Monday, March 31, 2008

'Round Here

The EWHAED newsroom (and by newsroom, I mean me, at my computer) has been pretty active lately. Take a look:

From Rachel, over at the f-word:

I'm conducting an anonymous survey of bloggers who blog about eating disorders or eating disorder recovery in partnership with a clinical psychologist for joint research and publication purposes. I know your site attracts readers who have struggled with eating disorders, some of whom also maintain blogs. I'm hoping our survey generates lots of responses so that our findings are well-rounded, inclusive and convincing. Would you mind mentioning this survey on your blog to your readers?

More information and a survey link can be found here.
Also, Leslie, at The Weighting Game informs me she'll be on The Today Show this Wednesday during the 10am hour to discuss the question: "Would you rather be permanently 40 pounds overweight and smart, or skinny and dumb?" This is Leslie's second (recent) visit to Today--recently, she spoke about Spring Break and ED's.

Please support these valued members of the EWHAED community!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Treading Lightly

While I was at the spa, I took a class called, "Tread Sweat," a group exercise class on the treadmills, consisting of speed and incline intervals. While I don't really do any treadmill walking, I decided to walk the class (rather than run) because it was early in the morning, and I thought I'd use it as a warm-up, a segue into more difficult cardio classes.

Boy, was I off.

See, I'm not the most efficient walker in town. I tend to bounce (to the point when when I'm in physical therapy, other therapists take pause with their patients to watch me walk). I'm a bouncing curiosity. When you spend so much time and energy going up and down, there's less of both to propel forward. It's basic biomechanics. So, I'm slow. I'm a (pretty) fast runner, but a really slow walker.

So, here I was on the treadmill, warming up, trying to take the class at my own pace, when the instructor approached me and said, "Pick up the speed!" I told her I'm not really a walker and was using the class to warm-up. She walked away. Phew.

Take two: she approached me again and said (and, to clarify, this all occurred over the microphone): "C'mon, you can pick up the pace!" Having done so since her last visit, I replied, "I'm doing a couple of other classes today. I'm fine." The coast was clear for now.

But, then she came back again, looked at my heartrate (broadcast on the treadmill) and said AGAIN, "Let's pick up the speed!" And, that's when I decided to pick up the (verbal) pace: "That's the third time you've asked me. I'm taking other classes today. Can you not ask me to speed up again?" Thankfully, she didn't return.

It's frustrating this go-all-out mentality, particularly in a population that might not be so accustomed to exercising. She didn't know who I was or what (if any) medical conditions I have, nor how to motivate me to perform. She didn't know that I am confident in my level of cardiovascular conditioning. She didn't know that I have a fitness background, and that I know it's not good instruction to approach someone three times (she had singled me out for some reason, perhaps because my heartrate was lower than it "should" have been) when she's clearly walking to the beat of her own drum.

I had to assert myself. But, how many people would do the same? How many others would feel that they couldn't keep up, that they weren't doing it right, that they really were out of shape, that they should be ashamed for this? How many others would leave the class feeling dejected, like they had failed the task?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fat Camp

Last week, I went to Fat Camp. I didn't know I was at Fat Camp (I thought I was at a spa) until I overheard a woman dining next to meet at lunch say to her companions, "I think of this place as Fat Camp." I gotta hand it to her--she was right.

I'd been to said spa* before and enjoyed the array of exercise options, the spa treatments, the healthy living lectures, and the great rooms, replete with old library collections, roaring fires, and comfy sofas on which to nap or curl up with a good book. My problem was with the food (we'll get to that later), though I will say now that I came prepared with stores of my own.

At FC, the staff encourages a lot of exercise--you finish one cardio class and they're already asking you which class you're taking next. Most people end up doing 3-4 classes a day, if not more. It reminded me of The Biggest Loser, where uber-exercise is combined with a restricted diet--not a good prognosis for long-term success. The classes are fun and varied--I tried spinning and cardio aqua, kickboxing, rebounding, and striptease aerobics. Speaking of previous posts, there were a couple of 14-year-old girls who attended striptease. I know this because I approached one of them and asked, "How old are you?" and she said, "14." The class was fun, and everyone's inner Carmen Electra shone. For the record, no men attended, nor did FC offer a male equivalent.

Now, the food. . . Fat Camp food is actually pretty good, with lots of selections and healthy eating options. They find a way to create unprocessed, balanced meals, heavy in protein, fiber, and complex carbs, and low in fat, sodium, and anything else unnecessary in larger quantities. Still, the food, for the most part, tastes good.

My gripe? The portion sizes. The food is really, really. . . small. If I were there long-term, I'd think that they were slowly starving me to death. Now, the difference between this and real Fat Camp is that you're allowed to ask for seconds, or even thirds (and, you're allowed to bring food into your room, without having it confiscated as contraband). I learned the first time around that often I'd need to order two entrees, along with appetizers and sides. Because when you're exercising as they encourage, you need some extra fuel. . . unless, of course, you're trying to lose weight. . . which wouldn't be hard to do. . . though, you and I both know what would happen when you went back home.

Fat Camp also offers desserts--low calorie, low fat treats that provide that post-meal, sweet-tooth zing. Day one, I ordered a brownie:

Can you see the size of this? I said to my server, "Can I get three more?" I figured that four of these equalled. . . an actual brownie.

On my last day, I sat down to lunch before heading out on the road. The restaurant menu, displayed on a stand outside, beckoned, "Italian-Style Grilled Cheese." Yum!

Here was my grilled cheese (accompanied by a salad):

If you can't tell by the photo, the "Italian-Style Grilled Cheese" would be more aptly described as two tiny slices of Italian bread, served bruschetta style. Each one was easily consumed in two bites. They were small, and I had just played too hard for food that was small.

So, I left wondering, for people who attend these spas, looking for long-term weight-loss success, is this a set-up for disaster? The first time I attended, I hit Carvel in the airport before even getting to my gate. Even if guests return home with their Fat Camp cookbooks in tow, is exercising three hours a day really sustainable? Are they sacrificing long-term success for short-term results?

*I'll try to write about the couple of lectures I attended in forthcoming posts.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More Leg Room?

An advertisement for Continental Airlines' new jets, spotted at a bus stop in New York:

"Do our new planes make us look fat?"

Smart marketing, or another bone to pick?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Inside Beauty

Magali Amadei and Claire Mysko are the founders of Inside Beauty, an educational and outreach program designed to promote health in the fashion and beauty industries. According to their website:

Magali Amadei has appeared on the covers and pages of virtually every fashion magazine in the world. But at the height of her career she was depressed, lonely, and bulimic. She took a break to take care of herself and became the first top model to tell her story on behalf of an eating disorders organization.

Claire Mysko is a writer and an expert on girls' and women's issues. Throughout her teens she starved herself and binged and purged while devouring the picture-perfect fantasies in the pages of magazines. She got help and went on to be the director of the American Anorexia Bulimia Association.
Working together, Amadei and Mysko have developed efforts to target the unhealthy standards and expectations in the modeling world. They have asked those in fashion and beauty to support 5 resolutions designed to transform the current state of affairs.

Just two more women, doing their part. Check out their campaign. . . .

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


A couple of media outlets have contacted me recently to talk about orthorexia, and I'd like you all to weigh in. The term "orthorexia" was coined by Steven Bratman, a physician specializing in alternative medicine, in 1997. Orthorexia is understood to be an unhealthy fixation with eating healthy foods (often accompanied by a righteous, holier-than-thou attitude), to the point where either important nutrients are often omitted (like fat) and/or the person becomes emaciated because quality foods are not available enough. This isn't just healthy eating.

Bratman asks the following questions in order to diagnose orthorexia:
Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat, and not think about whether it’s good for you? Has your diet made you socially isolated? Is it impossible to imagine going through a whole day without paying attention to your diet, and just living and loving? Does it sound beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by your mother – one single meal – and not try to control what she serves you? Do you have trouble remembering that love, and joy, and play and creativity are more important than food? Have you gotten your weight so low that people think you may have anorexia?

If you recognize yourself in these questions, you might have orthorexia.
As opposed to anorexia, the goal of orthorexia is not weight management/loss, but health, and therefore, the emphasis is not on the quantity of food consumed, but the quality. As with any psychiatric diagnosis, orthorexia is understood to impair daily functioning, to impact work/school, family, and friends because of the time and effort devoted to meal planning and consumption.

But, orthorexia is not a psychiatric diagnosis. There is a dearth of research on orthorexia, particularly quality, peer-reviewed research. Many folks in the e.d. community don't see orthorexia as significantly different from anorexia (or from an anxiety disorder, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder). I'm able to describe the condition as the lay community has described it, and I realize that some people may meet the criteria proposed above, but I, too, am not sure that it differs enough from anorexia or OCD (w/food behavior being the obsession and compulsion used to manage anxiety) in order to warrant a freestanding diagnosis. I think some folks struggling with bona fide e.d.'s may play the "health card" in order to avoid suspicion. In this way, they may present with orthorexia when the main motivation is weight control, therefore indicating anorexia.

Do you struggle with orthorexia or know anyone who does? Can you say that it is significantly different from these other disorders? Please help!