Eating clean grabs at you because it stirs the quest for purity. That’s what’s behind the cleanse, the detox, the quest for total avoidance of imperfect food. Orthorexia flows from the same impulse that drove the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages: cleansing from sin.
In dietary purity, one seeks to be physically holy, and holier than others. Just as the monk self-flagellated for sexual desire, the food purist self-punishes for wanting coffee, meat or sugar. “I have befouled myself with non-organic chips, I am unclean. ” Total commitment to a pure food diet is a vow of food chastity, a war against the lower desires of the flesh.
But the search for absolute purity is a rejection of the natural self. It is as much a war against the body as the crusades of any puritanical religion.
James HIllman, the great Jungian, distinguished between soul and spirit. Spirit is the sky, the air, pure light, vast emptiness, the high you get while fasting. The soul is deeply felt passion, character and joy. To become pure spirit is to become an angel; to become soulful requires embracing the intestinal, sweaty, impure physical reality of human being.
It is a greater, and more difficult thing to be a whole human being than an angel.
Eat healthy food but sometimes give in to desire.
Don’t try to be perfect. Try to be whole.
–Steven Bratman, MD, MPH
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