Healthy eating – not always healthy for you!


Healthy eating. Is it a given that it’s good for you? Not always. It can stimulate orthorexia nervosa – the psychological term for an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with healthy eating. It literally means ‘fixation on righteous eating’.


Those who write the ‘Bible’ of psychiatric disorders, DSM-5, don’t recognise orthorexia nervosa as a clinical diagnosis. However, doctors and dietitians say it’s close. It also appears to be more prevalent among vegetarians and vegans.  At heart, it’s about a fixation on food quality and purity. 

Australian cardiologist Dr Ross Walker has a medical practice in Sydney.  One of his areas of expertise is preventative cardiology. He lectures internationally and has published seven best-selling books on preventative cardiology. Here’s what he says about truly healthy eating. – Marika Sboros

By Ross Walker

Two and a half thousand years ago, the father of medicine, Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Of course, that was back in the days where food was simple. There was little interference by human beings apart from catching or preparing natural foods.

Food over 2000 years ago was, of course, a vital part of existence. It was certainly not the major pleasure it is nowadays. Constant food advertisements and television shows elevating celebrity chefs to superstar status bombard our modern world. Not to mention the quick-fix easy foods that take the strain out of food preparation.

With any major life pleasure, there is always the shadow, the underbelly, which in this case often leads to the excessive belly. But, apart from the obvious and increasing problems of obesity, could there possibly be a problem with so-called healthy eating?

When food leads to social isolation

My favourite medical website for general review of modern medical issues is Medical News Today. It has “nailed it” again with two superb articles on orthorexia nervosa and food addiction. I thought I would review some of the key points from these articles and give my own perspective.

Orthorexia nervosa is defined as a pathologic obsession with healthy eating which may lead to social isolation, psychological disturbance and often physical harm. I had previously told the story of Prof Roy Walford who wrote the book, The 120 Year Diet. Walford suggests that if you consume a daily diet of 1500 cal of pure plant food with no coffee, alcohol or meat you will live to 120.

Walford had a small group of loyal followers around the world who call themselves calorie restrictors. They don’t have an ounce of body fat. They are constantly cold, tired, miserable and often depressed but live with the delusion that they will live until 120. The average age of death in the modern world for males is around 80 and for females around 84.

A few years back, Walford died at the ripe old age of 79. That was after having lived that miserable existence of disciplined restriction for many years.

Medical News Today quotes the case of a 29-year-old female who progressed through the steady slope of vegetarianism to veganism. She became a raw foodist, finally only consuming fruit, then losing her hair and becoming quite ill.

Click here to read: You need 5-a-day fruit and veg? No you don’t!  – Harcombe

Dangers of  ‘pure, unbending’ veganism

They quoted French nutritionist, Sophie Ortego, who had a patient who was “a pure, unbending vegan”. She  even “refused to take B12 supplements preferring to lose her sight rather than betray her commitment to animals.”

Orthorexia nervosa is not actually medically recognised and many people believe this is more a phobia than a food disorder. Many people in the field believe orthorexia nervosa has occurred because of the fear of modern issues. Among these are mad cow disease, the use of pesticides in modern agriculture along with antibiotics given to domestic livestock, genetically modified foods and corporate farming.

Many people who go down the slippery path of orthorexia nervosa believe that going organic and vegan will help prevent the toxicity of western lifestyle.

The other article was on food addiction. This is where the need to eat becomes compulsive and uncontrollable and may be in response to an emotional disorder, stress, sadness or anger. Experts have also linked food addictions to cravings. Typically these are chips, lollies (candy), white bread, chocolate pasta or ice cream.

Food addiction may lead to other disorders, such as obesity, bulimia or binge eating.

Fad diets

Regardless, there is no doubt that food is a vital part of our existence. If you don’t eat, you die. But, not achieving a balanced, nutritional program may have serious consequences.

In a modern world where a solution to obesity is bariatric surgery rather than drastic lifestyle changes, we need to review deeper issues. Among these are why a significant proportion of human beings are obese, experience anorexia and/or bulimia.  Or even more recently, why they have these new obsessions with healthy eating, veganism or some fad diet.

It is my experience as a doctor of 40 years that I have never met one person (and I’m not excluding myself from this observation) that has life in balance. We all struggle in some way. This struggle may lead to overeating, undereating, an addiction to some substance (cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs), anger, anxiety, depression or somatic symptoms.

Click here to read: Cracking The Ovesity Code: Dr Jason Fung’s weight loss secret

It is my opinion that any issue around food, whether it be any of the problems discussed above, is purely a manifestation of much deeper emotional factors. We are all the sum total of our various life experiences, genetics and upbringing.

Finding food phobias

Until we recognise the reason why we have whatever obsession, phobia, addiction, or any other issue for that matter, we humans will continue to make the same mistakes. We will continue the same patterns.

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying “there is no more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result”.

Rather than seeking a medical solution to your problem or starting on yet another diet or bizarre eating program, find out the real cause of the problem. Fix the cause and start an entirely different, healthier pattern.



  1. My cat sits around all day, sleeps all night on my feet, going outside in the wee small hours for his hygiene and.. ‘Communicating’ with visiting moggies.
    These Tooth & Claw “Discussions” are his only exercise.
    So, 23.9 hours per day of relaxation and sleeping with the staff,,, eating LCHF fatty meat and fish, bi-weekly H.I.I.T sessions – Not endless cardio… is the secret to a CVD -free life.

    Or is it the cardio-protective effect of owning a pet… ?

  2. A common thread amongst the LCHF, Keto and “Banting” subcultures is a fixation with “food as medicine.” It is a half-truth masquerading as an all encompassing solution instead of a biohack. I am not denying its benefits in helping many cope and recover from the stresses of our modern environment. From the onset as I successfully lost weight doing Banting/the Big Breakfast way, I realised that much of it is about chronobiology, our modern lifestyles beset with artificial inputs and the all pervasiveness of huge quantities of processed food/sugars aptly described as junk food or as most see it: special treat food. Reducing sugar and refined carbs and modern grains is essential to most city slickers’ health anyway. That’s not something we should argue about. The ready availability of out of season fruit is another obvious culprit. Our vegetables and eggs are not as nutritious and our feedlot meat delicious, but saturated with fat imbalances, hormones and the pesticides and herbicides that are all pervasive. This week Noakes dared to repeat an article critical of some vaccinations and all hell broke loose. We have been indoctrinated by big pharma and governments to believe atrocious lies. We are softened and shaped into acquiescence contrary to our outcomes and experiences in the name of the common good. Will reducing the population’s access to sucrose help much? That’s highly debatable. Perhaps sugar cane fields will be converted into another monocrop like bananas and the masses will be told 5 fruit and veg a day is the answer. We are feedlot subhumans. We walk the malls under artificial light and we are engrossed in the LED world of entertainment. The hippie counterculture got a number of things correct.

    • You make many and very good points, Jason. That is why, on, I try to take a very broad view of “food” as medicine for body and mind. Exercise is “food” for the body. Restful sleep is “food” for the body. Clean water, fasting, etc etc etc …

      • I am in no way an expert on nutrition, but, (and after reading some of the comments, perhaps I shouldn’t even admit this] I do follow a healthy balanced diet. However, I find it most confusing as to who to believe when it comes to “a healthy lifestyle”. There are so many ‘experts” who have differing opinions. I was horrified how some of this group together with large companies went after Prof Noakes.
        Ultimately, it’s all about money; which makes me question the credibility of these so-called experts.

        • You are right to question the credibility of experts, Lesley Ann. I have a natural antipathy towards emenince-based medicine and dietetics. I have to say I developed a horrified fascination while researching just what top doctors, dietitians and academics at all three of SA’s leading universities got up to just to silence a distinguished scientist. As I write in Lore of Nutrition co-authored with Prof Tim Noakes, it may be tempting to think there can’t possibly be so many doctors, dietitians and academics out of step except him. Anything is possible, of course. However, we provide the disturbing evidence on record at the HPCSA hearing against him, to show that it’s not just possible, it’s highly probable. I’m still disturbed at how all the universities turned a blind eye and are still doing so.

        • The calibre of a man’s enemies will tell you everything about the Man and his stand.
          – The sugar industry is alive and well and attacking everyone who might be a threat to their profitability…

      • Marika, add to the list of beneficial ‘foods’ … a Happy Heart. – That’s the Capital H ‘Heart’, not the pulsating pumping thing. This modern, news-driven, stressed and manipulated society is seemingly hell-bent on destroying the visceral pleasures of ..’Living’.
        Whether you call it ‘placebo’ or ‘nocebo’, the influence of our thoughts, feelings and instincts is ( “Scientifically” ) ignored at our peril.
        Better to LIVE a perhaps shorter, but useful, fulfilling, contented and satisfying Life, than a miserable, infinite and depressed ‘existance’… –
        A possible explanation of the French Paradox of Diet & Heart disease ?

          • I suspect the food we DON’T eat is as much of a factor too. Since the AHA and their infamous Presidential Advisory on the dangers of saturated fat and the instant lethality of coconut oil, followed by the revelation of the donations from Bayer cropscience resulting from increased sales of soybean seed, I’ve been reading a LOT of studies on the harms of excess Omega 6 “vegetable oils”


            one of the most recent.

            Something we never had back when I was young – and I bet the AHA president also ate a lot prior to his heart attack. Big whoops!

            I think it was here


            where so many of the original low fat people popped off early.

            In just the same way The Annointed instruct us to do the wrong kind of exercise and generally live in the wrong kind of way, then blame us for “failing to comply” with their demands, yet before they came along we were doing much better.

          • Chris, Not only but also, “they” discourage us from traditional heart medications (where appropriate) such as ‘Strophanthin’, Yet seemingly have no knowledge of the value of CAC / Coronary Artery Calcium – Scans which ‘sees’ and measures the problem.
            The Americans insist on it for their Astronaut selection, and Presidents . Trump scored 98, Hillary was “Zero.” Mine was several hundred… The value is in tracking one’s ‘Rate of Progress’, and statins – Trump takes one plus aspirin – increase calcification !
            The reliability of a relevant, “halt-able” ‘number’ as a personal Motivator is hard to beat and I can’t see any reason why neither of my cardios or three GPs have ever suggested it.

            But all is not lost, for I own a pet, – dog.

  3. Was Steve Jobs was one of these people who, we would now say, suffered from Orthorexia Nervosa, this pathologic obsession with healthy eating. He supposedly even named his company Apple after his largely fruitarian diet.
    Steve Jobs’ habits included eating just apples and carrots for weeks on end which, according to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, apparently imbued him with a ‘sunset-like hue’. Perhaps the lack of dietary fat and protein in some strange way helped him with his amazing creative insights, a benefit of the form of ketosis he must have experienced? But if so, it was ketosis brought on by starvation without the dietary components to help the body rebuild soundly, and his restrictive diet doubtless contributed to the poor health he suffered during his life, and probably to his early death.

  4. “Do any of the experts really know …

    NO. “Balanced” is a ‘Last Word’ the purpose of which is to intimidate the reader into submission. Constant use -without solid explanation – has imbued it with an aura of authority, indeed a magical power to block questions, end discussions and establish the Author as One Who Knows.

  5. I don’t think my parents’ generation obsessed about food anything like as much. I wonder if it isn’t a response to the obvious failure of conventional low-fat advice. Some react to its failure by clutching fanatically to something else. Vegans are an extreme example. Not many of them about when I was a boy. The answer now seems obvious – to ditch the unnatural nonsense of the last forty years and eat real food. The definition might vary slightly but it won’t include sugar, processed junk or low-fat inventions.

    We’re the only species on the planet – except for the animals we feed – that gets fat. When that fact is absorbed, the solution becomes a lot clearer. Go back to something like what we were designed to eat.

    • Is it the failure of conventional low-fat advice, or the increasing availability of ultra-processed #fastfood, #junkfood… or a lot of both?
      WHO refers to malnutrition as: ‘… deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients’ and in this context, to: overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. And the speed of growth is rising.

  6. “But, not achieving a balanced, nutritional program may have serious consequences”.

    The magic word “balanced”. I have heard the words balanced from a multitude of sources but I have yet to be provided with a clear definition of what a balanced diet actually is. Do any of the experts really know

    • Holy Health Grains in one hand and “heart healthy” vegetable oils in the other, of course. What could possibly go wrong?

      As us older folks die, there will be fewer and fewer people left who actually had experience of a time when there WERE no epidemics of obesity and metabolic diseases. Michael Eades suggests watching Woodstock, and any films with crowd scenes from the seventies and earlier, when you will see the people look like stick people in comparison with today. Food for thought.

      Numerous people have described the current population as being “overfed but still malnourished” which about sums it up.

      With a few notable exceptions, “eat the opposite of what your dietician tells you” seems like a viable plan.

      • Chris, with an embarrassing history in Australia (Dr Gary Fettke’s crucifixion) and the attempt on Prof Noakes of South Africa, I’d say your plan is more than merely ‘viable’, – its essential.

  7. A wise old Cardiologist once said he believed our life-span is individually defined, and we can only shorten, – not extend- it with lifestyle choices.
    Eating in the Mediterranean ‘manner’ is more beneficial than eating the Mediterranean ‘matter’.

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