Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book tour!

The last few weeks have seen a lot of action on the book tour front. I'll be traveling quite a bit to readings, events, and conferences to talk about Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia.

I thought I'd post an up-to-the-minute calendar of where I'm scheduled to be so far, with more to come. You can also look for my schedule here. If you come to a reading, please introduce yourself! I look forward to meeting some of you while I'm on the road.

8/24: Appearance on Good Morning America, 7 a.m.?
8/25: Reading at Sheppard Pratt Center for Eating Disorders, Baltimore, 7-9 p.m. in the conference center
9/20 The Book House, Albany, NY, 7 p.m.
8/26: Appearance on the Diane Rehm Show, 10 a.m.-noon
9/24: Presentation/book talk, Lake Forest College, 10 a.m., Lake Forest, IL
10/1: Reading/book talk, University of Wisconsin, Room 1244, Health Science Learning Center, noon
10/2: Reading/book talk, Wisconsin Book Festival, 10 a.m., A Room of One's Own Bookstore, Madison, WI
10/4: Reading/book talk, Moline Public Library, 10 a.m. (subject to change in location)
10/4: Talk/reading, Quad Cities Eating Disorder Consortium training for therapists, 3 p.m., Moline, IL
10/10: Presentation with Dr. Walter Kaye, National Eating Disorders Association annual conference, 3 p.m., Brooklyn, NY
1/21: Presentation/book talk, Maudsley Parents conference, University of California San Diego, 11:30 a.m., San Diego, CA

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Poor Dr. Lundberg

Apparently Dr. George Lundberg is a little upset because back in 2004, he put forth his ingenious stop-obesity plan and it didn't work. And it didn't work, he tells us, because fat people just didn't listen to his plan, which is really simple and practical when you think about it. It consists of two words:

Stop eating.

Dr. Lundberg goes on to clarify what he means:

I did not say fast; I did not say starve. I said Stop Eating too much; stop eating high calorie snacks between meals, stop eating everything on your plate; stop eating such large portions; stop eating desserts; stop routinely eating bread and butter; stop eating three full meals a day when two are enough; stop eating fats and refined carbohydrates when you can eat fresh fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

And while you are at it, STOP DRINKING alcohol and sugary drinks.

I wonder if Dr. Lundberg understands anything at all about metabolism. If he did, I suspect he would not so angrily and aggressively put forth his diet plan--because that's what it is, a diet plan, one built on restriction. He would know that dieting, restricting, whatever you want to call it, ultimately makes people fatter, not thinner. He would show more sensitivity to the link between dieting (or restricting, etc.) and eating disorders. And I hope he would not so blithely recommend gastric "interventions," as he writes a few paragraphs farther down, which not only are often unsuccessful but which carry relatively high risks of death, infection, malnutrition, blood clots, and other consequences.

He writes rather plaintively, toward the end of his editorial, "A lot of obese people got really angry at me for hurting their feelings. But I don't really care that much, as long as we did get some people to adjust their eating and drinking behavior. STOP EATING and DRINKING EXCESSIVELY and STAY HEALTHY."

Tell me, Dr. Lundberg, what is "excessively"? To me it sounds like you think three meals a day is excessive. You think any amount of dessert is excessive. You think any amount of fats or refined carbohydrates is excessive.

Whereas actually, I think you're the excessive one. Your rules, restrictions, and most of all your rigidity and, yes, rage--what do these remind me of? Oh, yes, I remember. They remind me of the rigidity, rules, and rage of an eating disorder. You know, a lot of people think there's nothing wrong with having a little eating disorder, as long as you're not fat.

Those of us who have seen or experienced an eating disorder up close feel rather differently about that, of course. And I'll tell you what I think, Dr. Lundberg: I think you should confine your judgmentalism to yourself. You are free to eat and drink (or not eat and not drink) to your heart's content. You are free to manipulate your weight as much as you want.

And you're free to say whatever you want, of course, just as I am. But I hope to God, Dr. Lundberg, that you might educate yourself a little more before you spout off next time about obesity. I hope you'll talk to some people who know a little more than you about eating disorders and metabolism and all that complicated science-y stuff. I hope you'll talk to some families with children with eating disorders, and listen to them say their daughters and sons developed those eating disorders after middle school wellness classes that scared the crap out of them around being fat.

Until then, I hope you're not a practicing doctor anymore. I would hate to think of anyone I care about experiencing your judgmentalism, rigidity, and rage.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Guest post

Thanks to Amy L. Cambell for letting me write a guest post on her blog, A Librarian's Life in Books.

Campbell asked me to talk about why I wrote the book Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia. I'm glad to have the chance to articulate it, to you as well as to myself.

Hop on over and visit Campbell's blog if you have a chance--I love supporting people who love books!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


When it comes to talking about eating disorders, there's no end to the distortions that often get trumpeted as "new." If you've had a loved one suffer with an eating disorder you know what I'm talking about. One of the things I teach my magazine journalism students is the fine art of taking a press release and turning it into a compelling and accurate piece of journalism. It's the toughest lesson we do all semester, which is no reflection on them. I think it's a challenging task to pull off, and very few news or public relations entities do it well.

To wit: This story from PR Newswire, whose headline trumpets "Mommy Not Always Dearest During Treatment for Eating Disorders." If you read only the headline and the first paragraph or two you'd come away with the idea that mothers were devastating, damaging, and destructive factors in their daughters' recovery from an eating disorder.

If you can force yourself past those first paragraphs, you'll be able to intuit a slightly more nuanced story. The family therapist quoted in the story, Catherine Weigel Foy, makes comments like "The mother-daughter relationship can be a complicated one." Um, yep. There's nothing particularly ground-breaking or earth-shattering in that statement. She goes on to say, "A mother's love begins before a child is born, and can create an unrealistic expectation that the connection between mothers and daughters will be as strong and free from limitations in adulthood as it was in early infancy."

I'll buy that, too, though perhaps I'm a bit more optimistic than Weigel Foy about the potential for good relationships between mothers and daughters.

Read down another paragraph or two and you find this:

Weigel Foy endorses an introspective look at this unique relationship and believes temporary distance from family members allows many adolescent and teenage girls to feel safe exploring the mother-daughter relationship in ways they haven't been able to during prior treatment for anorexia or bulimia. Weigel Foy and her colleagues at XX XX Residential Treatment Center work together to foster a nurturing environment that helps teen girls gain a realistic view of their relationship with their mothers. In turn, the girl and her mother are better equipped to support each other on their path to recovery.

Aha. Here, ladies and gentlemen, if we are attentive readers, the light bulb goes off. We understand that the piece we're reading isn't journalism at all but PR on behalf of XX XX Residential Treatment Center (I've deleted its name because I don't want to give it more publicity). Weigel Foy may be a good therapist or she may not; we really can't tell from this paraphrasing of her work in the service of publicity.

But certainly, the average reader will come away from the headline and opening paragraphs thinking, "Wow, this doctor thinks mothers are responsible for their daughters' eating disorder and/or get in the way during recovery."

Later in the piece, the writer concludes, "Through residential treatment and therapy this relationship can be explored and these young girls can come to better understand its affect on their diseases – and in turn help build a foundation for lifelong recovery." The mother-daughter relationship is being offered up as a reason to send your child to residential treatment.

Here I must point out that not only is there no evidence whatsoever that the mother-daughter relationship plays a causal or continuing role in eating disorders, but there is also no evidence whatsoever that exploring this relationship helps anyone get over an eating disorder. To the contrary: The most effective treatment for adolescent eating disorders is family-based treatment, which enlists the support of the family--mothers included--to help teens and young adults recover. And when I say "the most effective treatment," I am referring to real studies with real results, not one therapist's opinion (no matter how good she may be).

This kind of media deconstruction is important for everyone these days, as we're bombarded by information. But it seems to be especially imperative in the murky, vague, profit-seeking world of eating disorders treatment. Caveat emptor.