Orthorexia, apparently, is a newly emerging ‘dis-ease’ where people become disproportionally impacted by the search for the pure. Obviously this can take on many forms – some for instance find it impossible to decide whether kale or chard is more pure (I might argue that this should become the very definition of an upper-middle class problem…!). Others will end up shutting themselves off from the world in all its gastronomic glory, having faith that this will bring them closer to ‘purity’ – whatever that is.
As it is prone to do the DSM looks to start recognising Orthorexia as a new psychiatric disorder, though it seems it will have to wait for the new edition (6th I guess by now??).
These ‘new’ entrants onto the dogma that is medical diagnosis takes away from the far more interesting questions, these being the related to the requirement to individualise society’s discontent: the problem with weight (and all the other weight related signifiers)… For me ‘orthorexia’, ’pregnorexia’, ‘bigorexia’ and other fantasy classifications are veils on weight anxiety. Our society requires that YOU worry about your weight (and every other ‘bodies’), regardless of any ‘actual reality’. For some this feels fairly harmless, they lose and gain a bit of weight every year, rolling with the seasons maybe. For others it appears as an obsession, with food control or exercise for instance. Some are satisfied to watch The Biggest Loser, to prop up their morality as exemplars of the ‘right way’.
Those suffering from ‘orthorexia’ along with other weight anxious folk, then are actually suffering from ‘Otherexia’ (this is my term folks, citing necessary :-)), as in they have an insatiable appetite for the Other – they want to be assured that they are “Good” in the eyes of the Other.
For more on this please read my paper: “Re:living the body mass index: How A Lacanian autoethnography can inform public health practice” in the journal Critical Public Health. Available here or email me.
A colleague drew my attention to this nifty little article on AlterNet:
The basic premise of this article is to point out a few foods that have moved discursively in recent years from bad to good. Salt and coconut oil feature for instance.
I have of course been saying this for a few years now, particularly about salt and fat, but I don’t want to blow my own trumpet (much) but comment on the terms bad and good and their relationship to health. These signifiers point to morality, as in bad equals immoral and good equals moral. Now I don’t want to get all tangled up on the essential inhumanity of judging via morality but this very recent and fundamental shift should provide some good evidence to challenge yourself every time you think “this is bad me”!!
Link here to a great article on the GFC from a psychoanalytic perspective by my friend Bill. Well worth a read! Great stuff Bill.
Originally posted on Groping towards Bethlehem:
A bit gauche, perhaps, but I’m going to point you to an article I had published at the end of last year. It is my attempt to grapple with economics and the global financial crisis. Because of the nature of the explanation, it appeared in the International Journal of Zizek Studies.
The content will be familiar to regular readers of this blog — Zizekian philosophy and Lacanian psychoanalysis can help explain the economy. Given that it’s an article and not a post, it works through the arguments more fully and with better references.
The work started with two things I couldn’t understand:
In this article the scientist states “We know that obesity causes inflammation the body”
In fact, what they ‘know’ is that feeding rats a diet high in fat and sugar had an impact on memory. They then assume this is related to inflammation, which they also observe.
Extrapolating to human outcomes is ridiculous, and then suggesting that obesity, being defined as having a body mass index over 30, is the cause of inflammation doesn’t follow the science. It’s the diet, not the mass. Darwin would be appalled by the claims not supported by actual evidence.
Well, it has been a little while since Gareth Morgan published his short piece on what he believes is the ‘recipe’ for reversing the so-called obesity epidemic. You can read the dogma here. His recipe is pretty standard really, Education, Regulation, Taxation and Stigmatisation. Here is my re-write of the these in more simple terms:
Education: Teach the fatties, because they are uneducated, apparently.
Regulation: Stop the nasty food-industry capitalists.
Taxation: Stop the nasty food-industry capitalists, oh, and give a tax-break to the morally superior ‘healthy’ food producers (because they are not the same people/companies as the nasty food-industry capitalists, apparently)
Stigmatisation: Somehow stigmatise the eating of ‘unhealthy’ food, without blaming the poor innocent fatties – because it is not their fault. Yeah.
Now I won’t be the first to call Gareth Morgan on the stigmatisation choice he has made here – Dr Robyn Toomath from FOE tweeted this. But I want to be a little harder on Morgan than Toomath – because like so many uncritical social commentators he is practising social science without a licence by flinging the word ‘stigma’ around so easily. The fact of the matter is that people like Morgan and (to a large extent) myself have never experienced the effects of being stigmatised by our body sizes or indeed by our food choices. This is in complete contrast to the many thousands of individuals who live under the dark aura of society’s completed and unfettered stigmatisation of everything about their lives. If a fatty eats a salad in public they are stigmatised by the furtive glances or the approving nods, perhaps even the encouraging words of a passerby. If they eat a pie then they are stigmatised by the violence unleashed – the horrible slurs and sneers.
Gareth Morgan suggests stigmatisation because he doesn’t understand its function in the context of the the war on fat. This is most evidenced by his use of the often used smoking analogy – smokers, generally, do not wear their choices physically. They become stigmatised when they smoke – which may be often, or not. In complete contrast fatties are stigmatised all day, every day, just because they exist.
Please Morgan – back off and leave this alone. If you want to talk about regulation and taxation – I have some ideas on this, feel free to email me.
I have to apologise to my followers for my hiatus lately – it has been an extremely busy semester- just coming to a close now with a large pile of marking remaining!
I will be picking up my blog efforts from early November and this is a start to this, I just couldn’t resist a jab at this ridiculous article describing how ‘dangerously fat’ Australians apparently are. Now… I don’t really need to go into the issues with their measurement devices, though it appears they have at least avoided the BMI in favour of waist measurement (which is by no means accurate). The language itself is what makes the situation ridiculous. Obviously they are attempting to terrorise people into thinking their overhang is a ticking time-bomb, a cardiac event on a cracker, akin to snorting heroin. Danger is the word of the day. For me in conjured up an image of a balding, fairly short, Aussie James Bond, with a proud beer gut in an ill-fitting suit panting uproariously as he chases a criminal down George Street in Sydney shouting “come on cobber, fair suck of the sav mate, you must have a roo loose in the top paddock, slow down and give a joker a break!”
Now don’t get me wrong here – Aussies are dangerous, I lived in Canberra for three years and can testify to the specifics of this, such as the propensity to make comments such as “Shut you face Jock” loudly, often on public transport. They are also extremely adept at making sheep jokes about New Zealanders which may or may not be accurate. ahem… But in full support of my Aussie brothers, sisters and others – they are not ‘dangerously’ fat. No one is ‘dangerously’ fat. They are just fat.
I am never surprised to hear about people in my world who are, or have been trying to ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’. It is extremely common. The reasoning is usually something to do with the perception that their bodies over time become clogged with toxins, they become unclean, internally.
I think the science of cleansing is irrelevant here. For me the main rationale is about contamination. Specifically proponents of detoxing understand (I would say construct) the body as something that can approach purity. A natural body in this ideological frame is born pure and is corrupted via the actions of the individual. This is certainly not a new concept, it is a critical stage of reason and action for many religions, such as baptism in the Christian church.
This desire, to imagine that we can be pure, is used by the detox industry. They tie pseudo science to the ideology to sell their books and regimes.
What is interesting and brain-teasing for me is how this desire for purity appears to be so powerful, and so taken for granted in our society. Many would argue that this is easily explained, via a Foucauldian reading, by the healthy discourse. As it transits around society it ‘tells’ us that we can, and therefore should, be attempting to be pure. I am not completely convinced by that. Psychoanalysis adds another layer, this is around the desire to maintain social life. This is achieved by attempting to repress things from one’s being, either psychologically, or in the case of detox, physically. For me, cleansing is another form of repression. In that way it serves an important function, though not one that we may appreciate.