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The media has always promoted weight-loss and the latest diets, and now social media provides a platform for the health industry to constantly expose us to marketing of diets and “health” products. As strict eating and exercise routines are normalised, body shame and eating disorders are developing.

Orthorexia? Many of us have never heard of it. But Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy, and it is thriving in the age of health, diet culture and social media.

A person who suffers from orthorexia obsesses over defining and maintaining the “perfect diet,” and fixates or avoids particular foods, such as sugar or carbohydrates. The condition involves strict food avoidance, sometimes to the point that a person will consume fewer than 10 foods per day.

Some people with orthorexia avoid many foods, including fat, sugar, salt, animal or dairy products; certain ingredients they deem unhealthy. Alternatively, they may strictly eat only ‘fats’ (keto), paleo, ‘raw or uncooked’ products. If a person with orthorexia believes ‘fat’ is the evil ingredient that must be excluded, they will strictly adhere to this rule. If paleo is the ideal diet, they will follow it religiously. What begins as healthy eating leads to inflexible food planning, studying ingredient lists and rules, and evolves into a serious risk to health.

While going ‘paleo’ or ‘keto’ mightn’t sound so bad, and the more we come to understand orthorexia and associated behaviours, the more concerning it becomes. Most of us want to pursue a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet and everywhere we look there is the promise of a new perfect diet – a solution to attaining perfect health. This captures the two biggest difficulties to prevention and treatment of orthorexia in today’s society: identification and responding to the force of diet culture.

How do we tell when someone is suffering orthorexia?

One problem is differentiating between orthorexia and regular healthy eating. Not only is it difficult to diagnose, but it is difficult for people to notice or negatively perceive it in the first place, as there is no clear “point” at which to identify when healthy eating becomes restrictive.

In our current culture, cutting out certain food groups like sugar or fat is commended. We are encouraging of friends and family making positive changes to their diet and exercise routines. Making healthy changes to diet can be beneficial and even life saving. What’s the harm?

Friends, colleagues or family members are always starting a “great new diet,” they are “fasting until midday,” or have “quit sugar.” This is often followed by, “I’ve never felt better!” Who are we to tell them it’s wrong when cutting out certain foods is the norm? Following a popular diet or being vegan does not mean a person needs orthorexia treatment, but as eating disorder specialist’s Timerline Knolls warn, “if you see common warning signs and symptoms associated with dangerous eating patterns, it may be time to step in.”

Fuelled by diet culture, a person suffering orthorexia’s focus on health is what makes it so dangerous. Orthorexia has the same obsessive quality of other eating disorders but it goes unchecked because a person suffering may not be “thin” as a result of their disordered eating patterns. Comparing anorexia and orthorexia, a person suffering anorexia is likely to adhere to strict rules around weight and how much they eat, and a person with orthorexia has rules about what they can and cannot eat. Melbourne based Accredited Dietitian Lauren Kelly says, “if I sat down with a person with orthorexia and they told me what they have been eating, I would be concerned, as they’re not eating what they usually would.”

It was not until the late 90’s that orthorexia was defined and there is still no official diagnosis. But to help distinguish between healthy eating and orthorexia, Bratman and Dunn recently proposed a two-part diagnostic criteria. Firstly, there is an obsessive focus on healthy eating that involves emotional distress around food choice. This can cause compulsive behaviours, preoccupation with dietary choices, anxiety or even shame when dietary rules are broken. Severe restrictions often escalate over time; a diet might become so strict as to eliminate entire foods groups or a juice cleanse might develop into an addiction to ‘cleanses’ or ‘fasts.’

It is sobering to remember the two planes of thought that might be operating when a friend or family member is on a new diet. We might see the person eating healthy, losing weight and hear them speak positively about their new and improved life. What we might not see is the studying of labels and measuring out of ingredients. And what we cannot see is the mental health struggles, negative thoughts and consuming preoccupation that a person with orthorexia is experiencing inside.

This disruption to daily life is the second aspect of the diagnostic criteria. Not only does orthorexia pose medical risks such as malnutrition and complications like hormonal imbalance and bone health linked to eating disorders, but it intrudes on how a person lives their life. A person suffering orthorexia will not live a freely. They will often be engulfed by personal distress and low self-worth, leading them to become socially isolated.

Diet Culture and Social Media

Perhaps the biggest concern is how to mitigate against eating disorders like orthorexia operating in a world of diet culture. When we open Instagram, we are saturated by hundreds of accounts and images of celebrities and influencers showing us the new diet they are following. Understanding orthorexia is difficult without a clear diagnosis or wide recognition in society. But if you speak to any dietitian or nutritionist, they probably know all about it.

Lauren Kelly’s biggest concern is social media. Kelly states that the dietetics industry never used to see it as a problem, but have now realised how prevalent diet culture is, “imagine a 16-17 year old watching everything an influencer or celebrity is doing and eating on social media.” With the force of diet culture it is hard to imagine issues with comparison and body image ever go away.

A confronting discovery reveals a higher prevalence of orthorexia in dietitians, nutrition students, exercise science students and yoga instructors. But well-known diet culture expert, and Accredited Dietitian, Christy Harrison is well aware of this problem, saying that the increase in “oppressive diet culture” and “healthism,” provide fertile ground for orthorexia tendencies to form, and it is driven by the health industry, including accredited nutritionists.

The link between social media and negative effects on body image, social comparison and disordered eating is categorical. Instagram is flooded with food sharing, slim waists, big bums and clothes that seem to drape perfectly on figures we are told to envy. Sounds like a perfect storm for impressionable young people, particularly young women. It is no wonder that a 2017 German study found Instagram use is directly linked to symptoms of orthorexia nervosa.

Instagram and the diet industry tell us that if we eat, exercise, look and live a certain way we will be our “best self.” We forget about the selective exposure of images and messages on Instagram, that constantly reinforce the same ideas and images. Influencers are paid to endorse certain clothing and food labels, who further profit from diet culture.

It is easy to feel a little hopeless about the combined impact of the health industry and social media, especially on young women, but there are many positives. The “health at every size” movement is growing among dietitians, nutritionists and celebrities, including models with a lot of Instagram influence. Diet culture remains a force to be reckoned with but powerful movements around body positivity, wellness, self-care, mental health and feminism are fighting back.

With one in four Australian women on the oral contraceptive pill, few are aware of the link between the pill and mental health conditions.

With more than 100 million women worldwide and one in four Australian women taking oral contraceptive pills, new research is showing a strong link between the pill and mental health decline.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have conducted a study examining the brains of women taking oral contraceptives.

Research found that women taking the pill had a significantly smaller hypothalamus volume compared to those who weren’t taking this form of birth control.

The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain located near the pituitary gland responsible for producing hormones and regulating essential bodily functions such as moods.

Dr. Michael Lipton, head of the study, concluded that a smaller hypothalamic volume was also associated with greater anger and showed a strong correlation with depressive symptoms.

Depression affects twice as many women as men and it’s estimated one in four Australian women will experience depression in their lifetime.

Since the 1960’s, this tiny hormone-packed tablet has been treated as a miracle pill admired by women who now have the power to plan their periods and pregnancies.

With depression being one of the most predominant and devastating mental health issues in Australia, the prized benefits of the pill no longer outweigh the newly discovered evil it can create.

So what exactly is the pill?

The oral contraceptive pill is a tablet taken daily that contains both estrogen and progesterone hormones. It works by stopping the ovaries from producing an egg each month, preventing it from being fertilised.

The pill is used for many different reasons including; pregnancy prevention, improving acne, making periods lighter and more regular, skipping periods and improving symptoms of endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

While the pill has many benefits for women, research suggests that it can be linked to causing mental health issues, a detrimental side effect that doctors aren’t telling patients.

Evidence from a large Danish study on links between oral contraceptives and low mood rings alarm bells as 23% of women on the pill are more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant compared to those who aren’t.

The study also found that depression was diagnosed at a 70% higher rate amongst 15 to 19 year olds taking the pill and women between the ages of 15 and 33 are three times more likely to die by suicide if they have taken hormonal birth control.

Medical practitioners are quick to point out the less harmful physical side effects of taking oral contraceptives, yet seem to fail to mention the psychological damage it can trigger to a women’s mental health.

The praised pill has seen doctors handing it out like candy on Halloween to every women complaining of cramps, blemished skin or wanting an ‘easier’ option for birth control.

While medication should only be prescribed when medically necessary to patients, the pill is being prescribed routinely and by default from doctors.

So why are the mental health side effects of oral contraceptives being hidden from unsuspecting patients who are being prescribed them?

Dr. John Littell, a family physician, explains that the side effects of the pill are not often told to patients as they are seen as not important.

“Physicians in training during the past thirty years or so have been taught to find any reason to put women on some form of contraception without mentioning the possible risks associated with these methods.”

This is alarming news as Dr. Littell also mentions that when talking about the side effects, doctors are trained to see them as less of a concern than the overarching “problem” of pregnancy.

“The pill is often prescribed without any sense of hesitation from the prescribing physician, stating risks are viewed as less important than encouraging the woman to take it,” Dr. Littell explains.

Many women are now breaking free from the synthetic hormone cocktail being put into their body daily that is mixing with their emotions.

With research telling us what the doctors won’t, it’s no surprise why the most common reason women now change or stop taking the pill is because of mental health side effects.

Articles written by women titled “Why I’ll never take the pill again” and “My nightmare on the pill” explore firsthand the impact this pill has on women and the decline of their mental state.

Psychologist Sarah E. Hill suggests that almost half of those who go on the pill stop taking it within the first year due to intolerable side effects, with the main one reported being unpleasant changes in mood.

“Sometimes it’s intolerable anxiety, other times it’s intolerable depression, or maybe both simultaneously,”

“Even though some women’s doctors may tell them that those mood changes aren’t real or important, a growing body of research suggests otherwise,” Hill states.

Digital media brand The Debrief has launched an investigation linking mental health to the pill, surveying 1,022 readers between the ages of 18 and 30.

93% of women surveyed were on the pill or had previously taken it and of these women, 58% believe that the pill had a negative impact on their mental health.

45% of women experienced anxiety and 45% experienced depression while taking oral contraceptives.

43% of these women sought medical advice about their mental health, and over half the women believed that doctors did not take their concerns seriously.

With studies revealing the truth and doctors trying to hide it, the alarming facts point to a deadly pill polluting the brains of innocent, unsuspecting women.

While the oral contraceptive pill still remains the most popular and accessible form of birth control in Australia, it should be taken with caution and use should be monitored daily to prevent the occurrence of harmful side effects.

 

Many people live as a victim of their own history. They act in servitude of bygone events and unconsciously towed into the future by the undercurrent of their past. For a person to become a master of their own destiny, we must first examine our own brain, understand what we value and change these values or forgive memories if they no longer serve us positively.

Human behaviourist, Dr John Demartini, has developed powerfully effective strategies (the Demartini Method and Value Determination) in identifying our personal values and learning manipulating oneself into becoming the most illuminated, clear-headed and equipped version of you possible.

The Demartini method, taught in his program ‘The Breakthrough Experience’, is a series of concise questions to help us see the hidden order in our daily chaos. It allows us to become conscious of unconscious information that causes us to have skewed, biased and emotional responses to events in our life.

By resetting the mind, we seek to turn negative events into opportunities for growth. Resentments are stored in our unconscious mind, occupying space and time, steering our behaviour and life. Dr Demartini believes you cannot escape the authority of past resentments and move forward unless we learn to love and appreciate them.

“I know a lady who was married to five men in a 25-year period, all of whom were alcoholics named Mike. Her father’s name was Mike and he was an alcoholic. As long as she’s got resentment for her Dad, she keeps marrying her Dad.”

 

One set of questions Dr Demartini devised in the method focuses on dealing with negative events and transforming them into positive lessons.

“Let’s say if somebody comes up and criticises you. You’re a little bit perturbed and upset. The question is what specific trait, action or inaction you perceive this individual to be demonstrating that you despise or dislike most. You define what just happened in the situation and what they did. And then you go to a moment where and when you perceive yourself demonstrating that same or similar behaviour in your own life,” says Dr Demartini

“It is not fair to judge somebody on the outside when they’re just reminding you of something on the inside, that you’re internally judging yourself for. A lot of our resentments come from things we’re ashamed of inside but don’t want to face.

“You then ask, how did that event serve you, how is it an upside? Every event has two sides, find out the upside to it and stack up enough benefits to it then you don’t have to be affected by it. You can actually be grateful for it and realise it has nothing to do with what happens, it’s your choice of perception. The resentment is no longer running you – you are running you.”

These questions assist in dusting through the attic of one’s mind in order to allow true perspective and make clear decisions that move forward, rather than murky ones that serve no one but our memories.

The complete method includes 80 questions; the 14 main questions are primarily about resolving resentment and infatuations, but others cater to more specific issues including perceptions of gain or loss, particular emotional states and dealing with dissociative states such as bipolar condition and schizophrenia.

The Demartini method exemplifies how a person can change their entire life through perception. Honed by Dr Demartini for more than four decades, it is used by governments, corporations, psychologists as well as ordinary people to reduce stress levels, eliminate emotional turmoil and focus on gratitude.

Value determination, used in parenting, leadership and self-actualisation, is a tactic to trick ourselves and others into doing something we want. It is another one of Demartini’s most popular mindset-based strategies.

Formatted around the idea that every human being, regardless of age, gender or culture has an evolving set of values that guide their life, value determination involves identifying these guiding inherent priorities in order to effectively motivate people.

Our brains create a hallucination based on how we filter reality, determined primarily by our values. Individuals are spontaneously inclined to do more of what they value and require extrinsic motivation and reminding from external sources to do things they value less.

“A mother whose highest value is children will walk into a store and her eyes will automatically seek children’s items. Her husband, whose highest value is entrepreneurship will have a completely different view when walking into the same store. Their children too will focus on different things than their parents.”

If we can identify what someone’s values are, we can frame a suggestion with their highest value emphasised. Respecting someone like a customer and selling ideas to them in terms of what they find most meaningful, will make the person both more responsive and gratified when the idea has been manifested.

This is a crucial tactic not only in parenting, says Dr Demartini, but in convincing ourselves to do something.

“If we can stack up enough benefits concurrent with your values, adding positive associations, we can eventually convince anyone to do anything.”

“If I took a hammer and asked to hit your thumb with it you’d say no, but if I told you that you could meet your biggest Hollywood crush, you’d put your thumb down on the table and say let’s go to work.”

“At a convention in Sydney, I convinced a woman at of her attraction to a not so typically attractive man in about four or five minutes. I painted a picture of him based on her fantasies, told her that he was intelligent, ambitious, entrepreneurial and suddenly her physiology changed. Because I accessed enough of her higher valued aphrodisiac centres, his looks were no longer an important factor. By the end of the conversation she was buzzing to meet him; I had to gently explain I had made this magical person up as an example.”

Values are constantly changing and growing throughout one’s life, through either gradual tweaking or cataclysmic change.

If the mother who holds her children as her highest value experiences her children dying in a horrific event, she will obviously have to adapt, and her values will subsequently change drastically. It is thus important to do a value determination test every so often to ensure we are working in accordance with our current self and not a past version.

In addition to easing difficulty in completing unpleasant things, value determinism allows meaningful fulfillment from accomplishing tasks that the individuals know are valued high to them. Increased resilience, adaptability, creativity, wellness quota and stronger immune system are tangible results seen by Dr Demartini in people successfully living congruently with their values.

Understanding oneself, knowing what we desire and having the tools to transform potentially negative situations into priceless information, are paramount to changing the relationship one has with themselves and others into something responsive and positive.

These two methods represent only a sliver of Dr Demartini’s practicing programs developed over 47 years.

More can be found on his website: https://drdemartini.com/

Human behaviourist is not a title likely to appear whilst rifling through career brochures, yet no other label fits Dr John Demartini as deftly.

A self-described ‘polymath’, Dr Demartini has studied psychology, human biology, chiropractic and neurology at a tertiary level and has an impressive field of knowledge outside that too; he could hold a perfectly respectable conversation on astrophysics if pressed. He is above all, an educator and studier of people.