New Term for Lasting Issues: "Nutrichondria" and Diet Culture
I recently heard the term “nutrichondria” and it really stuck out to me.
I don’t know who came up with the name, but it refers to self-diagnosing food sensitivities (similar to hypochondria – believing you have illnesses without first getting a diagnosis) which are often a result of diet culture.
Magazine articles and Facebook ads tell us that a new food or food group is “dangerous” or “unhealthy” and we need to give it up. Basically, this sounds like orthorexia.
Nutrichondria causes obsession with looking at the supposed negative aspects of our food intake.
This belief in self-diagnosed food issues is nothing new. I can’t think of a day when I have a new client that doesn’t tell me they “don’t eat gluten/sugar/dairy/whatever” because it makes them feel weird.
Or someone finds out I am a Registered Dietitian and says “Oh, you’re a nutritionist- So you don’t eat [insert food fad of the moment]?” They cut these foods/food groups out of their diet, anxiously turning boxes over in their hands and scrutinizing labels, or skipping foods altogether with a quick “I can’t have that.”
When these clients eventually do go to an allergist or doctor who can test for these food sensitivities, most of the time they have no problem with the foods they were working so hard to avoid.
In the meantime they have been developing deficiencies, malnutrition, and possibly worst of all - a horrible relationship with food and the ability to trust their body.
To believe you have a real issue with a certain set of foods and then to be told that nothing is wrong – most people would rejoice and grab that slice of bread they had avoided for so long, but for many it can be a time of questioning who’s right? My body? Ed? The doctor?
This pops up in cognitive distortions, saying “that [doctor/dietitian/whomever] doesn’t know what they are talking about.” Or “look how much better you looked not eating that.” This fuels the lack of trust of professionals and trust of self, which can make recovery so much harder.
So what can we do?
Unfortunately, I don’t think we as an eating disorder community (no matter how mighty) can stop all the propaganda that diet culture creates (a multi-billion dollar industry, after all), but we can make a difference in small ways. By writing companies or influencers (…or shaming them on twitter. You do you.) that what they are selling is lies.
We can educate ourselves and others around us how to look for evidence-based science and when it is being used properly. We can stop putting down our bodies/others bodies and food shaming. We can live.
Unless you have a true allergy to something (please be tested by a qualified allergist, not some holistic healer), all foods can fit in a healthy diet. No need to cut carbs or whatever you were told to be afraid of.
Go back to the basics. Before we had calorie counts, and food labels (which only became mandatory in the 1990’s), and “gluten free” was a trend, people ate food without analyzing what was in it.
And guess what – they did okay.
About the Author: Libby Parker
Libby Parker lives in California, where she has a private practice as a Registered Dietitian, dispelling fad diet myths and helping people recover from eating disorders. Libby specializes in college student eating disorder recovery, both in-person and virtually. When she is not kicking “ED” to the curb, Libby is on-stage dancing and performing in musical theatre. You can find her at NotYourAverageNutritionist.com - Be sure to check out her YouTube channel for weekly, quick, educational videos.