Saturday, August 04, 2007

Leptin babies, redux

Now the New York Times has taken up the idea of lacing baby formula with leptin to create children who are permanently unable to become fat.

I posted about this back in May, when the research on this first appeared. And I haven't changed my mind. Haven't we done enough damage by our relentless pursuit of thinness? Do we really think creating a generation of children whose bodies are permanently and deliberately made inefficient is a step forward? What if those children should find themselves in a situation where they need some nutritional reserves? What if they develop anorexia? Imagine the hell of trying to re-feed a child who is physically unable to gain weight. And what about when those children grow old, at a time in life when being "overweight" is correlated with having the lowest mortality risks? Maybe thin won't look so hot when it's a life--or death--sentence.

Maybe someday we'll stop confusing aesthetics with health. Yeah, right. And maybe someday I'll be president of the United States.

Another step toward mental health parity

From an e-alert sent out by the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC):

Senate Agrees to Remove Barriers to Mental Health Coverage
Republican senators this morning removed language from the Senate's parity bill that would have made it more difficult for people with eating disorders to get treatment under many health insurance plans. The senators heard from business leaders and insurance companies, who last night decided to strike the preemption section of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S 558). Mental health advocates believed that the preemption clause would weaken the parity bill, leaving it up to state laws to determine whether eating disord would be covered.

"This is a huge step forward," said EDC President Kitty Westin. "It shows that our work is paying off. It appears that the Senate will vote on parity this afternoon before the summer recess begins. If that happens, then mental health parity will probably be on top of the House agenda in early September, when Congress returns."

The EDC has actively supported the House and Senate bills.

What happens next?

The Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives will probably vote in early September on the House parity bill, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act of 2007 (HR 1424).

What can you do?

If you are represented by a member who serves on this committee, call, write, or visit the member in August and explain why you think mental health parity is needed. Most members are spending much of August in their home districts, close to where you work or live.


John D. Dingell (MI), Chairman

Democrats Republicans
Henry A. Waxman, CA Joe Barton, TX, Ranking Member
Edward J. Markey, MA Ralph M. Hall, TX
Rick Boucher, VA J. Dennis Hastert, IL
Edolphus Towns, NY Fred Upton, MI
Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ Cliff Stearns, FL
Bart Gordon, TN Nathan Deal, GA
Bobby L. Rush, IL Ed Whitfield, KY
Anna G. Eshoo, CA Barbara Cubin, WY
Bart Stupak, MI John Shimkus, IL
Eliot L. Engel, NY Heather Wilson, NM
Albert R. Wynn, MD John Shadegg, AZ
Gene Green, TX Charles W. "Chip" Pickering, MS
Diana DeGette, CO, Vice Chair Vito Fossella, NY
Lois Capps, CA Steve Buyer, IN
Mike Doyle, PA George Radanovich, CA
Jane Harman, CA Joseph R. Pitts, PA
Tom Allen, ME Mary Bono, CA
Jan Schakowsky, IL Greg Walden, OR
Hilda L. Solis, CA Lee Terry, NE
Charles A. Gonzalez, TX Mike Ferguson, NJ
Jay Inslee, WA Mike Rogers, MI
Tammy Baldwin, WI Sue Myrick, NC
Mike Ross, AR John Sullivan, OK
Darlene Hooley, OR Tim Murphy, PA
Anthony D. Weiner, NY Michael C. Burgess, TX
Jim Matheson, UT Marsha Blackburn, TN
G. K. Butterfield, NC
Charlie Melancon, LA
John Barrow, GA
Baron P. Hill, IN

Friday, August 03, 2007

No, it's bad news

A couple of days ago I posted about a new study out of Finland showing that anorexia is both--as the media are reporting it--"more common and more transient than previously believed." It took me a few days, but I finally figured out what's bugging me about this: the word transient.

Transient is something that happens for a hour or two and then disappears. Transient is fleeting, momentary, temporary.

Transient is not what happens when the demon of anorexia inhabits someone, body and mind and soul, for three or five or seven years. Transient is not losing most of your adolescence and some of your young adult years to a disease that's like an eclipse of the world-as-you-know-it.

Transient is when they close the street to do construction repairs. Transient is not when the street gets blown up. Even if it gets fixed five years later.

One thing I've learned from Sandy Szwarc is to look behind the rhetoric when it comes to studies and research findings. In this case, it's the interpretation, I suspect, that's bugging me. I don't know if it's the study's authors, or the media reporting it, or both. All I know is that anything that puts a child into hell for longer than an hour or two is not transient. Not at all.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Et tu, Dick Cavett?

My evolution from wannabe-thin-person to fat activist has been a long time coming. And I've lost a fair number of friends along the way, mostly people who for one reason or another could not, cannot accept the fact that people come in all shapes and sizes. Call it fatphobia, call it thin entitlement, call it self-loathing, call it prejudice of the rankest sort. Whatever you call it, it all boils down to judgmentalism.

So I don't know why Dick Cavett's rant in his New York Times blog should feel so especially and particularly mean-spirited and judgmental, but it does. Maybe because I used to like Cavett's TV show. He was witty in a way few other TV hosts were back then. So to have him tell the world now that, 1) it's not OK to be fat, and 2) fat people are "heavily larded folks", and 3) obesity is a "national tragedy," well, it feels like a betrayal.

It's the same feeling you get when you meet one of your favorite writers and he turns out to be an asshat. A nasty asshat who snarls at you, or--and this has happened to me--a sexist asshat who pats you on the head, calls you "doll," and asks for a cup of coffee.

Either way, it's like peeling off the jovial mask and seeing the hard face underneath.

And that's pretty much what Dick Cavett has done. To himself.

Mr. Cavett, you want to see ugly? Take a long, hard look in the mirror. Being thin does not mean being healthy. Being thin doesn't mean being attractive. Especially when such mean-spirited ugliness comes out of a thin person's mouth.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Anorexia: Bad news, good news, bad news

The bad news: A new study from Finland reportedly shows that anorexia is about twice as common as researchers have thought, affecting about 5 percent of the population rather than the 1 to 2 percent incidence rate generally quoted. According to the study's authors, this statistic includes mild and/or subclinical cases not usually counted—people (most of them women) who suffered from "mild symptoms" (the news reports don't say what these are).

The good news: According to this study, about 70 percent of anorexics recover. By contrast, the usual statistics say that about a third of anorexics recover fully, a third remain very ill, and another third stay right on the edge, living a sort of half-life. The mortality rate is 20 percent.

The bad news: That 70 percent of women who recover do it "by age 30," says the study. Given that the average of onset for these women is between 15 and 19, that means they're still sick for many years.

One thing I like about the study is that it describes the arc of recovery in a helpful way: "First, lost weight was regained and menstruation resumed. Attitudes about body shape and weight took a much longer time to resolve. The Finnish study was conducted among pairs of female twins. Twins with anorexia nervosa were compared to their healthy co-twins and to healthy women from the general population. Within five years from weight restoration, women with anorexia nervosa were virtually indistinguishable from their healthy co-twins in terms of psychological symptoms and self-esteem. However, learning to deal with body shape and weight related concerns took usually much longer, 5-10 years."

Still too long. But heartening to know that at least studies on anorexia are starting to funnel down the pipeline.