her. She devoured every piece of information she could find on healthy eating. Her interest in healthy turned to an obsession – GMOs, saturated fats, additives, sugar – became the focus of her life. She began refusing her favorite foods as she studied ingredient lists. She often relied on popular bloggers for her information, many who are extremists and alarmists when it comes to healthy eating. I applaud the bloggers who present proven and trusted resources and facts and let readers form their own opinions and make their own decisions. But too many bloggers, in an effort to stand out, proselytize about all the bad products without presenting authoritative or medically-backed information. And so, my daughter followed the alarmists. Soon, she began refusing to go out to dinner (one of our favorite things to do together), she would not let me prepare her meals, and she began limiting the food she would to eat to organic vegetables and organic chicken only. Nothing else. No oils, no fats, no grains, and no products that these health pundits had told her were bad. Within a few weeks, her weight plummeted, not to mention her energy level. Her appearance was shocking. I did some research and discovered a new condition – orthorexia – which is an over-obsession with healthy eating that leads to weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and a host of medical issues, not unlike anorexia.
The Blonde Vegan wrote about her experience with orthorexia on her blog and ultimately has changed her focus to The Balanced Blonde. My daughter is now in recovery, seeing a nutritionist and learning the real way to eat healthy based on medical science and not based on the advice of an uninformed blogger. In fact, part of her treatment is that she take a break from social media and blogs with their bombardment of health messages. Now for my caveat: there are many fabulous, well-informed, credentialed bloggers out there who present fact-based information and allow readers to make their own decisions. It’s important that all bloggers realize that people of different ages and different educational levels are reading your material. As with everything in life, balance is essential. Ok…getting down off my soapbox.