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Modern Eating Disorders - Part One: The War on Food

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When I was growing up in the 1980s, the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, was frequently in the news. Schools and parents were inundated with information about how to spot the warning signs of the disorder in (mainly) young women who were literally killing themselves to have the perfect body. People with anorexia succumb to severe dieting techniques such as refusing to eat, taking diet pills, taking fiber pills and exercising too much. No matter how thing, an anorectic always sees him or herself as fat.

Many people blamed the fashion industry and in particular the rise of super skinny models — starting with “Twiggy” — as the driving force behind this form of mental illness. Campaigns were even launched attempting to encourage the industry to hire more average-sized models. Somewhere along the line — perhaps with the rise of obesity — these attempts failed and into size zero clothing is still the goal for many women.

During the 20 years in between, paralleling the rise of obesity, Big Agriculture, Big Pharma and their little brother Big Health Food made huge strides to clutter our media with fear-based, fake studies about the dangers of meat, milk, fat, eggs and many other real and nourishing foods. And we have been experiencing this War on Food ever since. Not to worry though, with each warning was a recommendation for some new replacement not food that they were promoting. For a long time prior to this new campaign, we already had several not foods on the market such as corn oil, margarine, artificial sweeteners and breakfast cereals, but the modern campaign launched the appreciation for synthetic food replacements into the stratosphere.Fast forward to the year 2000 and eating disorders are back in full force. The strange thing though is that they are fully supported by both the government, the Dietetics Association and medical professionals.

With these new food guidelines, a whole new generation of not foods were ushered in. Soy burgers and meat fillers went from nasty to “healthy and delicious” almost overnight; canola (a genetically modified seed even when “organic”) became an acceptable replacement for olive oil, which was one of the few real foods that was still recommended as being healthy; and highly processed replacements for everything from eggs to dairy products have become common place.

One of the tricks used to push these items on us is to associate them with higher intelligence and as well as nature by giving them names that imply that they are in tune with nature or exotic, unspoiled corners of the earth. Smart Balance, Earth Balance, and Kashi are good examples of this tactic in action. Who wouldn’t want to automatically be considered a “more evolved” human being by doing something so easy as heading to the nearest grocery store to pick up a few of these items?

Before I discovered the foolproof way to eat for myself and my clients, I bought into a lot of what the media was pushing. I increased my soy consumption, ate a nearly vegetarian diet, and reduced my fat intake to almost nothing. I bought many of the miracle foods sold in health food stores not even questioning their safety. And it nearly killed me. My already frail health began to weaken further. I suffered from bleeding eczema from head to toe, I could no longer digest my food and experienced bloating and gas on a daily basis, I became hypoglycemic, developed a thyroid problem, gained weight, had asthma and seasonal allergies and became so depressed living like this that I was on the verge of suicide.

What saved me was to ignore the media hype and begin to eat a diet loaded with the “unhealthy” foods, I had previously tried so hard to avoid — well-cooked meals containing as meat, milk, fat and/or eggs along with a variety of vegetables, starches and a bit of fruit — the kind of diet that humans have lived on for centuries, but in the modern era learned to vilify, even if only because it was “old-fashioned”. Almost overnight, all of my health problems began to heal themselves from the inside out. The most notable was the first month when my skin cleared by at least 50% and I shed 10 lbs without even trying.

The weird thing is that as I and many others who had been following the “smart diet” realized that it didn’t work and began to enjoy real food in a sustainable way, others who previously did not care at all about their health began to turn towards a variety of ultra-low fat “smart diets”. But what these smart diets have evolved into is not unlike what is seen in anorexia nervosa. People have become wholly obsessed with a variety of “smart diets” primarily for ideological reasons — a way to “one up” their friends and families. Although many feel that their diet also has health benefits, they often refuse to acknowledge that their degrading health could be a consequence of following an avoidance-based diet long term.

In the present day, the War on Food has taken on a life of its own. People base their eating decisions on avoiding certain foods instead of enjoying real foods. For example, many people focus on avoiding all animal foods. This may sound harmless enough, until you realize that the mainstay of such a diet is highly processed not foods made of soy, hemp, almonds, rice, canola, agave and other things that must be extruded, fumigated, bleached, heated to high temperatures and more just to come across as reasonably palatable at the kitchen table. For others, grains and other starches are the devil and signify the downfall of all humanity. The latter generally at least tries to stick to real foods, however, many times following this diet can also lead to imbalances when they try to emulate their old comfort foods within the context of what they will permit themselves to eat. People are more confused now than ever to the point that food has become an inconvenience as well as a source of pain and self-loathing.

It is no coincidence that along with these eating disorders comes rises in autism, allergies, deformities, cancer, diabetes, obesity, infertility, depression and a variety of other health problems that plague modern society. Follow along with this series as I reveal the truth about fad diets and their impact on your health and mental and social well being. You’ll also learn why most people’s definition of moderation backfires 100% of the time. This series will help you to put an end to the confusion of what you should put in your mouth by focusing on what your body wants, not what the media, the doctors and dietitians say you should eat.


About Adrienne Hew

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Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.