Monday, October 27, 2008

Stories: Part V

A reader named Stina recently sent me a letter, entitled: "Edie, Me, and the Whole Dang World":

Dr. Stacey,

I'm a newlywed, married to a man who still gives me butterflies, who adores every bit of me, and who I know would do anything to make me happy. I have a job that many people envy, and most wouldn't consider work at all. I live in a house that is lovely and perfectly-sized. I have two cats that I treat like children. I have a great family. My close friends are incredible. I have all this. . .but I'm still unhappy.

How is this possible? What is it that makes me unhappy? What do I still crave, and what is holding me back?

It's not a what, but a who. And her name is Edie. And what do I crave? To be rid of her.

Your blog has helped me re-connect with fighting her and learning to live a life free of her incessant, caustic remarks. I came across your blog as I was searching for validation for my frustration at our general society as a whole. The magazines that woman are suppose to be drawn to (because they talk about issues we. apparently, deem "important") bombard us with contradicting messages, so that even if we were trying to be happy and healthy (as so many magazine shove us the secrets and tools on just how to do this) they fill it with pages critiquing the weight of someone and the weight loss of someone else. Even magazines whose sole purpose is to show us how to treat our bodies better - like, Self, for instance - stuff their pages with diet pills and ads, giving us the option of either listening to their latest exercise regime, or finding the quick fix in a supplement pill.

I'm tired of it all, and most of all, I'm tired of the pressure I've placed on myself to meet those standards. I invited Edie into my life so I could get to that ideal - that perfect size so I could have the perfect life. She has been with me for 11 years, and instead she has given me misery.

I'm not sure when Edie and I first met. I remember an aunt of mine, who I always noticed was incredibly self-critical of her own weight and looks, once looked at my nine-year old legs and declared dejectedly, "You have the family thighs too." I knew she did not mean this as a compliment and began looking at my legs in a new way. I hadn't truly noticed the flaw in them before, but I always felt felt something was different about me - and not in a good way. And perhaps now I had an answer - it was my huge thighs!

Maybe it was then that Edie came into my life. She was almost transparent at first, I hardly acknowledged her, but I acquiesced her judgments and resigned them as "help". She would tell me secrets on how to be more popular, for more people to like me, and let me in on the reasons why people did not like me: I was not pretty enough. And the only thing holding me back was my weight.

Edie continued to hover by my side through the rest of my life - popping in on nights of big occasions - like prom - examining my stomach and showing me how to position my hands in pictures to cover the rounded area. She was there when bad things happened - like when I broke up with my first real boyfriend. She knew the perfect way to get back at him was to show him he meant nothing, to look better than I ever did, and the only way to do that was to throw up any morsel I ate, so no fat would linger on my body.

She was there, constantly with her critiques, her thoughts, her non-stop chatter about my body and my weight and my looks - pushing me to be better, encouraging me to punish myself if I ate too much, and chastising me for thinking a boy thought I was cute. Impossible, she would whisper. You're too fat to be cute.

And then I met my husband, who Edie hates. I met him and he told me Edie was crazy - that I was, in fact, gorgeous, that I was smart and intelligent and funny, and that was all me - Edie didn't create that.

The more I listened to him, the more Edie screamed at me to listen to her. She fought with me bitterly to keep me all to herself, but she didn't win. I married that man, and learned to tune her out or at least quiet her dismay. I spent my whole wedding and honeymoon without her, and it was amazing. But, it's as though now I'm back in the "real world", where true happiness can not last because I am not a size 2, I do not have a flat stomach, and my thighs are not sticks. Looking back at wedding pictures, her voice is still there, complimenting me on how I held my bouquet to disguise my stomach, and shaking her head disdainfully at the pictures of me eating cake.

Edie never really left, and Edie never will. I will live my whole life with an E.D. (eating disorder) and I've got to find a way to really learn to live without listening to her - without giving strength to her thoughts. I want to thank you for your blog for helping me to continue on my journey, to know that I am not alone with wanting to not only change myself, but change the world -especially for all the young girls that are about to find out from society that they just aren't good enough until they disappear.

After writing this, Stina decided to start her own blog. You can stop and say hello here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

News Feed

Thanks to the EWHAED news sleuths who forwarded me these:

1) The concept of fining overweight athletes--what do you think?

2) Think your flu-induced weight-loss must be temporary? Think again. Reactions?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ending Fat Talk

Check out this new video from the sorority, Delta Delta Delta.

Love it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

NYC Menu Labeling

A colleague and I are working on an article about New York City menu labeling laws--if you live in NYC, you probably already noticed calorie counts posted on in-store menu boards. Menu labeling is now a law--restaurants with 15 or more locations nationwide are required to post calorie counts.

For now, I'd like to look at a number of assumptions inherent to menu labeling laws.

1)Consumers don’t already have an idea about the caloric content of their favorite foods: Those most likely to respond to calorie postings likely already have a sense about the nutritional information of the foods they’re eating. They’ve read the pamphlets or scoured the internet in order to reduce their caloric intake. In-store menu labeling may encourage consumers to base more and more of their food decisions on caloric amounts, leading to greater food restriction, a pathway to clinical eating disorders. For those who already struggle with eating disorders, menu labeling can be emotionally triggering, as patients in recovery work quite diligently to remove their shift from calorie counting.

2)Consumers are concerned about caloric content and will choose lower calorie foods: Another subset of consumers represents those that typically eat higher calorie diets, enjoy their dining out, and aren’t particularly interested in calorie counting. Customers at fast food restaurants, for instance, are often driven by taste and cost, and likely won’t be swayed by caloric labeling.

3)Reducing calories is the only way to promote healthier eating: Another pitfall with caloric labeling is that only the calorie count is posted. Therefore, there is a potential for consumers to choose lower calorie foods, while disregarding other variables such as protein, carbohydrate, fat, and fiber content, along with the host of vitamins and minerals that certain foods contain. An eight-ounce glass of skim milk is more caloric than a similarly sized serving of Diet Soda, but the milk is more nutritious.

4)Consumers will be able to sustain a lower calorie diet, requiring them to sacrifice what they prefer to eat: It’s estimated that over 95% of all diets fail, as humans do not respond well to the experience of deprivation—whatever weight is lost through dieting is often regained (and then some) as we compensate for a period of deprivation. If we make food choices based on caloric information, rather than on what we crave, we’ll begin to feel deprived, just as dieters do. Food choices based on food cravings (“I feel like a cheese sandwich for lunch” vs. “I should have a salad”), as part of a balanced overall diet, are more likely to be associated with healthier attitudes toward food and reduced incidence of overeating.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Does Your Facebook Make You Fat?

An article in The Washington Post reports that Facebook users who come across dieting ads may actually be setting themselves up. Advertisers are privy to the type of person you are based on your profile and the content of messages you send. A lot of diet talk? Muffin top, you are.

What type of ads appear on your Facebook (or other favorite web page) home? Does this relate to what you reveal?