Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The time has come, the walrus said . . .

Dear readers, I have loved creating and keeping up this blog. But all good things come to an end. This one truly came to an end about a year ago, but I am only now getting around to making it official. I will no longer be posting here, but I will leave up the archived posts, in the hope that they might help or be of interest. I'll be blogging again someday, I'm sure. But for now, find me on Twitter or Facebook, and stay well. Yours, Harriet

Monday, February 27, 2012

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week . . .

here's a wonderful short video to raise awareness and most of all hope. Because, as NEDA says, everybody knows somebody.

I wish you peace, hope, and recovery from whatever you struggle with.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Last chance!

Tomorrow is the last day to get the conference room rate for the one-day conference on child and adolescent eating disorders in Pearl River, NY, sponsored by Maudsley Parents. This fabulous one-day conference features some of the top experts in the field talking about how to recognize and treat eating disorders in children and teens:

• Debra Katzman, MD, will talk about where we stand with child and adolescent eating disorders
• Rebecka Peebles, MD, will talk about the medical side of treating child and teen EDs
• Katharine Loeb, MD, will talk about early interventions--what, why, and how
• Daniel le Grange will talk about working with families from both a therapist and parent perspective
• Evelyn Attia will talk about whether there's a role for medication in treating children and teens with EDs

This is going to be a truly remarkable conference, and I hope you can join me and my co-chair at Maudsley Parents, Jane Cawley on Friday, February 17, at the beautiful Hilton Pearl River hotel.

See you there!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What do YOU stand for?

Deepest thanks to the fabulous Marilyn Wann, who created the "I Stand for" project in response to Georgia's shameful Strong4Life campaign. I'm proud to be one of the many, many people who stand for something besides weight bigotry, shame, and stigma.

You can see the whole series on Marilyn's tumbler and facebook pages. They're a pretty inspiring bunch. If you'd like to participate, send your photo and "I Stand for" statement to Marilyn at marilyn@fatso.com.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This makes the Georgia campaign even more manipulative

According to a story today in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the heavy children shown in the state of Georgia's shaming, shameful Strong4Life campaign are child actors hired to pretend they have hypertension, no friends, and other negative qualities the ads associate with childhood obesity.

Because . . . they couldn't find any fat children with those conditions who were willing to model for their ads?

Maybe. Maybe not. Here I was worrying about how starring in an ad like this would affect a child like "Jaden" or "Maritza." It turns out there is no "Maritza," or rather, "Maritza" is actually a healthy 11-year-old girl named Chloe who does not have hypertension, or any major health issues.

So it turns out that not only is this so-called public health campaign manipulative and shaming, it's also a big lie. A big FAT lie.

Stop lying, Georgia. Really.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dear "Starving Secrets"

Editor's note: Today's guest post comes from 15-year-old Bridgette T. I'm impressed with this young woman's articulateness and determination and I think you will be too. And if you're not sure you agree with her, I suggest you google the show and click on "images."


Dear Starving Secrets,
I am a fifteen year old girl recovering from anorexia. This is currently my tenth week in an outpatient program. I began treatment in the program after my initial evaluation there resulted in me being sent to the hospital. I was in the hospital for sixteen days, though I never restricted during any meals except for my first one. I had to drink at least one Ensure every night, as my heart rate dipped into the 20s when I was asleep.

I’m not asking to be on your show. I’m asking you to reconsider it.

The title was the first thing that shocked me: Starving Secrets? Really? They’re making a pro-ana show?! Huh…that’s going to be pretty hard to stay away from…

Then I saw a commercial for it: What in the world? People with anorexia are being documented? If I were just a normal person and I found out that there was a show about people who were anorexic, and all I knew about anorexia was that it made you skinny-of course I would watch the show, to learn how they do it! How do they drop that much weight? I understand that the show also shows the negatives of eating disorders, but I don’t think kids are really going to take that into account. A big thing with eating disorders is the whole “It couldn’t happen to me” thing. At treatment, people are told that by not eating they are risking going to the hospital. Half of us already have gone to the hospital. Though vitals are tanking and we know that people have died from this disease, it doesn’t make people eat. Because you simply don’t believe it could happen to you, that you could be that girl whose funeral is on the local news because she starved herself to death.

Though this show may help inform some people, it’s also going to trigger many. Is it really worth the risk?


Friday, January 06, 2012

What's wrong with Georgia's childhood obesity campaign

My Aunt Selma was a fat teenager. Like most fat kids, she was deeply ashamed of her body. She tried many times to lose weight, and eventually hit on two strategies: cigarettes and bulimia. She died in excruciating pain, in large part from the abuse she’d heaped on her body for many years. But she died—and lived—thin.

I think about Selma every time I hear about yet another new initiative to fight childhood obesity. The latest is Georgia’s “Strong 4 Life” campaign, which features black-and-white images and video clips of children talking about being fat. Several of the kids say they don’t like to go to school because they get picked on. One asks his mother dramatically, “Mom, why am I fat?”

The answer is implicit in the advice found on the campaign’s website: Eat less junk food and more fresh fruits and vegetables. Be physically active. Limit screen time. All great ideas, except that doing these things won’t necessarily make kids thinner. Over the last decade, dozens of school programs have used nutrition education, junk food bans, and farm-to-school projects to try to slim schoolkids. None have worked. They’re positive programs that support kids’ health. But they’re considered failures because they don’t reduce weight.

Like virtually every other effort to combat childhood obesity, the Georgia campaign suggests that obese kids and adults can get thin by making moderate lifestyle changes, a fact not borne out by research or experience. Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University, has demonstrated over and over how biology makes maintaining weight loss difficult to impossible for most people.

And like most such efforts, the Georgia campaign fails to take into account the connection between obesity and stress—specifically, the stress of being stigmatized over weight. When Jaden tells the camera he likes to play video games alone because other kids pick on him, the screen reads, “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.” The implication is clear: The problem is with Jaden. It is his fat, and the fact that he is fat, that make the other kids taunt him. The ad follows up with a taunt of its own: “Stop sugarcoating it, Georgia.”

Peter Muennig, M.D., of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, researches the connections between weight and health. He believes stigma and weight bias are responsible for at least some, and possibly most, of the adverse health effects associated with obesity. In other words, it may not be weight itself that makes people sick, but rather the stress of being fat in a fatphobic society. Kortni Jones, a physician’s assistant in Michigan, looked at the relationship between weight stigma and health care in her master’s thesis, and found that messages of overt stigmatization from health-care providers translate to worse health care for people who are obese. Rebecca Puhl of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has come to similar conclusions after doing a series of studies on how stigma affects obesity.

Clearly, shaming people about weight is not an effective public health strategy. So why are we still doing it? Why, for instance, is there nothing on the Georgia campaign website about educating kids not to tease each other over weight? Why do people who would never dream of telling a joke about blacks or Jews tell fat jokes without flinching?

Efforts like this one emphasize the idea that weight loss is a matter of personal responsibility, and they demonize fat children and teens in the name of helping them. How do kids feel when they see kids who look like them being targeted as not OK? They already know it’s bad to be fat; in one recent study, children as young as three showed a strong preference for thinness over fat, and made comments like “I hate her because she has a fat stomach” and “She’s fat and ugly.”

I have a better idea for a public health campaign, one that’s supported by research and experience. Let’s take the best ideas from campaigns like this one and frame them around health instead of weight. Instead of trying to make fat kids thin, the goal would be making all kids healthier.

We don’t fully understand why some people become obese and others don’t. But we do know that all of us, no matter how old, no matter how fat, benefit from eating well and getting exercise. We know that friends are good for our health and that bullying hurts the bully as well as the victim. We know that shame drives people like my Aunt Selma to self-destructive behaviors. In my campaign, the word obesity would never be mentioned. But the words health, respect, and compassion would be on every page.