Friday, December 29, 2006

Listen to the MPR show with Katharine Loeb

The host of the show did a fantastic job--one of the best interviews I've heard or participated in on the subject.

Here's a link to the show.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Talk to me live tomorrow!

I'll be doing a live call-in show tomorrow, Friday, December 29th, 2006, on "Midmorning," hosted by Kerri Miller and produced by Minnesota Public Radio. The other guest on the program will be Dr. Katharine Loeb, assistant professor of psychiatry at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and an avid supporter of the Maudsley approach. We'll be discussing anorexia research and treatments, and I'm looking forward to our conversation.

The show airs at 9 a.m. central time. You should be able to catch it online at Call in with your questions at 651-290-1592.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Is Anorexia Cultural?

That's the $64,000 question. Folks in Brazil are wondering why so many women are dying of anorexia there. Is there something about the culture that is suddenly contributing to a surge of cases? Is the media reporting on anorexia more? What's going on?

More and more, researchers see a genetic component to anorexia and other eating disorders, including chromosomal abnormalities. A 2006 study that looked at anorexia and twins found that genetics accounted for more than half the cases of anorexia, suggesting that people are born with a susceptibility to anorexia and then get triggered during the vulnerable time of adolescence and young adulthood.

Makes sense to me. If culture were the sole culprit, anorexia would be far more prevalent than it is.

Brazil is a country where many people don't have enough to eat; anorexia is typically a disease of "starvation in the midst of abundance." Maybe the rise in prevalence--if there is one--is a symptom of widening gap between the very rich and the rest of the country in Brazil. Maybe it's a sign that the Brazilian economy is improving.

Whatever the statistical explanation, I know one thing for sure: Young women (and men) in Brazil and elsewhere don't have to die. Anorexia can be cured, especially if it's treated early, in adolescence. It's not a cultural metaphor; it's a disease with a tragic trajectory that inflicts a great deal of suffering on anorexics and their families.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Changing the culture, one heart and mind at a time

Last night a friend told me that since my daughter Kitty's illness, her daughter had become very outspoken on the subject of anorexia. She said that whenever other teenage girls joked about it, she "set them straight"--a commendable act of friendship.

But what really made me want to stand up and cheer was when she told me about the day her daughter--Kitty's friend--came home and headed straight for the refrigerator. Apparently someone had told Kitty's friend she looked like she'd lost some weight. "I can fix that," she said, reaching for the whipped cream.

Here's what blows my mind about that: In a culture where all of us are so conditioned to think that thin is always good (and thinner is always better), it's hard to go against the stream. We parents of anorexics are shoved right up against this cognitive dissonance when we re-feed our ill children. It took the gut-wrenching experience of watching my child nearly starve herself to death to open my eyes and change my reflexive thin=good, fat=bad mentality. But Kitty's friend, who is still in high school, is a much quicker study than I am. She's learned from Kitty's nightmare and is already applying the lesson in her own life.

Her insight and perspective give me hope that although change seems to come slowly, it does come, one heart and mind at a time.