Monday, November 24, 2008

On Thanksgiving

Recently, I overheard the following exchange:

"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?"

"We're going to the so-and-so's. They're having 20 dishes. It's disgusting. I'm going to bring a salad for myself."

I read somewhere that Americans consume an average of 4,500 calories at their annual Thanksgiving meals. As we all know, what began as a feast of gratitude has morphed into a national binge. Many people report feeling uncomfortably full after their meal. Sure, we all eat past fullness on occasion, but the culturally sanctioned degree here is cause for concern, as nausea trumps satiety with the rationale that we're all in this together.

In response, especially for people who struggle with disordered eating and body image, there's Thanksgiving day anxiety. . . or disgust. 20 dishes? That sounds like a smorgasbord of wonderful opportunity--a chance to sample a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But, because we don't trust ourselves to do this, because we see such occasions (similar to cruises) as respite from the shackles of dieting, we go overboard.

So, where does moderation lie? Somewhere between 4,500 calories and carting along a salad as armor against the spread. . .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Have You Gained Weight?

Several weeks back, I attended a therapy conference, one that meets several times a year. Because of I've been to a few of these, I've come to know some of the members of this particular group. On the first night of the conference, I ran into another psychologist. I smiled at him as we passed each other in the hall and he said, in greeting, "Have you gained weight?"


No one at this conference knows about my EWHAED idea, so I decided to broach the topic the next day. When we met in a smaller group, with said colleague included, I mentioned how he had greeted me the night before and why this struck a nerve. Outside of a moment of snarkiness (which I feel obligated to report), I explained to him why the focus on weight is troubling to me, why it is troubling to all of us.

"Did you stop to think I was noticing your body?" he explained.

Yes, I did. Not helping.

"I just remember that when I met you last year, you were training for the marathon."

Still not helping.

I explained to the group that this reinforces the idea that women are noticed/judged for their bodies at the expense of other attributes. And, then, I said what seemed to shock the group the most, something I've written here before: "By the way, I also don't want you to ask if I've lost weight."

"Then, what are we supposed to say?" another male colleague asked, clearly frustrated by the parameters I set.

"Nothing! You don't need to say anything about my body or about the way I look. I can connect with you in so many ways, outside of my appearance. Can't we focus on that?"

I think I eventually got my point across, but I'm still marvelling at how difficult it was to make, ironically, in a room full of mental health professionals. Should I have taken on this battle? What would you have said?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pretty Girls

Recently, I saw a play, containing a line of dialogue that sparked a lot of thought. The female lead character announced (paraphrased, I believe): "All little girls should be told they're pretty, even if they aren't."

Questions: 1) Should we routinely tell our little girls they're pretty? 2) Should we do this even if they're not? I'm curious about your take. . . .