Young people generally don’t need a specific diet, unless specified by a physician. This can apply when one is overweight or suffers from a chronic illness, whereby a prescribed nutritional regime forms part of the overall therapeutic approach.
Healthy young people who diet have a high risk of developing an eating disorder. How does the idea of dieting occur to a young person?
Social surroundings provide the initial impetus. The principal factors are television shows like “Next Top Model”, nutritional fashions like veganism, or parents who don’t enjoy eating but rather constantly treat eating as an issue.
It’s possible to exaggerate anything, including thinking about food. When the search for “healthy” food ends in a panic attack because one no longer knows what one should eat, it’s a serious symptom of orthorexia nervosa (from the Greek “orthos” (correct) and “orexis” (appetite).
This term was coined by the American physician Steven Bratman (www.orthorexia.com) to describe an eating disorder that tends to affect an urban, “hip” segment of the population—those who tend to follow trendy eating ideologies rather than their own desires. They punish themselves with prohibitions. Thoughts circle around food.
As parents, orthorexics monitor everything that their children consume, and moralize by using terms like “healthy” and “unhealthy.” They are masters at making others feel guilty.
May those who have orthorexics as parents and friends make the jump: from eating as disappointment to eating as joy.