Who would imagine that healthy eating could make you ill? And yet there is now a new, well, new to me, eating disorder called orthorexia. Presumably the name has suggestions of orthodox ways of doing things. It involves "clean eating" and can be so extreme that some sufferers won't drink tap water because it is not the brand they are used to. You start off with good intentions to eat healthily, preparing all your own meals from scratch instead of eating convenience foods and ready meals. Then you cut out certain food groups such as dairy products and food containing gluten. Then, before you know it, it's no longer about healthy eating but about obsessively watching you weight and refusing to eat a whole load of things. And there you are, just another sad case who needs help!
I think I have always enjoyed food too much to fall into the trap. For a while we were macrobiotic vegetarians - no meat and a diet based on whole foods. We were kind of persuaded into it by some French friends who were so full of life and vitality on this regime that we opted to follow their example. Like so many of these diets, it began with a "cleansing". For ten days you were supposed to eat nothing but boiled brown rice. After that you could gradually add beans and pulses and stir-fired vegetables. I seem to remember that we grew tired of boiled brown rice after about three days and decided to skip to adding vegetables to the mix.
That was an improvement and we kept to the macrobiotic way of life for a good few years, growing our own vegetables and even for a while drinking no alcohol. But we proved to be very poor obsessives and slowly but surely introduced other elements of variety into our meals. A sir-fry of onions, carrots cabbage and brown rice is greatly improved by the addition of prawns and other shellfish. And of course, a nice glass of wine goes down well!
And so nowadays we eat most things, although red meat still does not figure in our menu. Not only do I find it hard to digest but I really cannot cope with handling it raw. Consequently red meat doesn't stand much of a chance. And then, I really enjoy trying out new kinds of cake and desserts. We just make sure everything is balanced and nothing is to excess; that's as far as the obsession goes in this house.
Side by side in today's Guardian are photos of Presidents Clinton and Obama, former Prime Ministers Blair and Cameron, and heir to the British throne Prince Charles, all of them at the funeral of Simon Peres, and an article about Iranian women appealing for the women's world chess championship to be allowed to take place in their country in 2017. Or at least, an appeal that it should not be boycotted. All of the men in the photos are wearing the kippah, although none of them is of the Jewish faith. Presumably they are wearing it as a mark of respect for the culture and religion of the country as well as out of respect for Shimon Peres. The Iranian women are having to appeal because there have been calls for a boycott of the championships as all women taking part will be asked to wear the hijab, compulsory wear for women in Iran since 1979.
Those calling for the boycott say that the headscarf is a symbol of Islamic repression. The women who oppose the boycott said that it would undermine efforts to promote female sports in their country, or even to gain the right to watch sports. "This is going to be the biggest sporting event women in Iran have ever seen; we haven't been able to host any world championship in other sporting fields for women in the past," said Mitra Hejazipour, a woman chess grandmaster. "It's not right to call for a boycott. These games are important for women in Iran; it's an opportunity for us to show our strength."
I just find it rather interesting that these two religious/cultural symbols are viewed so differently.