Eating Disorders, Miami Specific

Oh yes, we have our own dietary problems, indeed

Imagine my surprise when I found out last week that I wasn't in vogue. I mean there I was, reading fashion mags in Ego Trip Salon while getting trimmed and tinted in accordance with the latest trends, and I pretty much get slapped in the intellect with how out of touch I am. I've been wearing the right boots (or I was until I broke my ankle), it seems, but I haven't been practicing the going thing, the syndrome o' the moment, the eating disorder of the starlets: orthorexia nervosa.

Coined in the year 2000 by alternative-medicine specialist Dr. Steven Bratman, orthorexia nervosa stems from a combination of the Greek ortho, meaning "straight, correct, and true" and anorexia nervosa (which I assume needs no introduction given that the term entered pop culture so long ago there's now even a diet pill called Anorex). Bratman defines orthorexia nervosa as an obsession with healthy eating -- a fixation on eating "proper" food -- to the point of mental anguish, physical illness, and even death. He claims that "the act of eating pure food begins to carry pseudospiritual connotations. As orthorexia progresses, a day filled with sprouts, umeboshi plums, and amaranth biscuits comes to feel as holy as one spent serving the poor and homeless." Eventually, Bratman notes, "orthorexia reaches a point where the sufferer spends most of his time planning, purchasing, and eating meals. The orthorexic's inner life becomes dominated by efforts to resist temptation, self-condemnation for lapses, self-praise for success at complying with the self-chosen regime, and feelings of superiority over others less pure in their dietary habits."

Yeesh. Where have I been? After Dr. Bratman's book on the subject was published, Janemagazine has mentioned it. British Vogue just ran a profile on it. The disease has been featured in Cosmopolitan.And here I thought body dysmorphic disorder was still the rage.

Of course I felt a little better after showing the article to Josh, my stylist, and explaining that there were people out there killing themselves with organic fruit. "I've never heard of it," he declared, then made a great point. "But we live in Miami. No one would come down with that here."

Too true. We like our indulgences. I do know people who are raw-food faddists, who believe nutrition is the best medicine, who are convinced that vegetables have vibrations, blah blah blech. Some of them are even my friends, though I try not to invite them to dinner parties. But none of them has crossed the lacto-ovo line into lunacy; in this cultural climate of good eats and even better booze, it's pretty tough to stick to a regimen of self-denial.

That said, however, I wondered what eating disorders people in Miami are prone to. After all, we're as neurotic as the denizens of any American city. So I did a little checking and found out some really shocking stuff. For instance I didn't know that straight, single women who live on South Beach almost uniformly suffer from manorexia nervosa, a condition where the patient is starved for men. As it turns out, manorexia has a sister binge disorder known as boylimia, which afflicts young gay men on the Beach.

Boylimics, as it turns out, also are prone to coming down with Rumimia, an uncontrollable urge to spend every night eating, drinking, and lounging at Rumi. After the urge is the purge -- the wallet gives up everything it has. This disorder is similar to the one that Tantra customers often suffer: Red Bullimia, a tendency to overindulge on the weird-tasting energy booster instead of chef Willis Loughhead's painstakingly prepared dishes.

South Beach residents also suffer from a bewildering form of binge eating known as Joe's Stone Crabesity. This particular illness, like mangorexia, which occurs in winter, and I scream you screamia, which gelaterias have noticed hits in the summer, has baffled local doctors because it only occurs for about seven months out of the year. Between May and October, those who have been diagnosed with Joe's Stone Crabesity almost always fall prey to sushimia and sashimia, two raw-fish-craving disorders that are virtually indistinguishable from each other (not to be confused with Sushi Sambesity or Nobusity, new strains of the disease that have yet to be clearly defined).

Elsewhere in Miami-Dade, there are a variety of eating disorders that afflict us. But some are merely symptoms of more impressive diseases. For instance Van Akenorexia and Baleenorexiaare byproducts of, well, poverty. Militellimia has given rise to snobesity, a stubborn refusal to dine anywhere but in a link of the Mark Militello chain. And touristmorphic disorder, a condition that affects the serving industry, has given rise to the more general customerphic disorder, which in turn has led to foolimia, a horrible disease suffered by those of us who can never remember that a lot of waiters add in their tip.

Of course some of us willingly submit to the demands of an eating disorder. I know several folks, tired of the same old pasta, who gladly take on Italianorexia. Likewise I have many friends who cheerfully battle Dab Hausmorphic disorder, convinced that this time, yes, they will finish that huge plate of bratwurst. Those who have come down with KISSmorphic disorder are a bit more resigned -- they know the prime rib is bigger than they thought. But then they're not really looking at their plates anyway.

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