Saturday, April 07, 2007

Of pregnancy and fat phobia

Another post from Sandy Szwarc highlights the peculiar and dare I say twisted mentality that comes from living in a culture that's fat phobic in the extreme. Szwarc's talking about the latest media anti-fat media blitz, this one focused on the relationship between weight gained in pregnancy and overweight toddlers. Specifically, according to the study's authors, women who gain even the accepted amount of weight during pregnancy run four times the risk of having a child who's overweight at age 3.

Scary, huh? Apparently much scarier than another finding buried in the study, which received neither headlines nor any media attention: the fact that women who didn't gain enough weight during pregnancy had double the risk of having a baby with intrauterine growth retardation. According to Szwarc, Babies with IUGR are at vastly higher risks of stillbirth and serious medical problems during infancy if they do survive.

This reminds me of the recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that being underweight or of "normal" weight (and let's not even go there for now) correlated with higher rates of mortality than being overweight. (Thanks to Paul Campos for writing about this!) This unpopular finding has been scrutinized and rationalized to death, because apparently it's unbelievable that having nutritional reserves (i.e., being fat) could possibly confer any health benefits.

This, in turn, reminds me of the way doctors and therapists who treat eating disorders sometimes fall inadvertently into the language and perspective of those eating disorders. How people with anorexia can walk around at weights that are dangerous, yet no one notices because we've been so conditioned to think that thin = healthy and good.

Apparently we live in a culture where death is preferable to being fat. Even for babies. Even for toddlers.

Some years ago I dealt with this in my own life, after a severe depression sent me into a tailspin (what would have no doubt been called a nervous breakdown 60 years ago). Antidepressants lifted the fog and gave me my life back. They also, over a period of 5 years, led to a 50-pound weight gain. To me it was no contest: I'd rather be sane and happy and fat than thinner and miserable.

I wonder how many people would agree with me?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Big O

A quick post this morning because I couldn't resist linking to the blog of Sandy Szwarc, whose smart, thought-provoking blog I love. Recently she wrote about the so-called obesity "epidemic" in a way that had me cheering from the sidelines.

This follows on the heels of my pulling my sixth-grader out of her required "wellness" class, at least for the nutrition and "obesity" parts of the class. Because isn't it a great idea to take a bunch of impressionable 6th-graders and brainwash them into thinking that the only healthy food out there is a carrot stick or salad (hold the dressing!)? Given the fact that most eating disorders start between 11 and 17, this seems like a bad idea to me, especially the way such things are taught. But don't take my word for it--read Sandy Szwarc's blog. Great stuff.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mental health parity

Here in Wisconsin, we don't have mental health parity, a fact I often moan about. If only we had it, I often thought during my daughter's recovery, we would be able to get the treatment we need for anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders.

Parents in New Jersey, where there is mental health parity, found that insurers still discriminated against e.d. treatment, denying and disqualifying it in the face of medical advice. Dawn Beye is one parent who got sick and tired of waiting for her insurer to do the right thing and cover her daughter's treatment; she and other parents filed a class action lawsuit to have anorexia classified as a "biologically based illness." Apparently insurers in New Jersey differentiate between biologically based mental illnesses (depression, etc) and non-biologically based mental illnesses.

I guess they think anorexia is all in our heads. They ought to read NAMI's stance on this, not to mention the opinions of many other clinicians and professionals. But then we all know that health insurers know more than doctors when it comes treatment protocols and appropriateness. Right?

When I rule the world, we'll have national health insurance (which goes without saying). And that national health will cover evidence-based treatment for eating disorders, plus support families using the Maudsley method and other approaches yet to be discovered for helping their children recover from e.d.s.

Beye's daughter is still in-patient after 10 months. Beye and her husband still don't know how they're going to pay for her treatment. They could wind up owing several hundred thousand dollars if Aetna doesn't do the right thing and cover the IP treatment.

As my grandmother would have said, it's a shanda. And if you don't know what that means, look it up in Leo Rosten.