Friday, December 22, 2006

Hand-On Parenting Gets a Rave

This morning's story in the New York Times titled "Parenting as Therapy for Child's Mental Disorders" is yet another acknowledgment by both the media and the medical community that sometimes parents can make all the difference for their children.

The article references how kids with ADD and other types of mental health issues often respond well to parents' efforts to modify their interactions with the world through changing their behavior. Writer Benedict Carey quotes one parent as saying, “If you are willing to take on the responsibility of extra parenting, you can make a big difference.”

This will sound familiar to anyone who's used the Maudsley approach to refeeding an anorexic. Kids with ADD often are prescribed Ritalin or other stimulants to "fix" their behavior; there's no such magic pill for anorexia. Maybe it's a good thing.

Just one more reason for parents to follow their instincts when it comes to what their children need.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Our Bodies, Our Ideas of Our Bodies

I was fascinated to read in Women's Wear Daily that fashionistas are now having some models' photos retouched to make them look heavier. In the wake of the Madrid revolt, where models with BMIs under 18 were not allowed to walk the runway, this seems like more of a good thing. And I definitely applaud the demystification of anorexia chic.

There's certainly nothing chic about anorexia, as I have reason to know all too well.

Still, I can't help feeling like this misses the point on a number of levels. If these models are so thin that readers of Allure don't want to look at them, then they need food and professional help, not an airbrushed photo. The problem isn't in our perception--it's in their realities.

The current politically correct (and highly ironic) focus on too-thin models is just one more manifestation of our compulsion to make our bodies conform to a culturally defined weight, look, shape, or style. That, right there, is the problem--and it isn't going to be fixed with an airbrush, any more than it's going to be fixed with the next great diet or exercise regime.

The human body comes with a marvelous ability to regulate its own appetites. Then we muck it all up with our ideas of what it should look like.

In the ideal world, all kids would be raised to eat when they're hungry and stop eating when they're not hungry, just as wise woman and nutritionist Ellyn Satter writes in her books. We would learn from an early age to value our connection with our hunger and feelings of fullness.

Though we don't, alas, live in the ideal world, we can still nurture our own interior connection with our bodies, our hunger, and ourselves. We can begin to accept the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, that while one person might be healthy at size 4, another might be just fine at size 16. We can learn to value health over faddish or slavish notions of appearance.

I'll lift a fork to that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

And another Leaden Fork award goes to . . .

economist Susan Lee, whose December 4 commentary on public radio's Marketplace show began like this: "How much you weighed used to be a private matter. If you wanted to look like a tub of lard, that was pretty much your business. But now fat is a public issue."

And included this line later on: "Why else would people be willing to pay extra to make sure that no kid looks like a tub of lard?"

Tub of lard? Is this how we really want to describe a child or adult who's overweight? Since when does this level of judgment belong in an economist's commentary on public radio?

I haven't heard anyone use that kind of language since 7th grade. Maybe 6th. Susan, in case you aren't aware of this, words are powerful. There's no call for that kind of demeaning, demoralizing, judgmental language from anyone in the media.

Read Lee's whole commentary here. Then tell the folks at Marketplace what you think of her choice of words here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Leaden Fork Award

When our family started dealing with anorexia, one of the first things that happened was that we became highly sensitized to questions of weight and body image. And folks, once you tune in to what people are saying--about their own weight and bodies, about yours, about other people's--you'll be astonished and appalled.

The media, of course, is a huge offender. Several exposures recently have inspired me to highlight some of the most egregious offenders with a special Leaden Fork Award (kinda the opposite of Laura Collins' Golden Fork--for more on Laura Collins see her fabulous site).

My first Leaden Fork Award goes to the well-intentioned but way-off-base folks at braincake, a site meant to be all about empowering girls. (Thanks to Gale Petersen for bringing this to my attention.) The flash intro to their site shows the words "If I could change the world," and follows it with various wishes, apparently in the words of girls themselves. One of those wishes is: "If I could change the world, I'd . . . reengineer chocolate to have negative calorie. The more I ate, the skinnier I'd get!"

Congratulations, braincake! Your Leaden Fork award is well-deserved for the way you've bought in to the myth that when it comes to girls, thinner is always better. You've trivialized girls' dreams and wishes. And you've blithely ignored the very real and very destructive problem of eating disorders.

Want to be part of changing the world? Send the misguided folks at braincake an e-mail and tell them you want them to change their intro, pronto. The address is Tell 'em I sent you.

Got any candidates for the Leaden Fork award? Send them my way at