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Posts tagged ‘eating disorder hoohah’

Orthorexia: A Primer

Orthorexia, as you probably know, means “healthy eating.” However, orthorexia is an eating disorder predicated on a life-crippling obsession with healthiness: it has very little to do with veganism, raw foodism, or any other form of actual “healthy eating.” The similarities between anorexia nervosa and orthorexia are stark. I want to lay out a small primer on this because Aslan has struggled with orthorexia for most of zeir life.

The reason orthorexia is an eating disorder is that it has nothing to do with actually being “healthy”; that’s just the pretext for the mental agony. Anorectics obsessively fear fat and being fat and they count calories and exhaustively exercise, starving themselves, so they won’t be fat. Orthorexics obsessively fear unhealthiness and being unhealthy and they count sodium/carbohydrates/etc. grams and exhaustively exercise, starving themselves, so they won’t be unhealthy.

Also like anorexia nervosa, orthorexia is largely dependent on the health crazes of the time. This is why I am unrepentantly supportive of the Fat Rights/Acceptance movement, and would be even if I did hold the mistaken belief that dieting makes you not-fat, because they’ve hit the “bad foods” ideology right on the head. There is a serious difference between, “I choose not to eat this because of my concern and consideration for those exploited to produce it,” and “I won’t eat it because it will make me impure.” Anorectics will often display a sometimes bizarre relaxation with regards to chicken, grapefruit, or some other food—because those foods were culturally approved as “not fat” foods while they grew up. Orthorexics do the same thing. Aslan grew up during the sodium craze of the ’80s and ’90s and no matter how hard zie tries, can’t shake it. Others (like Lierre Keith, perhaps) have a neurotic fear of carbohydrates: I knew one once who would eat, at most, half a chicken breast a day because there wouldn’t be any carbohydrates from it. There are others, ones who won’t eat anything but tomatoes and lettuce because they’re terrified of fat grams; still more who try to almost exclusively eat protein.

Orthorexia is essentially anorexia-NOS with a twist: “unhealthy” instead of “fat,” and nutrients—mostly—instead of calories.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a lot closer to orthorexia than most vegans I know because of their obsessive fear of plant foods and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, vegans are more likely to be accused of eating disorders—even when they really, genuinely do not have them (though that’s about as common as it is in the general population)—because veganism is different and “not normal” like carnism is.

To me, Lierre Keith’s description of her symptoms smacks of a starvation-based eating disorder—all anorectics I know suffer from all the symptoms she’s described, but very few of the vegans I know suffer from any of them. The way she describes her eating habits—brown rice and soy while bingeing on eggs and dairy—smacks to me of orthorexia. Nobody eats almost exclusively brown rice and soy without having an eating disorder; it simply isn’t mentally healthy, completely leaving aside the idea of physical issues.

Eating disorders are very sad. That valid ethical considerations and healthy personal choices are swept under that rug is unacceptable, and the fact that they are swept under the “orthorexia” rug has killed some of my friends. I’ll write more about that on a later date.

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Keith’s Myth: Eating Disorders are Vegan Propaganda

Page nine. Yes, this is slow going. I told you it would be thorough, didn’t I?

I have other reasons for writing this book. One is boredom.

… And you had to inflict that on me?

Vegetarians can sum up their program in neat sound bites—Meat Is Murder—and self-evident solutions, like those compelling sixteen pounds of grain.

This, beyond anything else, should prove that Lierre Keith was never vegan. These beliefs and sound-bite ideologies are typical of vegetarians, in my experience; but vegetarians also like to believe that they’re not killing or harming animals, when a few moments of cursory browsing of pages on dairy and egg farming would provide the answer. That’s basically why I can’t stand vegetarians: they’re half-assed, but they want you to pretend that they’re doing “the best they can” even when they’re so clearly not. And they throw temper tantrums when you point it out to them.

Keith wants us to believe she was vegan for twenty years when she’s said, in public interviews, that she was only “vegan” for about a week at a stretch (and it is seriously getting painful to hold back the lolanaz “pizza fast!” jokes). Aslan called it; when I told zem about Keith, zie stated flat-out that Keith was lying about having been vegan. And she was. She still is.

It is precisely because of this two-dimensional worldview that I went beyond vegetarianism: I questioned myself. I looked at the world and decided that death wasn’t all the doom and gloom humans made it out to be; I decided that death wasn’t wrong, but that trying to arrange life in neat little rows so it can’t hurt you—like, for example, animal farming, which Keith has repeatedly endorsed by this point—was seriously pathological. Remarkably, even embracing and remaining comfortable with death—and not in the melodramatic fashion that Keith does—I’m still vegan. Maybe it’s because I’ll fucking eat bananas instead of what Keith did, in her own words: “brown rice and soy.”

Keith has gone from a two-dimensional, uncritically faith-based system to another two-dimensional, uncritically faith-based system. I am not going to pretend otherwise. She has shown absolutely no maturity, capacity for nuance, or self-reflection and until she does, she is going to be treated the way she acts.

“Vegetarian” isn’t just what you eat or even what you believe. It’s who you are, and it’s a totalizing identity. … And most of you will react with defensiveness and anger.

1. She acts like this isn’t true for carnists.

2. “Defensiveness” and “anger” mean disagreeing with her and not uncritically accepting her beliefs. You’re not allowed to read her book without coming to believe she’s right; if you do, it means you’re too “defensive” and “angry” to realize that Lierre Keith has The Truth.

3. Gee, the anger part couldn’t possibly be because you’re constantly insulting their intelligence?! When you continually call/imply someone is childish, immature, self-deceiving, ignorant, misguided and pathetic, you are going to get that reaction. I’d be worried for their mental health if you didn’t!

But I’m also writing this book as a cautionary tale.

Go Ask Alice is about as enlightening and respectful of its readers, so she’s in good company.

A vegetarian diet—especially a low-fat version, and most especially a vegan one—is not sufficient nutrition for long-term maintenance and repair of the human body.

I am going to point to Doug Graham, here: he’s not only been vegan for most of his life, but he’s been a “very low fat” raw foods vegan for several decades, too. He espouses the kind of eating I gravitated to and fucking adore because of its immense benefits to my mental and emotional health: of calorie intake, a minimum of 80% carbohydrates, maximum 10% fat and 10% protein (averaged out) from whole raw fruits and tender greens.

I point him out—and myself, and Aslan, who has been vegan zeir entire life—because it proves her wrong. No species has magical “anomaly” individuals that can survive on a vastly different diet; there aren’t segments of any species’ population that need a significantly higher (say, 60%) fat intake than the rest. There are no cats that have to eat exclusively fish and other cats that can only eat rabbits and other cats that can eat everything. There are sensitivities to specific foods—for example, I can’t eat apples or soy because they give me problems—but no vastly different requirements. There is remarkably low variation in the optimum diet for a given species outside of specific diseases and genetic disorders, and even then, it’s something more along the lines of “you need to avoid X” and/or “you also need to get X in this amount.”

That is why exceptions prove this argument wrong. I think Keith knows it, too; in the interviews, she said that she believes “all vegans eat beef once a week.” Which is… an interesting tactic.

Aslan: “Actually, I can’t eat beef; the few times I got slipped it I broke out in a rash. The same thing happens with chicken or eggs—I have a broad avian allergy and couldn’t even touch the birds at the animal rescue I worked at—but my dairy allergy is so bad that even a small amount gives me seizures. The only animal product that I know I don’t have an allergy to is rabbit—and I don’t eat rabbit because I’m vegan.

Keith: “You’re lying.”

Right. Okay. Hey, vegans, it might be time to contact Lierre Keith and offer to let her follow you around for two weeks with a video camera so that she can see that you’re not a halfassitarian. I mean, you’ll have to have a high tolerance for irritation. And snobbishness. And being lectured. But what the hey, right?

To put it bluntly, it will damage you. I know. Two years into my veganhood, my health failed, and it failed catastrophically.

Oh, see? She knows, man. She knoooows.

Lierre, to put it bluntly, you were never fucking vegan and you’re a fucking liar for insisting you were. Vegans, contrary to what makes you feel better, do not actually “binge” on any animal products at all, much less once a week; and we also do not subsist off of brown rice and soy, provided there isn’t another factor at play—like, I don’t know, an eating disorder? What the fuck kind of people were you hanging around that didn’t see that your “diet” didn’t bear any resemblance to actual veganism?

I developed a degenerative joint disease that I will have for the rest of my life.

Mm. Since Keith doesn’t actually name it, I can’t debunk exactly its “relation” to veganism, outside of pointing out that, with a few exceptions, no long-term vegan I know has a degenerative joint disease.

… And those exceptions are the ones who have eating disorders, and do starve themselves; and in fact, everyone I know who is starving (intentionally or not) gets painful, aching joint problems.

Aslan does because of the abuse zeir mom put them through, and it only got worse once zie got taken away from the streets of Denver and moved to another state. Zie has orthorexia, which sounds a lot like what Keith had, sans halfassitude: a feeling of “impurity” so strong and bitter that the sufferer increasingly restricts their food intake, much like the feeling of being “fat” compels anorectics to do the same.

When I met Aslan a few years ago, zeir joint and blood circulation problems were much, much worse than they are now. Zie’s still vegan, and to a large degree eating a diet high in raw foods has really helped. According to Keith, though, that’s impossible—Aslan’s joints should have gotten worse, not better, especially since we always ate a fairly low-fat diet. But here’s the problem: faced with all these exceptions, Keith’s belief that veganism is unhealthy becomes unsustainable. But she doesn’t want to face that.

Teenagers’ spines don’t fall apart for no reason and so, despite my perfect symptom description, none of the doctors considered Degenerative Disc Disease.

Oh hey. Guess what anorectics get. You know: the people who starve themselves nearly (or all the way) to death?

Six weeks into veganism [sic] I had my first experience of hypoglycemia…

That’s what happens when you starve yourself.

Three months into it I stopped menstruating, which should have been a clue that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Amenorrhea? Gee. That doesn’t sound like it would be explicitly in the DSM-V criteria for anorexia nervosa. Not. At. All.

The exaustion began around then, too, and it only got worse, along with the ever-present cold.

Chronic fatigue? You mean, like… from starvation? And you never felt warm, you say, almost as if you weren’t consuming enough calories to sustain your body temperature?

My skin was so dry it flaked, and in the winter it itched so badly it kept me up at night.

Shit, I don’t think I can keep mocking this; these are the same symptoms my anorectic friends get. I feel sick. Lierre Keith has a fucking eating disorder and no one has pointed this out. She’s been fucking starving herself for twenty years and nobody cared enough to recognize it.

At twenty-four, I developed gastroparesis, which, again, wasn’t diagnosed or treated until I was thirty-eight…

For those of you that don’t know, gastroparesis is a partial paralysis of the stomach where food digests very, very slowly. All long-term anorectics develop it; your stomach essentially stops being able to work with food because it’s getting such an extremely small amount for such a long period of time.

… and found a doctor who worked with recovering [sic] vegans.

And that’s who sold her the Weston A. Price sales pitch. No eating disorder here; Keith refuses to believe that. Game, set, match.

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