Without qualm you love to eat and you are enthusiastic to try ground-breaking recipes, maybe you even preoccupy yourself with some zests you would like to persistently have in your flavor buds. If you can recognize yourself in this depiction, do not be concerned, it’s a common thing. But if you swiftly are obsessing about a flavor that you’ve never tried or radically alter eating routines after a misfortune, you may have Gourmand syndrome, described in a study in the Neurology periodical.
This disorder was uncovered in the mid-80s by two neuropsychologists, Dr. Landis and Dr. Regard who studied the case of two patients who had brain damage and that traumatic event changed his taste for food diagnosing him with the ‘Gourmand syndrome’. The highlight of this disorder is that it makes those who suffer have an unstoppable desire for good food and take care of every detail of the dish and what is around it.
There were two other cases of people who after suffering a traumatic accident where their brain
was damaged, began to obsess about good food, changing their eating habits and their relationships with the act of eating. One of the patients, with a brain tumor, lost this obsession when they removed the malignant cells. With the slogan ‘Always eat and drink’, the obsession of the patient got at the point where the person left his job so he can devote himself to food critic and obsessing day and night with food, cooking, and nutrition, in general. The same doctors investigate 723 patients with cerebral damage during a period of eight years. The conclusion reached in 1997 is that these patients that had the Gourmand syndrome had injured the part of the orbitofrontal cortex and also were pointing to changes in decision-making, emotions and reward, and also damages that were affecting the basal ganglia nuclei, responsible for the production of serotonin. And it is these alterations that cause these people their behavior change. Linked to a change of self-control that affects their relationship with food. Although it is a little-known pathology, it shows us that after some serious injury that is possible to become a gourmet expert of haute cuisine.
But can we declare as a widespread obsession the endless flood of series and programs about cooking and food? There is no turning back: we moved from personal taste for food to national obsession with food. It seems that we could not stop thinking about tacos, burgers, pizzas, pasta even if we wanted. It shows everywhere. But even more on television, whether a ‘traditional’ version (those that were watched our ancestors, naked, wildly eating pieces of bison or tiger, sitting around the fire, projected on the walls of the caves) or streaming. It just doesn’t seem to have an end for the flood of series and individual programs about cooking and nutrition.
Netflix announced the renewal of the Chef’s table series id David Gelb, but the production of a second, third and fourth season. The first season, as you know, follows six chefs. The approach to the protagonists is reverent. The style is conservative, nice as a vase. Often uses slow motion and classical music, not without the obvious symphony. Most of the time these chefs are more interesting than the style of the Chef’s table.
But, perhaps the most addictive competition shows are those that you don’t have to wait for more than an hour to see the wreck of the illusions of a chef. Chopped, which premiered in 2009 on Food Network (yes, there are a lot of Networks nowadays dedicated only to cooking), is the most civil of all: four chefs, three times against the clock, a few secret ingredients. The personalities of the contestants can only be distinguished by some features: the fuck up that was brought from nowhere, the good girl whose parents bought a restaurant for, the rocker who is unable to stick to the rules, the nerd alienated by the science in a toy kitchen. Each episode is like an audition for a boy band. (The producers, obviously, reinforce the prejudice.) Among others, there is also, Knife Fight, Cutthroat Kitchen.
It seems like there is no end of this kind of shows. People love them, people watch them and try to copy them. So all of a sudden preparing food is what everybody is talking about. It became a trend people need to follow. They try to remake the desert that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa did, prepare the best dinner that Jamie Oliver recommended and capture that on Instagram, because if you don’t have a picture to show that it happened, it didn’t. So they start going to cooking classes, wanting to be the best they can be, they get cooking classes as a present for their friends, so they can join them in the cooking process that seems never ending. Suddenly there is a movie about the famous chef Julia Child with Meryl Streep in the main role, and what about male chefs, why don’t we invent a movie just so we can see Bradly Cooper show up in an apron with a chef’s hat on. Wouldn’t that be amazing? The trend is everywhere now. People are starting to count calories so they can eat the ‘right’ way. Talking about organic food and trying to be vegan all of a sudden, because it is the new trend now. Food became an obsession, and there is no way out of it.
People are obsessing about eating healthier and all of a sudden they suffer orthorexia. That’s the new name for the obsessive disorder that leads to extreme healthy eating and consisting of a comprehensive control and increasingly strict food components. The World Health Organization estimates that 28% of the population in Western countries is affected by orthorexia, mainly teenagers, and women. And this number keeps on increasing every day because today’s society tends to extremes and people are either pampered too much or not at all, so they tend to self-destruct with food as it happens with the obesity. Orthorexia can start by limiting much food, avoiding the intake of red food, eggs, sugar, dairy and fats; and increase to a point of ‘social isolation’, because the individual is overwhelmed if for example they have to attend a meal with friends or a business meal. These people feel superior to those who do not follow this way of life and often have a ‘false self’ based on this idea of superiority and the full conviction that their life is ‘better’ than the rest. They are more concerned about the quality of the food than for the pleasure of eating it. Therefore, they dedicate a lot of their time (three or more hours a day), to organize the diet and plan well in advance, they pass long distances in order to get special or purely organic food, they weight them, analyze their components and abandon their daily activities to carry out their pathological way of life. Psychologists say that often they have a higher level of dopamine and lower level of serotonin, which makes them have an excess of euphoria combined with high levels of anxiety, and they often suffer from vitamin deficiency.
People can’t control anymore the anxiety that leads them to eat. They are living permanently on diets and when they do well they are super excited and calm, but when it doesn’t last they feel remorse. They obsess with sports, doing the yo-yo diets, working out to lose more weight just so they can go back to their favorite activity – eating. They get up and go to sleep obsessing about food, with the body, the weight and everything related. So the food stops being a necessity, something that we do in order to keep on doing our everyday activities and becomes a trend, disorder or something entirely else.
It’s good to be cautious and not abuse processed food, it is clear that we all must go back to eating a natural way in order to have a better health, but can we control everything? We cannot stop eating dairy for fear of livestock antibiotics, or stop eating chicken for fear of hormones, stop eating fruits and vegetables because they contain pesticides and preservatives. Even though at first glance the obsession with healthy food does not seem worrisome, eventually it leads people to hyper or hypovitaminosis, anxiety, depression, hypertension, and osteoporosis, among other diseases. Any compulsive eating behavior has to be controlled and closely monitored by a therapist. We need to relax before having a serious trouble, it’s not possible to control everything we eat. We need to understand that our bodies also have cleaning systems to eliminate harmful substances without risk. We can eat a healthy diet without limiting our lives. Even if we were to live in the farthest planet in search of the most ‘pure’ diet, there would always be factors such as pollution or groundwater, the wind, rain, etc., which will affect the quality of food.