Health-Promoting Eating: Simple, Powerful Steps and Rules to Actually Do It

This is my ass, at the produce market, or farmers market.


Why am I posting this?

As simple as this may seem, this is a very very important post. It’s true.

If you would really like to eat more healthy food but struggle to actually do it, this is precisely for you. If you live in a “healthy food deserts”, this is also for you.

It will also help anyone seeking to be:
– eating food that leaves animals alone and off the plate
– eating health-promoting food
– any allergy or intolerance to certain foods (low-sodium, gluten-intolerance, wheat allergy, …)

Below, a “health-promoting diet” is interchangeable with a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet.

My story living in food deserts

Three/four years years ago, I lived in a real food desert. It was a high-density neighbourhood with very few even tasty options, let alone healthy…and I didn’t cook. In that country, if you want to eat out all the time, it’s affordable, cheaper than making it yourself, and that’s what *apparently* everybody did. Except for breakfast, I ate only from restaurants and take-aways most of the food I was having. Sort of tried to make the food less harmful asking: “less oil”, “no MSG”, “less syrup”, “less sugar”…but still…but how much less harmful can you make a fried rice? of deep fried banana fritters? or any of the overly oily, salty, sweetened, animal-product-containing foods restaurants make in big batches for the day, when that’s the only options you have in front of you?

So, how to do? How to deal with the situation of wanting to eat a certain way and the reality that almost nowhere convenient/affordable provides that sort of food? It’s a very common complaint, but I (and other people) go on for years, sometimes decades yearning for healthy food, while not actually eating it yet.
Unfortunately, our health and body cares little about how good our intentions are. Restaurants are businesses, their mission #1 is sustainable profit. What are sure-fire ways to do that? Oil/salt/sugar, other processed foods, animals products. Precisely the worst thing for health. Your mission is very different from theirs, it’s sustainable health.

Good news: There are just a few simple but incredibly powerful things to know and practice if you want to actually eat exactly what it is you would like to be eating “ideally”.
There are two approaches:
1) Learning about everything that’s bad, and avoiding bad things. I call it the “negative restriction” approach. It feels like the list of things you can’t have is endless.
2) Learn about getting what is right, and do just that. I call it the positive saturation approach. It feels like the list of healthy things you can have is infinite.

#2 is by far the easiest. Just saturate the terrain with what is right, this leaves no space for anything else.

I break it down in a few key points:

0) What to eat: whole-food, low fat, vegan (notably: no salt, no oil, no sugar) is where best health is. How to actually do it?:
1) Get your ass veggie-shopping
2) Get your ass in the kitchen
3) Outsmart the lazy eating monster that’s in you:
A) No crap in the Temple
B) Think ahead to feed the beast within you, or it will kill you
C) Veggie-shop on a full stomach
D) Eat before joining friends in restaurants
E) Always leave the house with packed food if you’re out over meal time.

1) Get your ass veggie-shopping

What I buy I eat, what I don’t buy stays away from my plate and stomach. As simple as powerful. Many (farmers or produce) markets have a regular weekly schedule. In all cases, make it a habit to grocery shop once a week. And when shopping for dried foods (cereals, grains, legumes, wholemeal pasta, etc..) don’t be shy to buy in bulk and get enough for half a year or several months if you are able to store that conveniently. It won’t go bad and the less frequently you have you “fuel your tank”, the less likely you are to run out of food in your house. Because what happens when the pantry or fridge is empty? We make poor decisions, like ordering a pizza, or driving like mad to our favourite restaurant that will serve us “ethnic-flavoured fat, sugar and salt” to quote the lovely Dr. Klaper.
What we do for fresh produce is buy all the fruit and veggies that we most often use (tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, etc…) + the special ones needed for some meals we already know we want to make. If after that we think of making a certain dish but a few ingredients are missing, we quickly hop by the supermarket to get them.
In our experience, 1 week = 3~4 sessions of batch cooking, it can be fully planned if you wanted to.

2) Get your ass in the kitchen, merrily

What I cook, I have (mostly) full control over what goes in it. But what I buy that is already cooked – like when I eat out – other people made the decisions and I choose from there: poor choice, no control what goes in and how it’s made…
Ahead of time, have an idea what food want to eat. Write it down. Get the recipes.
Prepare food in large batches. From one batch to another, variation can be created by adding various raw foods: raw veggies, salads and fruits, bakes veggies/potatoes take no time to put together. You can also freeze surplus, right after cooking/cooling, not after 6 days in the fridge and you can’t take it any more. Use it when you feel like having something new or for busy/lazy days.
Make it a habit to spend 30 min to 1 hour in the kitchen several times a week.
Make it enjoyable: If you ever feel it’s painful, it’s supposed to be fun/enjoyable and it eventually will become so. Meanwhile, if you feel that time is long, consider these while preparing food: play music, play podcasts, if you have a TV turn on the documentary channel or a fun series, phone someone, request for your partner’s company. Whatever keeps it fun for you and makes time fly while your hands are busy.
Take turns with your flatmates or partner. We do two weeks each.


Tip: For couples that include at least one (pre-menopausal) female, we’d recommend taking turns based on menstrual cycles when possible. This way, whoever is not feeling their best (PMRollercoaster/periods) is off-duty and gets to take a break, while the other one is in a mode to take care of things and people.

For those who feel time-poor, chefs like Chef AJ specialize in recipes that batch cook in less than 30 minuts. Many meals are appealing, it’s not 100% home-made or always sophisticated but it surely works for health, no doubt.

 

3) Outsmart the lazy eating-monster that’s in you (and in me)

A) Out of sight out of mouth
No junk foods in my temples: house, office, wherever I spend time. Because I am like you, if I am hungry (or not), in front of chips or chocolate, I will experience temptation. But what is sitting in the junk food isle of the supermarket is away from sight, away from tempting anyone.
I also saturated a corner of the kitchen with fresh fruits, dried fruits, and an oat bag. It’s the hottest spot in the house, we pass by it all the time. Guess what my snacks are whenever I feel hungry between meals? What you see is what you eat.

Below is the busiest corner in the house. More details on Instagram (click on the picture to see).

B) Always have food ready
Aim to always, and I mean ALWAYS have food that you prepared, ready to be eaten, in the fridge or in the freezer, or some sort of box at reach. The fridge/kitchen/lunchbox is the lazy place, that’s where food comes from. If there’s no food you prepared in it, you’ll either cook while hungry (not fun at all!) or more likely: order a pizza, or eat out somewhere unhealthy or with unsuitable ingredients for the tenth time this month. When you cook, cook in batches, and cook again another batch before you run out. Find yourself one or two 5L (5 liters) pots at second-hand shops if you don’t have any.

Basically, think of ready-to-eat / health-promoting food as you would petrol in your car:

  • There’s always supposed to be some,
  • always more than you need,
  • the more the better.

Below is a pot of 5l of Moroccan-style tabouli, that will last us quite some time! More details on Instagram (click on the picture to see).

C) Make grocery shopping enjoyable
Shop only right after a nice filling meal, life is so much more pleasant when you’re not feeling hangry, you’ll make healthier and more rational purchases too.
Look for ways that condition your shopping trips to be either short, or fun, by any means possible. When you need only key items go with the written list you’ve accumulated on your fridge post-it. On days when it feels like a chore to me, I just ask my partner to come with me. She’s not required for the grocery shopping, but it turns a pain for one person into a nice chatting/bonding moment for two people. Companionship makes everything better.
If you can shop at a place that has only healthy foods, like fresh produce markets, or farmers markets, that’s even better. It’s far more charming and social than supermarkets, and you won’t be as tempted by junk food if that’s an issue for you.

D) Eat before joining friends/colleagues/family in restaurants
Restaurants are no health-food temples. Here are a few things I’ve done in the past that worked for me:

  • Join your friends on a full stomach and order nothing. Depending on the context and people, this might put an unwanted spotlight on you, and might send a “starvation” vibe about the lifestyle you’d love everyone to adopt.
    Just say you had a large snack earlier and you’re still quite full and remind that you’re here to hang out/catch up.
  • On a full stomach, you will get by with the pinch of calories in that “ridiculous salad” that might be the only plant-based item in the menu. At least you’d be eating something, which is more socially acceptable.
  • If you’re expected to eat or want to eat a substantial meal with them, call the restaurant in advance (ideally 24h+ same-day reminder). This way the long process of checking the chef’s skills around healthy cooking and communicating your detailed needs can be done over the phone as opposed to in the restaurant.
  • Feel free to find a restaurant that will cater for your needs, suggest that instead to your mates.

I learned this the hard way. Trying persistently to get healthy food at a random pub/restaurants will most often do two things: 1) predictably drain you while offering bizarre show to your hungry friends or 2) the food you’ll get won’t be as health-promoting as you’d like it to be

E) Always leave the house with packed food and snacks if you’re out over meal times
It’s ridiculously easy to make poor dietary decisions in a healthy food desert. If you’re not sure how long you’re out for, make sure to always have a meal’s worth of food just in case you might feel like staying out. Worst case scenario you’ll eat that when you come back home.
Cold food is something easier to get used to than we may initially think. I find the easiest food to fill up your stomach when out occasionally is muesli and fruit, because it’s super easy to prepare, dry, and only needs water to become edible. Of course if you’re eating out of the house often (i.e. at work) you’ll have to pack proper varied meals.

Below is an example of food we pack with us when going to the movie theatre. More details on Instagram (click on the picture to see). We also use a tiny chilly bin that we load with proper meals, bowls and cutlery.

I hope this was helpful.

List of Low-Fat WFPB SOS-free Recipes

This page is a WORK IN PROGRESS. It is a bit messy here and there but can be used right away already until further improved/optimised.

Update info:

Dec 15th: Added recipes (+ ~20) + easier navigation.
Dec 6, 2016: Loaded and provided comments to wholefoodise and make SOS-free a large proportion of the recipes on the PlantPlate website.

Summary

Breakfast / Teatime
Lunch and Dinner

Salads
Salad dressings
Soups

Appetizers
Sauce,  dips and spreads
Desserts
Snacks
WFPB no-SOS Food Classification Explained

 

Breakfast / Teatime

Savoury Breakfast

Curried Chickpea and Millet Croquettes – 45 min (prep: 10 min, cooking: 30 min)
Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add slightly more of the strong-flavoured ingredients).

Sweet breakfast

Easy Overnight Oats – 5 min
Must: Use water instead of plant milk. The oats will release their own oat milk if you stir a bit.
Note: An instant version (not overnight) can me made with “shredded” rolled oats.

Cranberry Spice Granola
Must: Skip seeds if recovering cardiovascular disease. Use a date mash/blend instead of maple or date syrup. Instead of cranberries a dried fruit that is not processed nor with sugar added (dates, raisins, currants, figs, apricots etc).
Preferable: Skip nutmeg.

Baked Goods

Heads-up: Although baked good being ground are preferable as occasional treat or had in a small amount, not as a meal.

Banana & Blueberry Walnut Cake – 50 minutes (+~1h dough rising)

Scrumptious Hot Cross Buns– 3h10min total – 1 hour of work

Lunch & Dinner

3 Bean Mole –  45 minuts
Must: Mash a few sweet dried fruits instead of maple syrup, use real tomatoes and reduce water or use very-low-sodium tomato paste.
Preferable: prefer home-cooked beans to cans, prefer paprika to smoked paprika.
Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

7 Minute Soup – 10 minutes
Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

Adzuki Bean Stew – 40 minutes
Must: Use real tomatoes and reduce water or use very-low-sodium concentrated tomato paste. Preferred/Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

Artichoke Tapenade – 5 minutes
Must: Not use tahini if recovering cardiovascular disease. Preferred/Optional: Steam/boil artichokes instead of relying on cans.

Baked Butternut and Mushroom Risotto – 1h10min
Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients). Preferred: Nutritional yeast is best left out (free glutamic acid is MSG-like).

Biryani – 1h20min
This recipe is plant-perfect as it is.

Braised Leeks and Peas – 25 minutes
Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients). Preferred: Nutritional yeast is best left out (free glutamic acid may act like MSG). Instead of the commercial plant-milk, blend your own oats to make a thin whole-food milk if recovering heart disease, or almonds otherwise.

Buckwheat and Roasted Vegetable Medley – 25 minutes
Must: Not use sunflower seeds if recovering a cardiovascular disease. Mash a few sweet dried fruits instead of maple/date syrup. Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

Buckwheat, Pea and Mushroom Pilaf – 40 minutes
Must: Make sure the curry powder is salt-free. Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

Cauliflower Dal – 50 minutes
Preferred: Cut your own fresh whole tomatoes instead of relying on cans. Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

Youcef’s Moroccan Sweet & Savoury Tagine– 2 hours – 8~10 meals (prep: 1 h – cooking 1 h)

Khadija’s Moroccan Couscous – 1 h 20 – 7 meals (prep: 20 min – cooking: 1 h)

Khadija’s Moroccan Lentils – 1 h 20 – 4 meals (prep:20 min – cooking 1 h)

Pizza:

Burgers & Sandwiches:

Easy Oven Fries
Preferred: Use regular paprika instead of paprika. Use the dips listed in the present article.

Eggplant Stuffed with Moroccan-Spiced Millet – 1h (p:10 + c:50)
Must: Use a salt-free vegetable stock, or water in which case you might want to add just a bit more of your favourite strong-flavoured ingredients in the recipe.

Healthy Hummus – 10 minutes
Must: Skip tahini if you are recovering from cardiovascular disease. Skip soy yogurt as an alternative. If using paprika, use regular paprika instead of smoked paprika.
Preferable: Prefer home-cooked beans to cans even if they’re salt-free.

Salads

Carrot, Beet and Chickpea Salad – 15 minutes
Preferred: Prefer home-cooked beans to cans even if they’re salt-free.

Balsamic-Roasted Butternut and Chickpea Salad – 30 minutes
Preferred: Prefer home-cooked beans to cans even if they’re salt-free.

Hearty Bean Salad – 10 minutes
Must: Not use avocado seeds if recovering a cardiovascular disease. Seed out and blend the lemon/lime instead of juicing them. Not use salt.
Preferred
: Prefer home-cooked beans to cans even if they’re salt-free.

Millet and Black Bean Salad– 40 minutes
Must: Replace the rice/maple syrup by mashed/blended sweet dried fruit.
Preferred: Prefer home-cooked beans to cans even if they’re salt-free.

Spring Herb Potato Salad – 40 minutes
Must: Not use mustard if recovering cardiovascular disease. Replace silken tofu by a whole food, like this mayo-ish dressing. Use seeded out and blended lemon instead of juice. Use a paste of sweet dried fruit instead of rice syrup and instead any other sweetener.

Vietnamese Vermicelli Salad – 25 minutes
Must: Not use sesame seeds if with or recovering advanced cardiovascular disease (high-fat). Not use white vermicelli if you don’t find brown rice vermicelli. Not use tamari nor soy sauce (high-salt). Use a paste/blend of sweet dried fruit instead of rice syrup and instead any other sweetener (whole food). Blend seeded lime flesh instead of juicing it (whole food).

Salad dressings

Orange-Balsamic Vinaigrette – 25 minutes
Must: Seed out and blend the oranges instead of juicing them.

Mayo/Aioli-like Dressing – 45 minutes

Soups

Carrot, Orange and Ginger Soup – 55 minutes
Must: not use miso (high-salt), blend the orange instead of juicing it. Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

Creamy Zucchini Pasta – 30 minutes
Must: Not use sunflower butter or sesame seeds if with or recovering advanced cardiovascular disease (high-fat), a lower-fat creamy effect can be obtained with the nut-free version of this sauce.
Preferable: to replace plant milk by water especially using the creamy sauce suggested above. Nutritional yeast is best not used (free glutamic acid is MSG-like). Optional: Veggie stock optional (you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients).

Chinese Vegetable and Noodle Soup – 30 minutes
Must: Not use anything else than brown rice vermicelli.

Curried Pumpkin and Kale Soup – 45 min (p:15 + c:25)
Must: Use a no-sodium vegetable stock, you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients.

Curried Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup – 55 min (p:20 + c:35)
Must: Skip miso. Use a no-sodium vegetable stock, you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients.

Curried Pumpkin and Kale Soup – 40 min (p:15 + c:25)
Must: Use a no-sodium vegetable stock, you can use water instead and add more strong-flavoured ingredients.
Preferable: Skip nutmeg.

Appetizers

 

Sauces & Dips

Ketchup – 5 minutes
Must: Use a paste/blend of sweet dried fruit instead of rice syrup and instead of any other sweetener (whole food). Use no salt.

Low-fat Mayo-like, Aioli-like dips – 5 min prep – 30 min cooking

Lemon Mustard Dressing – 5 minutes
Must: Not use sesame seeds if recovering with or recovering advanced cardiovascular disease (high-fat). Use a paste/blend of sweet dried fruit instead of rice syrup and instead any other sweetener (whole food).

Chunky Salsa Dip – 25 minutes
Must: Replace the maple/date syrup by mashed/blended sweet dried fruit. Use a salt-free or very low-salt tomato paste, or make your own and reduce it.
Preferred: Use paprika instead of smoked paprika. Prefer home-cooked foods to cans even if they’re salt-free.

Tomato and Pepper Chutney – 35 minutes
Must: Use a paste/blend of sweet dried fruit instead of maple syrup and instead any other sweetener (whole food)

Spreads

Savoury

Moroccan-style Jackfruit Tuna with Spicy Tomato Sauce – 1h
This recipe is potentially plant-perfect. Directions to make WFPB SOS-free in the recipe article.

Sweet

Orange Marmalade – 10 min prep / 3 h cooking

Black Lemon Marmalade – 5 min  prep – 2 h cooking

Desserts

Fresh Fruits.

Nice Cream – 5 minuts
Must: Use water instead of plant milk if needed at all, use real vanilla bean instead of an extracts.

WFPB SOS-free Food Classification

Why is there confusion with what is a “true” whole food?
Why best practice is where I stand?
List of acceptable/non-acceptable low-fat whole foods and exceptions

Why is there confusion with what is a “true” whole food?

There are various degrees of how seriously one can implement a WFPB no-SOS diet. The somewhat subjective word is “whole food” because “processing” a food can mean a lot of thing although we have some good idea what the safest definitions are.

Since whole foods are meant for health, the mother question remains “How likely is that likely is ingredient X or recipe X to be harmful?” or “How likely am I or the people in my house to abuse the wrong products supposed to be had in moderation”.

It’s easier (and sadly more popular) to adopt a loose approach with WFPB, and sadly so many cookbooks do so. I reckon these are of major help and far better than nothing, and I understand that some compromises might appeal more to the general public as a step. In the whole-food and plant-based circles,  we get irritated by the stories/articles of doctors who know eating a plant-based diet would be the best thing for a patient, but they don’t tell them assuming the patient will accept. We all agree, tell the patient, if you the doctor don’t eat this way, and let the patient decide.
Well, likewise, our whole food leaders should not shy away from proposing the best practice, and they know what it is. Whether they practice it or not personally at home, people need to be told and shown best practice and decide for themselves where they want to compromise their health and nutrition, if they want to compromise it at all.

So where do I stand?

My approach is pretty simple:

  1. If what I have on my kitchen counter to start with doesn’t look like the solid foods I would bring back from a garden/field somewhere, it’s probably not a food.
  2. If what ends in my mouth, has lost something in the journey since it was an edible food from the garden, I’ve probably done something I shouldn’t do.
  3. If a beverage isn’t what falls from the clouds and fills the lakes and rivers and ponds all other animals drink from, or that mixed with item #1, it’s probably not a beverage.

Does this sound like common sense ? Yes. Is this is what the healthiest populations we know of actually did? Yes.

In this modern, outsourced, processed world, I am not the type of person that will  recognise something processed (or artificial) as safe by default, and say “there’s no strong enough proof it’s harmful” until the (predictable) day there is. Looking in the past and learn from cumulative personal and collective wisdom, you’ve got to think ahead and not reinvent the square wheel.

This said I’m very aware that if we go 500 years ahead or use an omniscient computer, and look back at the way I eat, in hindsight there are certainly things I exclude which may be irrelevant health-wise. Is it a big deal? No. Why?

For one, I’m already very satisfied eating the way we already eat, real food for really healthy humans.
If logic strongly suggests that something both unnecessary and unnatural, is going to be likely harmful by definition, then I find it not just wiser but also easier to not do any amount of that.
It saves me the self-inflicted torture of “moderation”.
It saves me the harm left behind by of half-measures.
It saves me the million wonders, doubts and guilts when a health problem arises.
It saves me the unspeakable waste of time there is keeping in touch with the fine science of measuring just how harmful are exactly the utterly unnecessary harmful things humans still decide to do or eat.

Alright! We got it…Now shoot the list!

Non-foods:

  • artificial flavourings (vanilla extracts, etc)
  • artificial leavening agents (baking soda, baking powders, etc)
  • salt
  • liquid smoke (smoke in liquid form, hundreds of toxic chemicals, including aromatic hydrocarbons, many of which are known carcinogens).

Common processed foods:

  • tofu in all its forms
  • extracted sugars such as: date syrup, date sugar, rice syrup, coconut sugar, rice syrup, molasses…they may not be empty calories, but a sugar extracted from its natural and usually fiber-rich environnement (tree trunk, coconut stalk, beet root, corn kernel, rice grain…) is not a whole food and should be viewed by default as something inherently very similar to white or refined sugar. What is a whole food is a whole dried fruit for instance.
  • nutritional yeast: Principle of precaution: The glutamic acid is released when the nutritional yeast is deactivated by a heat process, an umami taste appears and that’s due to the same molecule as that in Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), which has been proven harmful).

Tolerated are:

  • Cocoa powder: it is the fibre-rich, lower-fat fraction of the whole cocoa fruit. Not a whole food, best kept to a minimum if had at all (mainly due to the fat), a million times preferable to chocolate which is pure fat and sugar.
  • Vinegars: The whole-food version would be rather unappetising and vinegar has shown some health benefits.
  • Plant milks: They are refined products. Their popularity, omnipresence and liquid aspect makes us forget it’s a highly processed food, not uncommonly comprised of many processed ingredients with relevant amounts of sugar and/or fat. I prefer doing without, and looking for ways to replace them whenever possible.
  • Low-salt or salt-free tomato pastes.

Why the General Public is Orthorexic

Table of Contents
Intro
Analysis of Definition #1
Analysis of Definition #2
Analysis of Definition #3
Analysis of Definition #4
Morale of the story
Important disclaimer
Do we really have to choose either Health or Pleasure?


In my reading and interacting online, I’ve come across different uses of the word “orthorexia”. Some people, like the person who coined this word, strictly reserve it to cases where the person got physically sick from it. Others are happy to throw the word “orthorexia” at anyone who seems to be interested in eating in a healthy way, usually healthier than themselves.

The first time I came across this word it was from someone promoting a very obsolete (health-damaging) dietary lifestyle. When I confronted him, he explained that he should be thanked for working hard to ease people into developing a healthy relationship to food and fight off “orthorexia”. Basically, he was trying to reassure people that are curious about how to eat healthfully, and/or people whom feel bad for genuine excesses of junk foods. His advice was down the line of “a little bit of everything”, “moderation” etc., in short, stuff which we know gives the population a little bit of every cancer, and give otherwise preventable cardiovascular disease to a moderately huge portion of the population.

So I looked at the definition of “orthorexia” and something very interesting happened!

I wasn’t interpreting the definition with the common biases of someone who eats carelessly and judges from there. I read the definition from the standpoint of someone who understands rather extensively and on evidence-based grounds, that what most people eat, makes most of the sickness.

Suddenly, and I must say ironically, orthorexia explained very well why the general public eats its ways to disease and death, in massive numbers and with appalling predictability. By general public I mean most people, of most countries.

denial_610

I called it “orthorexia nervosa populi”  for orthorexia of the people, or “orthorexia nervosa vulgaris”  for Common Orthorexia.

Let’s a take a few definitions from Wikipedia’s article on Orthorexia nervosa, and demonstrate the mechanism. Virtually any definition works.

Analysis of definition #1 – Bratman’s original definition

“dietary restrictions intended to promote health may paradoxically lead to unhealthy consequences, such as social isolation, anxiety, loss of ability to eat in a natural, intuitive manner, reduced interest in the full range of other healthy human activities, and, in rare cases, severe malnutrition or even death.”

Let’s analyse all this.

“dietary restrictions”
People representing the general public’s way of eating are restricting their diet from a wide variety of unprocessed whole plant and mushroom foods.

“intended to promote health”
Based on popular nutritional illiteracy, a (low-fat, whole-food) plant-based diet is commonly viewed as unhealthy and extreme.
The general public avoid eating in what is perceived as “extreme” or “unhealthy” ways, and instead holds beliefs such as:

  • “some oils are health-healthy”,
  • “meat is good because you need protein”,
  • “milk is good for bones”,
  • “fish is good for omega-3s needed by the brain”,
  • “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
  • yin/yang or heating/cooling balance, alkaline/acid balance between health-promoting and health-damaging foods and habits, etc.

Additionally, and beyond physical health, the average eater follows whatever food is pleasurable based on familiarity, which is heavily influenced by culture and the food habits parents have passed on during upbringing. There is a sense of psychological health in the pleasure and satisfaction derived from eating foods we grew used to, unfortunately most often foods with a very relevant negative impact on health.

In short, for most people, pleasure is the new health, and it’s often assumed pleasure can only come from the foods one is already used to, and mistakenly assumed this cannot change.

“may paradoxically lead to unhealthy consequences”
Look at the rates of cancer and heart disease in essentially (low-fat, whole-food) plant-based rural China in the 1980s, and look in your own country.

“such as social isolation”
A majority of people, in a growing number of countries eating a Western-type diet, will unfortunately suffer for decades from cardiovascular disease and/or cancers. These are mostly preventable and largely caused/promoted/worsened by a poor  dietary lifestyle centred on animal and processed foods. Ask someone getting their chest open or undergoing chemotherapy if they don’t feel isolated. Sadly, most cultural or “convenience” diets leads to much isolation.

“anxiety”
There are different ways by which eating “a relaxed, unrestricted diet” causes anxiety: the short-term, the sickness and the guilt.
Some junk foods are known to change the mood and raise anxiety. Few people are aware how sugar or animal protein increases stress levels. That in the short-term.
Disease and illness are also very anxiogenic, especially when people can no longer do simple things they used to, life is threatened, drugs are ineffective and cause undesirable effects.
Anxiety is also what I often observe when I talk to people about healthy eating. Without even doing that, just observe the inner struggles of people that don’t “restrict” anything, and yet are filled with guilt because they know better.
A lifetime of poor choices we’re well-aware of, is a lifetime of anxiety and guilt, and that’s before people even get seriously sick. It gets worse then.

“loss of ability to eat in a natural, intuitive manner
Well, that’s done long ago, find me other apes that naturally and intuitively eat white bread, French fries, ice-cream, or pizza covered in cheese.
There is nothing natural about what most people eat today. There is nothing intuitive in spending a life of eating foods that we don’t digest well, make us regularly sick and result in life-threatening illness. There is nothing intuitive in continuing to eat “like everyone” when we know too well what kills everyone.

“reduced interest in the full range of other healthy human activities”
People who care little about something as central to health as food can be expected to have a reduced interest about not smoking, minimizing drinking, exercising, taking part in constructive social activities…

“and, in rare cases, severe malnutrition or even death.”
This regrettably not rare. The general public, which consumes a processed and carnist diet (containing foods of animal origin) does routinely suffer malnutrition, does routinely intoxicate itself with food, does routinely suffer the subsequent diseases, and the death caused by the diseases. This is not rare at all.
I urge you to consult the public websites with the disease and mortality statistics of your country. They’re made very accessible to the general public nowadays, it’s most often very easy to read.

Analysis of definition number #2 – Ursula Philpot’s definition as former chair of British Dietetic Association

“solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure’.”

“solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies”
Most people who have a so-called “relaxed and healthy relationship” to food are solely concerned the pleasure-giving quality of their food.

“refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure’.”
“refining”: yes, in all its meanings, including literal meaning of “refining”: refined processed foods.
“and restricting their diets”: from a wide variety of unprocessed whole plant and mushroom foods, which are naturally nutrient-dense and fiber-rich.
“according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure'”: “pure” in the understanding of the general public can be:
• what’s pure pleasure, typically the health-damaging “foods” high in animal products, fat, sugar and salt.
pure can mean traditional, authentic, cultural, but health-damaging foods
• what feels homey, those irresistible family recipes that are emotionally rooted yet are tremendously unhealthy
• local and organic animal products, for instance bought from the local butcher who might also be a friend or relative, or dairy and eggs from our very local friend who owns a cow or chickens which you might have seen yourself “happy” in the open air and pastures…all of which, regardless, still cause the same high rates of damage to heath, disease, and death, because you can’t escape the biology of it.

Analysis of definition #3 – Bratman’s reconsidered definition

“In 2015, responding to news articles in which the term orthorexia is applied to people who merely follow a non-mainstream theory of healthy eating, Bratman specified the following: “A theory may be conventional or unconventional, extreme or lax, sensible or totally wacky, but, regardless of the details, followers of the theory do not necessarily have orthorexia. They are simply adherents of a dietary theory. The term ‘orthorexia’ only applies when an eating disorder develops around that theory.”[7] “

So based on Bratman’s statement, the general public does not necessarily have anorexia, even if it follows the conventional theory, lax and wacky, according to which neither of these is harmful: moderation, carnism, “eating a bit of everything”, and “not depriving oneself of any particular food”.

He goes on:

‘Bratman elsewhere clarifies that with a few exceptions, most common theories of healthy eating are followed safely by the majority of their adherents; however, “for some people, going down the path of a restrictive diet in search of health may escalate into dietary perfectionism.”

“with a few exceptions, most common theories of healthy eating are followed safely by the majority of their adherents;”
Some are not theories, but abundantly evidence-based: such as low-fat whole-food plant-based.
In contrast, the mainstream theories (i.e. dietary carnism) and approach to food is surely followed by everyone and is not safe at all. Look at the statistics, compare to plant-based rural Africa half a century ago (or in anywhere today that still eats that way if you find).
All that disease need not exist.

“for some people, going down the path of a restrictive diet in search of health may escalate into dietary perfectionism.”
For many people, going down the path of restricting oneself from unprocessed plant and mushrooms food in search of the pleasure kind of health, does routinely escalate into dietary perfectionism: one that rejects systematically anything that doesn’t have animal products, lots of fat, sugar or salt.

Analysis of definition #4 –  (U.S.) National Eating Disorders Association

“Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.”

“Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers”
In orthorexia nervosa populi, the general public’s food is highly restrictive to almost only to processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt along with animal products. It is restricted in terms of calories as it doesn’t allow many low-calorie foods, if any at all. As a result, health suffers, people get obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease,  high rates of cancer and so on.

“an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.”
An ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to a life that’s healthy through pleasure.
So much for “having a relaxed and healthy relationship with food”.

Morale of the story

I’ll stop at four definitions, I think you get the point by now.

I could go with virtually any definition of orthorexia nervosa, to easily demonstrate that the general public itself is the leading community that most literally suffers orthorexia nervosa.
The only differences with the conventional interpretation are:

  1. mistaken beliefs on the benefit of harmful foods on physical health
  2. the benchmark for foods that are “healthy” in orthorexia nervosa populi are foods that are “psychologically” healthy through pleasure.

As for the harmful effects on heath, we observe both physical and psychological, and as far as the psychological aspect is concerned, the spectrum of is large:

  • it starts with guilt,
  • turns into anxiety and depression from sickness and disease and
  • can also take the form of neuro-degenerative diseases like far higher rates of Alzeimer’s disease in junk-food-reliant countries.

Important disclaimer:

This article is not to minimize the serious health issues that some people experience by following trends (like Atkins, Paleo, etc…) which are neither rooted in clinical scientific evidence, nor based on any reasonable and coherent considerations.

This is not to take the defence of the many people who get at the doorstep of ways of eating proven to be healthy (ex: plant-based diets) but implement it completely wrongly, for instance :  not introducing enough food diversity, not taking B12, or eating an overly processed version of it and as a result get predictably sick. A good example is a great portion of “ex-vegans” whom often blame the diet instead of questioning their own implementation of it or an unexplored health issue (like, among others, menstrual/intestinal bleeding so important that even the generous amount of iron in a healthy plant-based diet can’t make up for it).

This is not to minimize the gravity of the issue of people seeking physical health and hurting themselves by doing it wrongly, or as a means of self-harm, typically for those who had started the dietary journey loaded with personal issues.

In short, this article is not ammunition for people who genuinely qualify to the conventional definition to retaliate back when they have demonstrably eaten their way to illness. Yes, these people exist and they are relatively very few.

What I am doing here is showing the other side of the big finger pointing at “conventional” orthorexia. There we find many more people making themselves sick, in fact virtually everyone. Almost every person has an obsession for foods that maintain psychological well-being through the pleasure we get from eating junk foods. This attitude is shielded by dogmatic theories (now fallacies) on omnivorism. At the scale of the general population, this attitude leads most systematically to serious nutrient restrictions, chronic food intoxication, and routinely to premature, preventible death.

When a cancer is clinically declared, or a heart disease threatens someone’s life, the illness cares very little whether the person got sick by prioritizing the carefreeness sort of health over physical health (Orthorexia Nervosa Populi), or by seeking physical healthy and getting it wrong (conventional Orthorexia Nervosa). A metastatic cancer cares little whether a fancy name was given to our poor behaviour, or not. It cares little if we were on the side of majority, or breaking out from it trying to eat sanely, or to compensate for personal issues.

Bottom line, all these attitudes have in common: nutritional illiteracy.
Nutritional illiteracy is best achieved by not wanting to know, by thinking we know, or by being confident we know but knowing the wrong things.

The good news is: You are not doomed.

Do we really have to choose between healthy food and pleasure?

I am living proof that no, far from it!
At this time, the best evidence over more than half a century of science and clinical trials, clearly points the healthiest way of eating as being : high-carb, low-fat, whole-food, plant-based nutrition, with no oil, flavour from food instead of salt and sweetness from sweet whole foods instead of from the many extracted sugars out there.

If you want to find out more, watch and listen to: Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall.
That is the science.

As for what it’s like to eat that way: It is the sweet spot that combines pleasure, carefreeness, and health, with no compromise. But to fully understand that, you can’t just use your fear-fed imagination, speculate, or throw a snap judgement and call it “extreme”…To really know you need to do your homework first. If that looks convincing and serious enough, then steer your way out of popular death foods and the theories that try to make sense of then without proving a benefit similar to what low-fat plants, whole-foods, plants and mushrooms have to offer.
The destination is only what we’re all supposed to eat. It’s normal if at first it looks very far, or extreme. What’s actually extreme is how far away each one of us is from eating foods that do what they’re supposed to do: not kill us, taste wonderful, and support our health.

Food for thought…

Related article:
Whole foods FAQ – Why whole-food plant-based? Why no oil, no salt or no sugar?
“Is this a whole food?” – A Guide to Whole-Food Alternatives to Common Processed Foods

Recipes (WFPB, no-SOS)

Whole foods FAQ – Why Whole Food Plant-Based? What is the problem with oil, sugar and salt?

This is a list of frequently asked questions regarding whole-food plant nutrition and the health benefits that are associated. For each question/topic, a series of educational resources are provided, mostly in video format.

Contents:

  1. What are whole foods anyway?!
  2. Why low-fat whole-food plant nutrition?
    (more commonly known as “whole-food plant-based” or WFPB)
  3. Why low-fat and no oil?
  4. Why is sugar not a health food?
  5. Why is salt a problem?

1) What is a whole food and what is not?

As the name indicates, a food that is whole or integral.
Whole foods means edible foods that look like something you’ve brought from the garden, and that have not been refined, extracted, isolated. Sometimes, minimal processing, like for wholemeal pasta, only changes the presentation of the initial whole food but does not remove any nutrition from it through refining.
Why the distinction is tremendously important from a health standpoint will be explained in later sections.

Examples:

  • A sunflower seed is a whole food, and sunflower oil pressed from the sunflower seeds and heavily refined is not a whole food. The high fat content is a concern too, even with whole food fats.
  • A beetroot is a whole food, and the sugar extracted and refined from beetroot is not a whole food.
  • Corn seeds from a corn cob are a whole food, but high-fructose corn syrup and corn starch are heavily processed extracts so those are not whole foods.
  • Whole-meal wheat flour directly obtained from grinding whole wheat grains is a whole food, so are wheat grains. Wheat bran or regular wheat flour are not whole because they refined, meaning they are only part of the wheat seed.

For a more thorough guide of what is a whole food and what is not, check this article.

Ok, now that you get it. Why is the distinction important? Excellent question! A lot of it is covered below. You should be able to understand when you watch the fundamentals in Part 2.

2) Basic knowledge about low-fat whole food plant nutrition

Documentary Eating You Alive (absolute must-watch)

Documentary Forks over Knives (must watch) , sorry for this one I only have the trailer, you’ll have to check your Netflix, look for DVD at your library, or rent it on Amazon Prime or other Video-on-demand websites.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7ijukNzlUg

Documentary Planeat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCresEvQ_jM

Documentary Plant-pure Nation
Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llQ7V9Jv5a0

3) Why “no oil!” ?

Any oil is a processed food, squeezed out of a high-fat whole-food (avocado, nuts, olives, soy beans, canola seeds, etc…) or from the high-fat part of a whole food (rice bran, etc). Of all processed foods, oil (and other pure or extracted fats) are of particularly major concern. Oil is not only empty calories (no nutrition) and high in calories (contributing to overweight, obesity and metabolic disease), but the main concern it is that all oils and extracted fats are pro-actively harmful in the human body in many ways.

All oil? Yes. Even olive, coconut, canola or <you name it> oil? Yes. Even the extra virgin organic stuff? Yes. Even just “a little bit”? Yes. Are you sure? Yes, absolutely, this has been known to genuine science for decades.

How is oil harmful? Besides turning potentially healthy plant-based dishes into an undesirably high-fat meal, all oils cause inflammation in the arteries. Oil leads to stiff arteries (arteries are supposed to dilate nicely when needed). The build-up of plaque  gradually clogs arteries and blood vessels. This process actually starts in the womb of mothers eating a high-fat, oil-and-animal-containing diet. By age 10 many kids in modern societies show early signs of cardiovascular disease.
Oil harms blood flow in a number of ways.
1) Healthy arteries expand when needed to increase blood flow, arteries on oil and fat are stiff and therefore thin, not helping to increase blood flow 2) Unhealthy arteries don’t allow blood to glide fast over their inner surface, imagine driving on an uneven road full of with pot holes and speed bumps 3) On top of that, our blood after a high-fat meal becomes thick and sludgy until the next meal. 4) In the long run of doing that, arteries get clogged, passage becomes narrow.

Result?
Sludgy blood, sticking to artery walls, in stiff/thin arteries, that become even thinner overtime because of plaque blockage.

Vital things like oxygen, white blood cells (immune system), blood glucose (energy),  protein and virtually all nutrients flow ridiculously slowly and don’t get where they need to be nearly as fast and efficiently as they normally should.

This state of poor cardiovascular health manifests day to day through fatigue, poor physical performance, erectile dysfunction and poor vaginal lubrication in women, poor libido in both men and women, poor recovery after exercise, poor mental state, reduced cognitive performance etc.

In the longer run, plaque build-up causes heart attacks and strokes. This kills 1 in 3 Kiwis, when not suddenly, often after decades of meds, a stunted lifestyle and the depression that goes with it. Plaque build-up also contributes greatly to the onset of dementia where various parts of the brain stop receiving proper blood flow. Additionally, oils throw out of balance the quantity and ratios of omega-3 vs. omega 6 fats we’re supposed to eat. All plant foods which you don’t suspect to have fats in them (oats, kale, kumara, etc) have more than enough healthy fats, enough of (the anti-inflammatory – good) omega-3, and not too much of the “harmful” (pro-inflammatory – bad) omega-6. Supplementing with omega-3 oil or fish oil is not only unnecessary, but there’s evidence suggesting it may be harmful.
I hope by now it’s clear that “heart-healthy oils” is as rare as a “fun heart attack” or a “real unicorn.” In other words, there is no such thing.
The good news are, this can be avoided easily with well-planned low-fat, whole food plant-based nutrition. This eliminates oil since it’s about foods that are whole (unprocessed).

There is an abundant life away from oil, it’s easy and fun to discover how to prepare food without oil…You’ll notice the difference in terms of how you feel after eating…and the bonus is: oil-free kitchens are so much easier/faster to clean!

Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof – Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, MD
Full-video (ENG): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYTf0z_zVs0

http://nutritionstudies.org/essential-facts-fats/
http://nutritionstudies.org/fat-plant-based-diets/

4) Why is sugar not a health food?

What we’ll agree to call “sugar” is the processed sweetening  product resulting from the extraction of a sweet liquid from a whole plant. With animal foods this would include honey. In spite of confusing efforts to distinguish between “refined sugars” and other sugars, it’s important to keep in mind that all extracted sugar, is refined processed sugarall leading to similar problems whether it’s maple, agave, syrups, coconut sugar, molasses, raw/brown sugar or the good old white sugar.
There are more than 60 different names for different sugars. What’s the issue with all these sugars?
Like with oil, it’s not only empty calories (no or poor nutrition) and high in calories (contributing to overweight and obesity), but the main concern is that extracted sugars are actively harmful to health in a variety of ways. Although sugar is perceived by the general public as the main culprit for chronic illness, it is in fact the animal products, high-fat diets and oil really are the top offenders. This said, sugar is still of concern and is certainly no health food, these are ways in which sugar is harmful:

  • Acts exactly like a drug on the brain: sending dopamine (reward system) into overdrive, leading to sugar addiction, increased sugar tolerance and cravings.
  • Negatively impacts mood: manic state on a sugar high, hypoglycaemic (overly alert/irritable) on a sugar low.
  • Disturbs blood sugar control.
  • Inhibits the immune system for hours.
  • Promotes liver toxicity (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – “human foie-gras”)
  • Damages arteries (endothelial cells) and contributes to elevating triglycerides.
  • Promotes pathogenic flora (i.e. candida)
  • Harmful to dental health, contributes to cavities.
  • Empty calories (no or irrelevant nutrition), high caloric density, may contribute to overweight, obesity or difficulty losing weight.
  • Hypoglycaemia during sleep may disturb sleep

“But what about blackstrap molasses, that’s high in nutrients!”
Yes, it’s true, some nutrients though. Fortified deep-fried donuts are also high in nutrients. So is the dark juice that comes out of my compost pile in the garden. Blackstrap molasses are the ultimate concentrated waste products of a refining industry. Of course it has an unusually high score for various nutrients like vitamins or minerals.
Does that make it a health food? No.
Is it a whole food? No more than Froot Loops and fortified donuts, so basically, no.
Is it an extracted sugar? Yes.
How much fibre in it? Zero, like in all extracted sugars. Please check this fact and see it for yourself.

Documentary Sugar: The Bitter Truth
Full-video (ENG): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
Note: Lustig has developed a good understanding of the effects of sugar on metabolism, which is why I am sharing. So much so he didn’t spend enough time considering the rest of the health research, and as a result unfortunately advocates a low-carb diet.

If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit? (5-min video)
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/if-fructose-is-bad-what-about-fruit/

While zero extracted sugar is ideal and should be aimed to for those who feel they can do it, for others it may be a bit daunting and a small sugar tolerance. The World Health Organisation (WHO) set a limit of not more than 5% of calories coming from these extracted sugars. This is about 3~6 teaspoons for women and up to 9 for men. Dr. McDougall is a bit more cautious, suggesting a maximum limit of 1 teaspoon per meal to help add flavour/appeal to healthy starchy foods. Sweetness is an important part of flavour, foods that taste good are vital to the adherence to a way of eating. My personal proposal is that sweetness is easily achieved whole or blended sweet fruits, either fresh or dry: examples, dates and currants, and desserts/baked goods bananas or blended (not juiced) sweet grapes.

5) Why is salt a problem?

Salt increases blood pressure (hypertension) in many people. It may cause inflammation in the blood vessels in all people. More of concern, it worsens autoimmune diseases. Salt also conduces to water retention and dehydration. Dehydration in turn causes the blood to thicken and reduces cardiac output (sub-optimal cardiovascular function and cardiovascular risk factors). Calcium is also better retained on a low-salt diet (WHO).

“What about Celtic,  Himalayan or <your name it> salt?” Same deal, same problematic main molecule: sodium chloride. And an added problem: it comes with a wide variety of minerals in crystal form. Not only that’s not the form in which we’re supposed to ingest minerals, but these may contain unsafe minerals, or unsafe quantities.
Don’t eat rocks, let plants filter that and make safer food out of them for you.

IMPORTANT: For most people feeling healthy and with no known autoimmune disease, a focus on eating unprocessed plant foods (no oil nor animal products) should be **by far** the top priority, before spending too much focus on salt reduction or elimination.

There is sufficient sodium in a whole foods plant-based diets, ideal salt/added sodium consumption is zero.

While many people are capable of achieving this, for other people, a low-added-sodium intake will feel more sustainable. The WHO sets a maximum limit of 1,500 mg of sodium a day, which is about one half 1/2 tsp salt per day (one half of a teaspoon per day). Some health conditions (i.e. kidney disease) may require a lower limit.

If salt is used, the best way to use it is: 1) taste the food first 2) and if salt is needed sprinkle your iodised salt on top of the food. Avoid pre-mixing salt during food preparation.

Within weeks of consuming a low-salt or salt-free diet, taste buds adapt and develop a preference for these foods and an aversion/dislike for what used to be “normal” salt levels. Some weight loss may be experienced (peeing out the retained water).

For athletes and other people sweating a lot, adaptations happen when switching to a low-salt or salt-free diet to retain sodium more effectively. A progressive reduction/elimination may be wise.
There exist 100% salt-free very physically active populations that have been studied. They display outstandingly healthy blood pressure patterns and no sign of a sodium deficiency.

Cool bonuses: No more gross white marks on dark-coloured shirts & t-shirts after you break a sweat in them. I used to have that all the time, very embarrassing/gross. Problem sustainably solved.

High Blood Pressure May Be a Choice (5-min video)
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/high-blood-pressure-may-be-a-choice/

The Evidence That Salt Raises Blood Pressure (5-min video)
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-evidence-that-salt-raises-blood-pressure/

Manufactured controversy over Salt #1 (5-min video)
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/sprinkling-doubt-taking-sodium-skeptics-with-a-pinch-of-salt/

Manufactured controversy over Salt #2 (5-min video)
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-guidelines-with-a-grain-of-big-salt/

Cardiovascular damage caused by salt besides hypertension
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/sodium-and-arterial-function-a-salting-our-endothelium/