To healthy?

Sharon - posted on 03/03/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )




When he was eight years old, Greye Dunn worried about calories and vitamins, and had a fear of sodium.

That was last year. Greye, who turns 10 this week, tells ParentDish that he's pretty much gotten over it. His list of favorite foods now includes turkey bacon, steak and hamburgers, even though he knows they're not as good for him.

Greye and his mom, Beth Dunn, of Mays Landing, NJ, were featured in a New York Times article last year about kids who develop an unhealthy relationship with food because their parents are obsessed with making sure they eat only what would be considered uber-healthy. Though obesity is mentioned as a concern, these parents are vigilant about their children's consumption of things like sugar, processed foods and trans fats because they think it will help protect them from conditions like heart disease, diabetes and hyperactivity.

But experts say there's a time when this vigilance crosses the line, and parents can end up doing their children more harm than good. This nutritional hyper-awareness in kids seems to be a growing trend, and one that concerns many doctors, dietitians and eating disorder specialists.

Parents who are obsessed with their kids' eating habits are likely setting them up for a lifetime of problems, including anorexia and bulimia, eating disorders that are on the rise in the U.S. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, four out of ten Americans have either had or known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder.

One of those eating problems may be a condition called "orthorexia," a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman to describe people who are obsessed with health food. In his book, Health Food Junkies, Bratman explains that the term "ortho" means straight, correct and true in Greek, and describes orthorexics as fixated on "righteous eating."

Bratman says that orthorexia is an eating disorder that often begins, "innocently, as a desire to overcome chronic illness, lose weight, to improve general health or to correct the many bad habits of the American diet."

Charlotte Hilton Andersen, a health and fitness writer, tells ParentDish via email that she believes she had some sort of disordered eating for most of her life, but that the orthorexia started after the birth of her third child, when she was 28.

"I wanted to lose my baby weight but I wanted to do it the right way," she says. "Initially it was just a goal to get healthy. I wasn't even sure what that meant so I started reading up on the nutrition and fitness research out there."

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, orthorexics are fixated on food quality and purity, becoming increasingly consumed with what and how much to eat and how to deal with slip-ups. Eventually, their food choices become so restrictive in both variety and calories that their health suffers. Their obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships and become physically dangerous.

Andersen, who chronicles her struggles on her blog, says "With every new piece of information I got (Dairy is bad for you! Vegetarians live longer! Drink a protein shake after every workout to preserve muscle!), I would alter my diet to incorporate it. If I couldn't decide whether a food was good or bad I just cut it out to be safe. You can see where that went. After a while all I would eat was 5 or 6 safe foods. It was very limiting."

As a college student, Kristie Rutzel was eating mostly raw broccoli and cauliflower, and her lowest weight was 68.3 lbs. on a 5-ft. 4-in. frame. Kristie, now 26, shared her story on Rachael Ray's daytime talk show, saying she began by eliminating fast foods and junk foods to avoid the freshman 15. But then she started getting rid of all carbohydrates, eliminating fats, became a vegetarian, got rid of anything processed with flour and cut down to anything but fruits and vegetables.

While the condition is starting to gain some public recognition, doctors and therapists will not find it in the bible of mental health issues, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Experts says that an official diagnosis with its own DSM entry would give orthorexics a better chance of getting treatment covered by health insurance and make it easier for researchers to receive funding.

Tim Walsh, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who led the American Psychiatric Association's work group that reviewed eating disorders for inclusion in the next version of the manual, DSM-V, wasn't convinced.

"We're not in a position to say it doesn't exist or it's not important," he recently told Time magazine. "The real issue is significant data. Getting listed as a separate entry in the DSM requires extensive scientific knowledge of a syndrome and broad clinical acceptance, neither of which orthorexia has."

Some experts view the condition as an eating disorder deserving of its own category, saying it does not always meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia. For example, according to the American Psychiatric Association's practice guidelines for the diagnosis of patients with anorexia, a patient must be at "85 percent of expected body weight" or demonstrate failure to achieve growth expectations, if still growing. This is not always the case with orthorexics.

Others believe that orthorexia is a form of anorexia, including Laura Collins, Executive Director of F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders), who tells ParentDish via email that, "Anorexia is a biologically based brain disorder triggered by dieting and restrictive eating." Collins believes that orthorexia is just another name for anorexia. "Not all anorexia patients have obsessive thoughts about healthy foods, but many do," she says. "Others believe they are restricting for moral reasons, or out of reaction to distressing events. "

Still others, like Lisa Young, a nutritionist in private practice and author of The Portion Teller, see orthorexia as being more on the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) spectrum.

"There can be OCD tendencies whenever diet and exercise go beyond a healthy lifestyle and cause you to completely restrict your food intake or not attend events, and take the beauty out of eating a healthy, balanced diet," she says.

Greye's mom tells ParentDish that her son had just learned about food labels in health class shortly before being interviewed last year, so he was naturally more concerned at the time. The young boy admits he still reads labels sometimes, and though he doesn't think his friends do, he says, "It doesn't make me feel different, just healthier."

How Can Parents Help?

So what's the right way to go about encouraging your kids to eat healthfully? Young says she tries to get her patients to look at the big picture, as well as the small.

"It's all about balance," she says, "If you're eating healthy 80 percent of the time, if you cheat a little here and there it doesn't mean you're a failure. One cookie or one thing not on the top of the list isn't going to create a problem."

Furthermore, parents shouldn't restrict certain food groups or label foods as "good" or "bad."

"Research shows that the more a child is restricted, the more they will overeat later -- later that day, or later in life," says Jessica Setnick, a registered dietitian and author the The Eating Disorders Clinical Pocket Guide. "It's important to teach kids how to eat a variety of things, and blend those things in a healthy lifestyle."

Setnick likens the process of teaching kids about healthy eating to teaching them about fire safety.

"You have to teach them about matches, you can't just keep them out of the house," she says. "The same goes for food -- you have to teach kids about all foods, you can't just keep them out of your house, or your child may end up at a friend's house eating out of their pantry."

For more information on eating disorders, contact the National Eating Disorders Association at 800-931-2237. Additional resources can be found at The Renfrew Center Foundation.

My opinion? That kids mother is a fucknuts. Who does that kind of shit to their kids?

I personally believe that you can be too healthy. When you get sick, the first thing to go are your "reserves". You shed fat when you're ill. Not muscle.

When I was a kid - I had NO FAT on me. I wasn't a picky eater, just had a crazy metabolism. Every time I got sick I had HORRID muscle pain. My body was eating my muscles to get the resources it needed. To sick to eat.. it just got worse.

I am so glad my kids have a little body fat over them. They bounce back from every illness so much more quickly than I did.

I also see this in animals. An animal with a little body fat recovers faster from illness/injury faster than a lean mean muscle machine. ( there is actually a group of people who advocate 0 body fat for dogs and they have workout/exercise regimens for their dogs).

This article wasn't about that exactly. But the orthorexia is just CRAZY - people so obsessed with healthy eating they enjoy nothing about it. What kind of narcisscism is that?

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Ez - posted on 03/04/2010




Obsessing over food, on either end of the spectrum, is never good. And teaching children to obsess over it is even worse. There is nothing wrong with teaching healthy choices and offering healthy options, but a child shouldn't even know what a calorie is, IMO.

I have been very strict with the food my daughter eats up until very recently. She is 13 months old and still has never had juice, chocolate, lollies etc. But my concern is not for her weight, but rather the fact that she simply does not need it. I have copped a few 'food-Nazi' comments from various people and my response is always the same - until she becomes aware and starts asking for it, I'm not going to offer it. Healthy options. Once she's a bit older and asks for something, I will have no problem with her eating some of these things as treats. So far, there have been a few times where someone was eating cake or ice cream and she has 'asked' for it by reaching for it and saying 'ta'. She has had a mouthful or two, and I'm fine with that. But I am not going to serve her up a whole bowl of icecream, as I have seen some friends do.

Sara - posted on 03/04/2010




I think you especially have to be careful with girls. My sister lost a significant amount of weight through diet and exercise a few years ago and now her daughter is obsessed with food in a bad way. She not eating enough and she's not eating enough on purpose. On the flip side, my other sister's stepdaughter weighs over 400lbs and her bio mom died a few years ago from sleep apnea because she was obese. She raised her children to feel the same way about food that she did, and now both her daughter's are significantly overweight. It's sad, and it scares me about what kind of food values I am going to instill in my own daughter. I never want to criticize her for her weight, but I want her to be healthy too.

Jenny - posted on 03/04/2010




I teach balance to my kids. I will admit to being a sugar nazi but not so far as to not allow cakes at birthday's or baking cookies on occasion. I don't do McDonald's but we will go to Wrap Zone or Subway if we choose fast food. Candy is fairly rare and lmited to pretty much holidays but I'll buy a box of Smarties from time to time. I want them to think of junk food as a treat and treats are not neccessary every day.

The weight issues ar ejust getting weird though. A few of our younger cousin have been talking about wantting to slim down or asking if there pants make them look fat. These are 8 year olds! I blame alot of that on our media obsessed culture and it just pisses me off.

In a nutshell I believe we should teach health and balance, not body image and calories to children.

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I'm not actually Scottish (although I do have Scottish ancestors and my MIL is from Scotland), that's a pic of the Nova Scotia flag (I was born and raised in NS and am missing home a lot right now).

Lady - posted on 03/04/2010




That's quite scary isn't it - with having a 9 year old and a 4 year old girl it's something I worry about.
By the way Wanda I very much approve of your picture - us Scots get every where don't we LOL :-)

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Gillian, I don't think she heard it at home. While her parents do stress healthy eating, they also have treats as well. I'm afraid it's something she's picked up at school or worse, the model thin media image is already making an impact on her.

Lady - posted on 03/04/2010




A six year old turning down cake cause she didn't want to get fat!!!! that's madness - what sort of messages is she getting at home to say such a thing?
Everything in moderation is the key I think - as long as they eat healthily most of the time and are active for at least a little while each day then a bit junk food or some sweets are fine. I don't cook ready meals or have hot dogs or things like that but we do get pizza or Mc Donalds once in a while and they usually have a cake or piece of chocolate everyday but my kids walk a lot or play sports and are all very healthy slim.

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I believe that we can enjoy "junk" food along with the healthy stuff. I try to make sure my son gets 3 good meals a day (hard to do now that he's going throught the refusing to eat phase) and I'm not adverse to giving him a cookie or piece of chocolate as a treat. It's all about balance.

I also believe that lack of activity is as much to blame as food for the obesity issue. I don't care what you eat (or don't) if you spend all day on your ass in front of a TV, computer, video game etc., you're still going to get fat.

This healthy eating thing is going to far. I heard my 6 yr old neice turn down a piece of cake because she "didn't want to ge fat" (she's very slender and participates in various activities). I was disgusted to hear that from someone so young. When her parents didn't make a comment, I told her that I never wanted to hear her say that again (and I made sure every one heard me).

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Any type of obsession could be unhealthy. All things in moderation...even dieting. Food is important but it's not about dieting. It's about a lifestyle. And you need some wiggle room. We don't keep junk in the house, but we do order pizza or eat fast food about once a week just to keep from going crazy. =)

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