Saturday, February 23, 2008

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week . . .

. . . which starts tomorrow, why not treat yourself to one of Carrie Arnold's "Fork You, Eddie!" necklaces?

All profits go to the National Eating Disorders Association.

C'mon. You know you want to tell good ol' ED to fork off. Here's your chance to do it in style.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Now this is scary

I get a lot of e-newsletters these days from folks who work in the eating disorders field. And I like seeing what "the field" is up to.

The one that arrived in my mailbox yesterday, though, is so egregious that I must share, because I think it typifies so much of what's wrong with the way we think about food and eating these days.

First off, the newsletter came with a title that suggests that its goal is to empower parents to help heal eating disorders. Naturally that got my attention. It opens with a couple of abstracts of recent studies on eating disorders. That part was good. Then there's a plug for the writer's new book. Fair enough. All of us authors do that stuff.

But then--now remember this is all going out under the aegis of eating disorders--there's a list of "10 Healthy Eating Tips for Your Child." And here's where things get ugly.

1. Encourage your child to drink water. Lots of it. Drinking water is essential to losing weight as it keeps the metabolism healthy and functional. Plus, lots of kids feel the urge to eat when, in fact, they are not experiencing hunger, but thirst. Are you aware that drinking soda pop leeches the calcium from your child’s bones? Water is undoubtedly the better way to go!

Note the assumption* here: That "healthy eating" involves losing weight. For a child. Children should never be put on diets and should rarely if ever be encouraged to lose weight. This woman knows nothing about healthy eating. Or feeding children.

Plus, drinking lots and lots of water to feel full is a classic eating disorder strategy. I thought we were trying to heal eating disorders here, not cause them.

2. Is your child not crazy about drinking water? Why not stir in small spoonfuls of his or her favorite jam? Or squeeze in a bit of lemon with honey and you have made lemonade. You can make it festive with a mint leaf tucked on the side of the glass.

Have you ever known a child who wanted to drink water with a little bit of jam in it? Again, this is a strategy designed to fool the child into feeling like s/he has actually eaten something with calories in it. A big no-no in my book. You can't fool Mother Nature and you sure as hell can't fool the body.

I could go on here, people, but you get the idea.

* And you remember what Felix Unger said about assumptions: They make an ASS out of U and ME.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Now THIS is fat activism

If you haven't heard about Kimberly Brittingham's in-your-face (literally) fativism project in New York City, check it out here. I love this woman's chutzpah! She created a fake book cover for a book called Fat Is Contagious: How Sitting Next to a Fat Person Can Make YOU Fat. Then she took her book on the New York City buses, opened it, and observed what happened. Which was, of course, both hilarious, poignant, and ultimately heartwarming. Take a look for yourself.

I'd love to hear about other fativism projects like this. Remember the Guerilla Grrls, anyone?

The Bobaraba

That's a dance craze sweeping the Ivory Coast, and a tribute to the natural shape of many African women.

Ironically, the craze has spawned something of a black market in injections and creams designed to, um, increase the size of your bobaraba.

Which just goes to show that the U.S. has no corner on the personal transformation fantasy. Still, you've gotta love a dance that celebrates the tush.

Monday, February 18, 2008


This month we celebrated Kitty's birthday. She was bummed because she got a lot of homework on the actual day, but she handled it well. We had one of her favorite dinners--takeout Indian, because our kitchen is in the midst of a renovation project and we have no kitchen sink, which makes washing up difficult. We had ice cream cake for dessert, by her request, and opened presents.

I couldn't help thinking back to her birthday two years ago, when we were in the midst of re-feeding. And that led me to thinking about where we would be today if we hadn't done what we did, if we'd followed a more conventional treatment plan for Kitty's anorexia. Would she be happy and healthy and as fully recovered as she is now? Would she be in a hospital or residential care program somewhere? Would she be at home, struggling and tormented as she was when she was ill? What would her life be like? What would our family's lives be like?

I looked at her younger sister, Lulu, her face shining with vicarious pleasure at the celebration (and also digging that cake). I looked at my husband, saw the lines at his eyes, the kind of lines that come from both laughing and crying. I looked into the mirrror and saw my own gray hairs, the new lines etched in my face.

And I smiled. I smiled into the mirror, and then I went back into the dining room and smiled at my family. At my beloved, imperfect family. We make lots of mistakes. We mess up. We say the wrong things. But at the end of the day we love one another. We fight for one another. We are stubborn and stupid and persistent as hell.

And our daughter is well.

Happy birthday, Kitty.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cognitive dissonance

In response to another post, twistie wrote this about a Thanksgiving meal with her family:

I wanted to cry and my stomach rebelled at the cognitive dissonance.

The meal in question was one of those faux dieting meals--you know the kind, I'm sure. Where the "mashed potatoes" were really pureed cauliflower. Where the "lasagna" was really zucchini cooked in butter.

II can't count the number of faux dieting meals I've eaten in my life. I still remember some of those old Weight Watchers recipes, like the one for bread pudding that consisted of cottage cheese, almond extract, cinnamon mixed with Sweet 'N Low, and "lite" bread, mushed into, well, mush. You get the idea. It gives me the willies just thinking about it.**

At some point I simply could not eat another one of those meals. Could not. It's not because I'm such a gourmand that I couldn't bring myself to eat fake food. It's because, as twistie says, of the cognitive dissonance.

Lovely concept, cognitive dissonance. It refers to the mind-blowing distance between what is and what should be. In this case, food should be substantive. It should have enough calories to make you feel satisfied. It should taste good. It should look appealing. Faux diet meals do none of the above. Hence, they trip you right into cognitive dissonance.

So now I have an intelligent-sounding answer to offer the next time I am sitting at a potluck table and neighbors start whipping out the Weight Watchers "brownies," made with applesauce, cocoa powder, and aspartame: "No thanks, I'm allergic to the cognitive dissonance."

**If you're a veteran of 1970s and 80s WW and haven't seen Wendy McClure's hilarious take on those recipes, you are missing the laugh of a lifetime. Check it out.