Thursday, March 01, 2007

Another Lead Fork award goes to . . .

the well-meaning but clueless youth director who recently sent home a flyer to parents in her church describing an upcoming activity for middle-schoolers titled "Hunger Feast!" This activity, which was described as "strongly encouraged," involves middle schoolers going without food for 30 hours in a lock-in at the church to "raise our awareness of hunger in the world and in our midst." The flyer goes on:

"Many of the activities we do during the lock-in focus on food (preparing food for and sharing it with others, doing volunteer tasks in the pantry, etc.); so we feel the ache of knowing that food is available to some, but—for this brief period of time—not to us. Experiences like this deepen our understanding of and increase empathy for the real human suffering that underlies the statistics.

There is, however, another aspect to this time of fasting. Fasting is a spiritual discipline, defined as “the voluntary abstention from an otherwise normal function—most often eating—for the sake of intense spiritual activity”. In addition to our hunger awareness activities, we also experience worship and prayer. It is always touching to observe the tender reactions of youth when they experience worship after having gone without food for a whole day. It is a powerful experience."

My recommendation: If you want your middle schoolers to develop empathy for those who are hungry, educate them--and yourself--about eating disorders. Celebrate food as part of life--a holy part of life, if you will--and have your kids volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen. But for god's sake--and theirs--don't make self-starving holy or exalted.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Today marks the start of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and our family marked the day by taking part in the Virtual Family Dinner sponsored by Maudsley Parents. We sat down to dinner at a friend's house and ate chicken curry, salad, and homemade pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

The food was delicious. Even more delicious was the fact that we all ate, together, and ED was not at our table. Not tonight, anyway, and hardly at all for the last nine months.

Two years ago we were still ignorant about our daughter's anorexia. A year ago we were in the midst of Maudsley treatment. Tonight we ate with the memories of anorexia fresh but beginning to fade, and the hope that next year we will be that much further away from the nightmare.

My deepest wish for all of you, all of us, is that in the years to come we banish ED from all of our dinner tables. That we learn to feed ourselves and one another with joy and love and appreciation for what tastes good as well as for our selves, body and soul and mind and heart.