Here I am in beautiful San Diego at the NEDA conference. It's my first time at something like this and I'm not sure what to expect. So far . . . well, it's a mixed bag.
Yesterday afternoon I was lucky enough to have lunch on the UC-San Diego campus with Dr. Walter Kaye and his talented team. Their 5-day Intensive family outpatient program for treating anorexia and bulimia sounds fab to me. (Check it out at http://eatingdisorders.ucsd.edu/IFT.html.) If the program had been around when my daughter was diagnosed with anorexia, I think we would have been here in a heartbeat. And I think it would have been a life saver. Literally.
Back at NEDA, pretty much the first thing I did was wander the hall of goodies, where the folks who treat e.d.s set up booths and put out their marketing info. It was all very slick and very disheartening. I walked around asking people what their treatment philosophy was. Half of them didn't understand the question. Many reassured me that they had "all kinds of treatments." Horses seemed to figure prominently, at least in the literature, along with "groups getting at the psychosocial dynamics of anorexia" and so on. When I asked what kind of evidence-based treatments they offered, most looked blank. When I asked how or whether they included families in treatment, a few sounded intelligent, but most, once more, looked blank.
Then again, we're dealing with an area where the American Psychological Association itself still lists
"dysfunctional families or relationships" as one cause of anorexia, and describes the anorexics as "refusing to eat." Tsk tsk, APA; you're sadly out of date. If you knew one thing about anorexia you would know that it's not a refusal to eat; it's an inability to. And you'd also know that PARENTS DO NOT CAUSE EATING DISORDERS. (Read the APA's ill-informed e.d. page at http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=9.)
The worst of the hall were the booths sponsoed by the big guns in e.d. treatment: Renfrew, Rader, Remuda. There were lots of slick little products to take home, ranging from staplers to, I kid you not, Zen sand gardens. What does all this have to do with treatment? You have to be cynical here and remember that there's very big money attached to the treatment of e.d.s. I would have far preferred an outcome study for parents to take away over a cutesy little mirror with an affirmation on the back. Please.
The keynote speech last night started out well, with a report from Lynn Grefe, the president of NEDA. Next up was a young editor from CosmoGirl whose main purpose seemed to be to convince us of how well-meaning that magazine is about presenting positive body images to young women. It sounded like one big advertisement for CosmoGirl. Somewhere in there she referred earnestly to an article they'd run called "Fat and Thin," and flashed a visual from the magazine on the screen. There it was: a headless fattie, next to a headless waif, followed by more earnest talk about how obesity is an eating disorder, too.
I wanted to stand up and say, "That's like saying thinness is an eating disorder, honey. It's not how much you weigh; it's your relationship with food and eating." But it is, after all, my first NEDA conference, and I was feeling a little shy.
More from NEDA later today.