Friday, April 13, 2007

The Missing Link

In the lexicon of sensationalized news stories, there are none quite as poignant as stories like this headline from the Times of London: "15st boy is taken from grandparents who lost their daughter to anorexia."

The story goes on to describe, in horrified tones, how a 10-year-old Spanish boy was removed from his grandparents' custody after they overfed him until he reached 200 pounds. The story goes on, predictably, to quote experts familiar with the case as well as those who were not about the dangers of obesity, how obesity is on the rise, etc. etc.

Buried up near the front of the piece is a crucial nugget of information, mentioned once and never referred to again. The grandparents had custody in the first place because the boy's mother had died of anorexia.

It's tragic that no one quoted in this story (and for all I know, in the boy's life) has made the connection between his mother's death from anorexia, his grandparents' feeding behavior, and his own eating. Imagine watching your daughter or your mother starve herself to death. Imagine the grief, the guilt, the disbelief and lack of understanding. Of course that has an effect on everyone's relationship to food.

Authorities took the boy away from his grandparents and put him on a diet. They report that he has now lost more than 20kg and that they'd like to return him to his grandparents' custody. The story goes on: "But they say the grandparent remain “in denial” that their feeding habits are a problem – health officials said that they even tried to smuggle chocolate biscuits to him during their weekly visits. “The problem is that the grandparents still don’t understand that they were harming the lad and seriously placing his life and future at risk,” Ms Fern├índez said."

What will it take for us to look at the relationship with food and eating as a whole package and not isolated bits of pathology? My heart goes out to this boy and his grandparents.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Listen to Mr. Wrong

Yesterday I was interviewed by Deborah Harper of Psychjourney about MR. WRONG: REAL-LIFE STORIES ABOUT THE MEN WE USED TO LOVE. She was one of the most thoughtful interviewers I've come across, and I'm pleased with how it turned out.

So just in case you're interested, I'm going to try to post the link to the interview here. You can always email me and I'll send you the MP3 file if this doesn't work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

To Diet or Not to Diet?

Just in case you were wondering, the answer is pretty clear: Diets don't work. But then we all know this already, don't we?

Part of my daughter's recovery from anorexia has been to reconnect with her own feelings of hunger and fullness. For a long while she never felt hungry--or at least, she never felt a physical sensation she could identify as hunger. I think she was very hungry underneath the anorexic mind that temporarily took over hers. The most emotional moment of her recovery was the day she called me at work to say, "Mom, I'm hungry!"

I've never been anorexic. But I, too, had to learn to feel hunger again after years of training myself not to. I had to experience the scary feeling of being hungry and reassure myself that I would eat, that I would feed myself--and that I would stop eating when I wasn't hungry anymore.

I grew up dieting and binging. That's what we Jersey girls did in the 1960s and 70s, especially if our mothers lectured here. And while I never unearthed a treasure like this one, I did effectively divorce myself from every feeling having to do with food.

Too bad I couldn't divorce myself from the self-loathing that dieting--and falling off the diet--regularly imposed.

Whichever end of the spectrum you approach it from, dieting looks pretty lame. It's a multi-billion-dollar industry, and that's why it still has street cred, despite the crummy statistics around its efficacy--only 2% of dieters keep their weight off, according to the UCLA researchers.

I feel the same about dieting as I do about using illegal drugs: I sure wish I hadn't done that when I was young and naive and ill-informed.

So those of you who might be on the fence about it: Just say no.